When Mike Price was a kid, he wanted nothing to do with the Boy Scouts. His brother was a scout, but Price stayed away, opting to wait until scout meetings at Bethel Church in Lewes had ended before heading over to play dodgeball.
A few decades later, Price's tune has changed. Through his leadership as scoutmaster, Troop 1 is thriving in the very place he used to play dodgeball. He's actually part of the reason Troop 1 even still exists.
After seeing his oldest son Jamie through scouts with Troop 2540 out of the Elks Lodge on Beaver Dam Road, he dropped back to Cub Scout Pack 2540 and then Pack 1 to help with his younger son Nate. As Nate approached the age to make the jump up to Boy Scouts, Troop 1 went dormant.
Not wanting to lose that special number, he and Bill Robertson re-formed the troop.
"Mike told me he was just going to be only a name on the paperwork to be able to keep [the troop number] down here," said Price's wife, Christine. "I knew better."
Troop 1 was reborn in 2010 with just three members. They now have 32 on the roster.
"I don't know how we got away with it," Price said. "They're not supposed to allow [such a low number]. I think you're supposed to have at least 10 scouts."
Christine says one of the reasons Troop 1 has been so successful under her husband's leadership is that meetings and trips are a safe place for the kids.
"The boys don't tolerate any type of bullying or teasing," she said. "When the new, younger scouts come up, [the older kids] help them and guide them. There's no initiation or anything like that. I don't think the leaders are strict so much as the boys are held accountable, and it's really run by the boys. The adult leaders and scoutmaster are just there for adult supervision."
Price said he follows a philosophy he learned from Steve Small, a former scoutmaster at Troop 2540.
"He was very inspiring in his leadership," he said. "A lot of his leadership skills I use to this day."
After stepping down as scoutmaster, Small became very active with the Del-Mar-Va Council, which oversees all troops on the Delmarva Peninsula. Price said he may consider doing the same when he eventually moves on from Troop 1.
Christine has also noticed that Price wants to bring the best out of all of his scouts, and that comes out in the way he works with each child.
"Mike doesn't play favorites," Christine said. "It doesn't matter if it's his kid, his nephew or whoever, they all get treated the same. He doesn't have an agenda. He only cares about the kids."
Price is not one to take credit for successes. Instead, he credits those around him.
"I've been very fortunate in having some very active parents," he said. "Even in past years, years before I was ever involved, Troop 1 has always had a lot of parents who cared about scouting, helping the program and working to make the program better for the boys."
And that takes time. Outside of working a full-time job, Price spends one night a week, one weekend a month and often more nights and weekends with scouting.
Price's day job is as a locksmith at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, a job he's held for the last 25 years. He calls himself the "key keeper," and its reflected in his email address.
"When they asked me to take over tracking the keys, cutting the keys, repinning locks, maintaining the key system here, I just came up with that name," he said.
He had previously worked for himself as a contractor, but was turned on to the Beebe job by his friend, Larry Roach, a longtime electrician at Beebe.
In the early years he worked 3 to 11 p.m., and his wife would bring his daughter Kasie to Beebe for dinner so they could have a family supper.
Price was born in Chester, Pa., but his parents and his uncle moved to the area in 1963 when he was 5 years old.
"I'm not a born Sussex Countian, but I'm close," he said. "My grandfather bought the ice plant on New Road. It used to be a slaughter house."
Price's dad was a butcher by trade, and his grandfather owned a packing house up in Chester.
"They moved down here and took that over," he said. "After a couple of years, that didn't end up panning out, so they ended up selling it. My uncle went back to Pennsylvania, and my dad and mom stayed."
Before getting into scouting with his sons, Price was very active in the soccer world. For years he was a player, coach and referee in the area. He also founded Henlopen Soccer Club in 1997.
He started his soccer in 10th grade at Cape. He started as a JV defender and was moved to goalie. Halfway through the season, he was moved up to varsity to play goalie.
"I remember that game to this day," he said. "We lost to CR 2-0. They scored on two corner kicks."
He continued playing after graduating, but moved into the referee realm about 1978. He refereed high school games and moved on to become a U.S. Soccer Federation referee.
During his career he worked matches on the high school, collegiate and U.S. Soccer Federation levels. If not hampered by a knee injury (ACL tear), he likely would've ended up as a referee for Major League Soccer.
"I stopped refereeing because my knee locked up during a soccer scrimmage at Cape," he said. "Funny, it started at Cape and finished at Cape."
As his boys got older and more involved with the scouting, he happily joined the Boy Scouts.
"Scouting just offers so much more," he said. "If you get injured in soccer – or any sport – you're done. Scouting has more to offer the boys as far as leadership skills. Scouting gives back in more ways than any sports activity."
And as his youngest son nears the end of his scouting career, Price is about to embark on what might be his greatest adventure yet. This month, he and Troop 1 will head north to Northern Tier in Canada. Eighteen people will be going in all, including all three of his children. It will truly be a family affair.