On Sunday, Aug. 1, Robert Bruner will watch as 26 members of Troop 16 don their neckerchiefs and become official Eagle Scouts at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.
The day will mark a new beginning for the Scouts, but an end to Bruner’s 35-year journey with the organization.
Bruner, who is a Gainesville-based dentist, joined the Scouts troop in 1986 as an assistant scoutmaster, moving up three years later to become the head scoutmaster. Since then, he has led the group of kids and teens, coordinating all their activities and overseeing the training of the adults involved.
Mike Barnes, who served as assistant scoutmaster for six years, was chosen to take Bruner’s place.
“I thought it was time to have some new blood, and we have a really capable successor available,” Bruner said. “ … I can’t say enough about the support of the troop by the First United Methodist Church. They've been very supportive, and we’ve had a tremendous group of assistant scoutmasters over the years. They’re just amazing people.”
Bruner said he initially became an assistant scoutmaster with two other fathers, after the troop’s leaders retired. At the time, one of his sons was a Scout.
“We decided we needed to step up and provide some adult leadership,” he said. “I didn't have any idea what I was getting into.”
Diving headfirst into the program, Bruner said it didn’t take long for him to see its value. For decades, he has helped boys develop the skills they needed to grow, not only in character but as citizens. He even watched as his two sons, David and Marshall, earned their Eagle Scout titles.
“I thought, ‘I’m enjoying this, it’s a good program. I’ll just stick with it,’” Bruner recounted.
Through his time as scoutmaster, Bruner said many Scouts have left an impression on him, including Daniel Jaramillo, who will become an Eagle Scout on Sunday.
Bruner said he remembers when Jaramillo first joined the troop years ago. He said the Scout was shy and showed little interest in being involved. Slowly but surely, Bruner watched as Jaramillo grew in confidence and eventually earned the highest ranking in the troop as senior patrol leader.
“Dr. Bruner, he is and will always be a great man,” Jaramillo said. “When my dad was in the Scouts, he was my dad’s scoutmaster. Dr. Bruner has been there for the troop for a long time.”
While leading Troop 16, Bruner said he has helped foster a safe environment for its members. The program has strict rules in place where two adults must be present in all activities involving Scouts. Also, every year adults who serve the troop must receive a background check.
“Scouting has gone the extra mile in ensuring the safety of Scout participants, and there’s been no abuse at Troop 16 in 35 years,” Bruner said.
As the new scoutmaster, Barnes said he is aware of the big shoes to fill. Having a taste of the new role, he said Bruner “makes things look very easy from all his years and experience.”
However, Barnes said he is excited for the future of the troop and is looking forward to watching his oldest son become an Eagle Scout on Sunday.
“It takes a lot of time and dedication to do this after your kids have stepped out of it and continue to be involved and stay,” Barnes said of Bruner. “That says a lot about him and his dedication to scouting in general, and to the church and to this program.”