Bradford resident Amy Stepanek has been an active volunteer with the First Bradford Scouts for over seven years and loves working with children and being involved with their learning experiences.
Stepanek teaches at Chris Hadfield Secondary Public School in Bradford where she has for the last seven years and has been in the teaching sector for the past 18.
She began volunteering with Scouts Canada seven years ago when her oldest son joined the Beavers group in Scouts. She has two boys: Drew age 11 and Ryan age nine. Drew is a Scout and Ryan is now in Cubs.
Scouts Canada is an association that has been around for many years. It is a youth led group which allows the youth to decide what “adventures’ they want to go on and ‘Scouters’ (adult-volunteers) make their ideas become reality.
Scouts Canada has different groups for different ages and all are co-ed: Beavers (ages 5-7), Cubs (age 8-10), Scouts (ages 11-14), Ventures (ages 15+), and Rovers (maximum age limit 26 years). Stepanek is a ‘Scouter’ primarily with the Beavers and Cubs but will sometimes help supervise activities and events in other groups.
“My whole family enjoys scouting,” shares Stepanek, adding that her husband Nick is also a Scouter and fills in as a substitute. “Some events we’ve done locally are camping, fire building, fort building, emergency shelter building, archery, axe skills (older groups do axe throwing), and working with pocket knives – in general it’s all about learning new skills and safety measures."
The Scouts were planning a big trip to Switzerland this year through the Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) but unfortunately due to Covid the trip had to be postponed until 2022.
“We started fundraising for the trip two years ago – arranging flights and travel accommodations," laments Stepanek. “My youngest wasn’t able to go in 2020 but now he can attend in 2022 so it works out."
Stepanek describes the KISC event as a world ‘jamboree’ involving Scouts and Scouters from all over the world who join together for one giant camping trip with planned activities during the 10 days of their stay in Switzerland. Part of the trip will expose the Scouts to the famous Swiss Alps where they will get to climb a mountain and stay in cabins overnight in the high altitude.
Since the pandemic, the Scouts have had to look for other ways to continue their program locally.
“The first snow fall we had, the Beavers learned how to make a ‘quinzhee’ which is like an igloo but this is a pile of snow formed and then hollowed out to make a fort,” explains Stepanek.
This year, the Scouts lost their permit to meet in the gyms of local schools due to Covid, and have resorted to meeting in outdoor public spaces such as the Lions Park or sometimes even outside Amy’s residence in either the front or backyard.
Currently, in lockdown, the Scouts are only able to meet virtually but Stepanek shares that the kids are able to connect with their friends virtually while playing/building online and are “quite happy” just to visit online.
“We give them challenges to do online with each other,” shares Stepanek. “For example, what can you build in 10 minutes with LEGO?”
Scouts receive badges from completing certain personal achievements which Stepanek states gives the kids a purpose.
“The Beavers must do three adventures to achieve a badge and Cubs must complete four,” explains Stepanek. “They did a ‘hero’ badge during the first lockdown where everyone chose their favourite superhero and stated ‘why’, then discussed their ‘powers’. Then we discussed superheroes in the community which got the kids thinking about people who were helping during the pandemic."
Stepanek was so committed to helping the Scouts continue their program during the pandemic, that she had the members build their own contraption to protect an egg and invited them to her backyard where her husband (Nick) dropped the eggs in their devices from the back window – a fun activity where Stepanek confirmed: "not a single egg broke!”
“Volunteering is like a hobby to me, I enjoy it," expresses Stepanek. “I always tell the [Scouts], if you don’t know how to do something, someone will teach you!”
As a volunteer, Stepanek admits she has learned to step outside of her comfort zone and has participated in some challenging activities that she never imagined she would do. Two years ago, Stepanek was invited to go ‘winter camping’ with some of the older Scouts and Venturesr up north. Having never done winter camping before, Stepanek was hesitant and a bit nervous.
“I did a training session and learned what to wear, what to pack, how to make a shelter, what foods to bring, how to cook," remembers Stepanek. “It was a whole day training before we left."
In -10 temperatures, the group hiked to a remote location up north where they pitched a tent, chopped down wood for a fire, and spent the night.
“Here I am 40 years old and I’ve slept outside in a tent in the winter! It was an experience!” laughs Stepanek, who decided to do it again the following year in - 40 weather!
Not only is Stepanek a volunteer with Scouts Canada, but she is also a volunteer with the Simcoe County Elementary Teacher’s Federation (SCETF) through the school’s union. As a teacher at Chris Hadfield Public School, she is an Executive at the local level with the SCETF and started off as the ‘Status of Women Chair’ before progressing to 3rd Vice President (current).
Stepanek is also a volunteer at her church, Bradford United, where she helps the church with social media tasks, advertising, and event organizing.
“I like to know what’s going on and helping others,” notes Stepanek, adding that her husband and children have always been supportive of her volunteer commitments.
In her spare time (if any), Stepanek enjoys quilting and making quilt blankets.
“I enjoy working with others and giving my time and knowing that if someone needs help, I’m willing to do that!” shares Stepanek. “Someone posted they needed help with their quilt, and I offered to help for free. I like to help out where I can."