Disabled Boy Scouts once dreamed of earning merit badges and building campfires at the Hansen Lodge in northern Harford County.
Then, during the night of March 4, 1990, their dreams went up in smoke from an arsonist's match.
That fire at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation near Whiteford destroyed the Hansen Lodge, used by retarded youngsters from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
No one was ever apprehended.
Carl Dederer heard the news and anguished. The year before, his own son, Robert, 32, had benefited from a stay at the Hansen Lodge.
He passed on the news of the fire to his friends at the Overlea Lions Club in Baltimore County.
"I figured there was some way we could help replace the loss. The lodge was basically underinsured, and we learned it would cost about $300,000 to rebuild it."
About 40 members strong, the Overlea Lions have collected $13,600 with help from other area Lions Clubs of Maryland. On Tuesday they will turn over that amount plus a $20,000 grant from the International Lions Club Foundation to help rebuild the Hansen lodge.
Richard Behrens, director of development and communications for the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said he was thrilled by the efforts of the Lions.
"The lodge was insured for approximately $170,000, and we were not permitted to begin rebuilding until we had the cash on hand," said Mr. Behrens. "The Lions have stepped forward to make it all possible."
Make that the Lions and friends, such as John Cyphers, president of bituminous construction for the Bryn Awel Corp. of Towson.
Mr. Cyphers also has served as a volunteer for 4 1/2 years on the Properties Committee for the area council of BSA.
"Shortly after the fire, we were beginning to move forward [to rebuild the lodge] when we were told to put everything on hold," said Mr. Cyphers. "There weren't sufficient funds to go ahead, and we were told it might be five years before it could be replaced.
"To a group of us on the Properties Committee, that delay just wasn't acceptable," said Mr. Cyphers. "So we began contacting businesses. So far, we have collected $90,000 from about 20 corporations. With over $33,000 from the Lions Clubs, plus the insurance money, we're only about $30,000 short at this time. We're still looking for donations, if anyone cares to help us out."
The soon-to-begin construction phase will be overseen by Reed Blom, camp director at Broad Creek.
Mr. Blom said construction should be completed within six months, in time for the start of Broad Creek's 45th anniversary.