By Dan McWilliams
There’s a new organization in the Diocese of Knoxville that falls under the Scouting umbrella.
Trail Life USA now has a troop based out of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga. Trail Life is a Christian-based program for boys, similar to the Christian-based American Heritage Girls program that has been in the diocese for a number of years.
Peter Ohotnicky is troopmaster of Troop 0629 at the basilica. He spoke after the Scouting Mass on March 9.
“Trail Life started, I want to say, in 2014, and it’s a Christian organization for boys that’s focused on character development, leadership, and outdoor adventure,” he said. “It was started by families who were hoping to have this type of outdoor-oriented program for boys that had a more Christian focus to it, and so that’s what inspired the leaders that started Trail Life USA.”
Troop 0629 is the first one in Tennessee to be founded by a Catholic church, Mr. Ohotnicky said.
“All Trail Life troops have to be chartered by— it’s normally a Christian church that will found them,” he said. “Since it’s been founded, there have been troops that have converted from Boy Scouts into Trail Life or there have been churches that have started their own Trail Life troops. Our troop at Sts. Peter and Paul was founded just this past fall. We started meetings in August of 2018.
“We’re pretty small. We have just six or seven families that are involved in our troop right now. Our family in particular has been involved in Trail Life since it started.”
Mr. Ohotnicky is retired from the U.S. Air Force, and his family has lived around the country, with Trail Life being a part of their life at virtually every stop.
“We were living in Alaska at the time, and we and a number of families founded a troop up in Alaska. I’ve moved around a bunch, so this is the fourth troop that we’ve been in, and we’ve started three troops in different places,” he said.
Trail Life is for boys from kindergarten through age 25, Mr. Ohotnicky said.
“Our troop—we have boys as young as kindergarten, and the oldest boy we have in the program is in ninth grade,” he said.
Troop 0629 is named for the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul: June 29.