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Scouts hear compelling story

By Staff | Feb 5, 2016

When three to four feet of snow blanketed the Panhandle last week, many local residents were trapped in their homes and unable to carry on their daily work and school lives.

When 17-year-old Matt Moniz of Colorado, went to climb Mt. Everest in Nepal last spring-and saw an 140 miles per hour avalanche moving toward him and his fellow climbers, he dove for cover behind a boulder and survived.

The avalanche on April 25, 2015, that was triggered by a 7.8 earthquake, killed 19 and injured more than 61 Nepalese people. After digging out-Moniz spent months helping the survivors of the avalanche get the help and supplies they needed.

Who is Matt Moniz? An eagle scout of course.

Moniz, an alpinist and senior at Boulder High School, was the key speaker at the Friends of Scouting dinner in Winchester last Thursday night at the George Washington Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America Shenandoah District Council-which covers boy scouts from Winchester City, Clarke County, Virginia, and Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Moniz, who has been hiking since he was very little and joined scouts at 11, recounted his experiences on Everest last April when the avalanche hit.

“Seeing it coming towards me – it was the first time I’ve ever experienced an avalanche on that scale. It was definitely very scary. Probably the most scared I’ve ever been in the mountains for sure.”

After he and his fellow climbers survived unhurt. Many may have been tempted to go home after, but not Moniz.

“I knew I had to help,” Moniz said. “The Nepalese people had given us so much.

They showed me how to respect the mountains and how to be a part of them. So you wanted to show that respect back to them and – “I had a lot of friends – a lot of Nepali friends. They are amazing people and they are so kind. There are people there that I really cherish. We wanted to do whatever we could to help them.”

And help he did; Moniz and a team of others helped raise $100,000 in a few months. They used that money to pay local porters to climb up with necessary medical and food supplies for the injured and remote villages.

How did Moniz, an experienced alpinist have the skills? Boy scouts, he says.

“Scouting teaches many skills like leadership and community service – it’s really a difficult to learn anywhere else and in any other program. It pushes you forward, being a better version of yourself. I think that that is one of the big things of why I love scouting. It truly helps you be a better version of yourself – helps you foster yourself into a leadership role.”

Moniz said that while scouting prepared him for a leadership role, that last year’s events in Nepal gave him the opportunity to put leadership into action.

“It felt pretty amazing. It felt like something that I really needed to do. To spend so much time climbing and so much time in the mountains, it was very interesting environment. I always wanted to pursue a leadership role for myself and I really think this year, I was given the opportunity to do that and I really kind of excelled in that area,” he said.

He also attributes his other skills and values to his parents and scouting.

“For me the skills that are really unique to scouting include leadership, community service, self-sufficiency.”

More than 140 people were on hand to hear Moniz speak and to help raise funds for scouts hailing from the Jefferson and Berkeley counties in the Eastern Panhandle, Winchester City and Clarke County Virginia, which the Shenandoah Council oversees. The event raised $170,000 out of their $400,000 goal. These funds will go towards the council’s operating fund to support local scouting programs.

Don Louque, Director of Marketing for the Shenandoah Area Council said, “It’s always inspiring to see young men putting what they learned in Scouting into practice. The fact that his training and actions helped save lives is a clear demonstration of the value of Scouting. Matt is truly an example of what Scouting is all about.”

For more information about the event, contact VP of Marketing for the Council, Don Louque atdon.louque@hotmail.com or call him at 540-539-6186. Or to donate or get more involved in local scouting, visit the council’s website: www.sac-bsa.org