That's the bad
news. The good news is that the more attention the Wilderness Scouts got, the
more people began to take action. The morning after seeing a Nov. 15 television
story on the Wilderness Scouts, Cape May, N.J., county sheriff James Plousis
called his counterpart in Blairsville. "I asked him what we could do for
those kids," says Plousis. "He said that the night before, the Scouts'
poor old bus died. I couldn't think of any way to get those kids a bus, but I
called the Atlantic City paper, and it did a story."
And who do you
think happened to read that Nov. 21 edition of The Press? Donald Trump,
commander of many things, including some buses that were used to transport
employees to Trump Plaza. A few weeks later Plousis drove the 861 miles from
Atlantic City to Blairsville and, with just a hint of tears, handed over the
keys of a bus on which the sign above the windshield still read TRUMP PLAZA.
Cornwell outright cried.
Meanwhile, the Boy
Scouts did not back down, but they did say they would invite the Wilderness
Scouts to join the BSA and said that the Girl Scouts of America would be
extending the same invitation to the little girl Wilderness Scouts. But when
Cornwell was recently contacted by local Girl Scouts leaders they complimented
him on the success of the Wilderness Scouts. What the BSA probably didn't know
is that Cornwell had himself been a Boy Scout in North Carolina. "What I
remember is how much it hurt to be the only kid who couldn't afford a
uniform," he says.
When the afterglow
of publicity wears off and the celebrity dust settles over the Wilderness
Scouts, they will still be almost broke. The group's dream had been to buy a
$400,000 parcel of virgin timber that could be their headquarters and camping
grounds. It was a place where they transplanted some endangered goldenseal
flowers. It was a place where they studied the planets, set traps and watched
herons fish in the ponds. But that property was recently sold. They now have
their eyes on another $400,000 parcel. They already have $6,000 saved. At $5 a
bluebird box, they're only 78,800 orders short of buying the land.
15-member board of the Wilderness Scouts recently voted unanimously to retain
the name and, if necessary, to use what money they have to fight the BSA.
Wouldn't it be easier just to pick a new name? Says Cornwell, "I can't look
at those kids after all this work and tell them, 'You can't be scouts,' because
somebody comes along and says so. These kids are always getting the message to
give up, and if we did that with the name, it would just be one more example of
Back in his
motel-room office, Cornwell is stuffing letters of support into an old
accordion file. "Here's one from the president of some company up in
Canada," he says. "He thinks that Congress ought to take a look at this
charter it granted back in 1916."
ought to. By coincidence, who should be on the House Ways and Means Committee,
the one with jurisdiction over tax-exempt organizations, but Ed Jenkins, who
represents Georgia's ninth district. His home office is in Jasper, which is
just over the ridge from the Wilderness Scouts.