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Scouting leader who lost Luther home in wildfire not surprised by others' kindness

Luther resident who serves as the associate chapter adviser for the Boy Scouts of America Eagle district Order of the Arrow chapter said wildfire claimed possessions, but not the kindness of others.
by Bryan Painter Modified: September 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm •  Published: September 8, 2012

— What was left when everything was gone didn't surprise Suzy Koch at all.

On Aug. 3, Koch was among those in Luther whose homes or other possessions were claimed by a wildfire. Gone were the possessions, left was the caring and compassion of others.

Koch was in Michigan attending a Boy Scouts of America National Order of the Arrow Conference. She had been talking back and forth with her oldest son, Tony Balderaz, 18, who was at their home.

Less than 30 minutes after he was evacuated, Balderaz called his mother back.

“Mom it's gone, everything is gone,” he told her.

Gone was the three bedroom, one bathroom house they were renting. Gone was their furniture, clothes, everything material.

Gone too was the regalia that Scouts from the Eagle District's Order of the Arrow chapter had used for purposes including ceremonies for students entering the Order of the Arrow or those transitioning from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.

Koch, the associate chapter adviser for the Eagle District Order of the Arrow chapter, had been keeping the regalia at her house while waiting to move it from one place to another.

But it's what was left that makes Koch so proud. And it's just an example of how many Oklahomans once again stepped up to help others whether at this wildfire, one of the many others in the state or following other disasters.

As for the Order of the Arrow regalia, the Scouts she helps lead said, “It's OK, we can make more. We can do this.”

So they have. Each week they gather, and have worked on making new regalia, including moccasins and breast plates. And other chapters stepped up and donated items as well for the Eagle District to use in a ceremony called the “Fall Ordeal” that was scheduled for shortly after the wildfire.

“My prayers go out to Ms. Suzy because quite frankly I would hate to lose my house in a fire,” said Jonah Moore, a member of the Eagle Chapter of the Order of the Arrow. “The loss of regalia was rather unfortunate, but obviously just a simple side note to the course of events that has happened recently.”

The Order of the Arrow is Scouting's National Honor Society. Both youth and leaders have to be nominated. For more than 90 years, the Order of the Arrow has recognized Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. Those involved are expected to be known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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