So here is the real deal. It looks like DARA showed us that they are still the real thing...One of, if not THE, premier club in the country.
After I wrote to their President Don, N6JRL, I did some looking and it sure seems that they have a lot going on. Read about Dave Kalter, KB8OCP, and his Youth DX Adventure. Maybe a couple of us could put some money in their kitty and help these kids have the trip of a lifetime. http://www.qsl.net/n6jrl/
It looks like there is a lesson for all clubs here. Sometimes people slip through the cracks despite our best intentions. So, it is up to all of us to keep our eyes and ears out for people who need a hand. What the DARA people are doing for Bob is exactly what the spirit of amateur radio is all about. It is not a sport, a gear collector's guild, a private club with a secret code or a political organization. It is called the Amateur Radio Service for a reason. We serve our communities and our country when called upon and we serve each other every day.
There isn't a one of us who has not pondered what we would do if we heard an SOS. There is not a one of us who would not consider it an honor and a privilege to use our skills and our training to serve someone in danger. Helping people like Bob is just an extension of this spirit.
If clubs around the country would look a little harder they would find opportunities like this to help a fellow ham close at hand. Every club should have an outreach manager whose job it is to look for opportunities to serve. Every club should devote a night a year to calling all of the hams in the area and inviting them to participate in the club. The person taking roll call every month should look to see who has missed a couple of meetings and drop them a call to see if they are alright and let them know that they are missed. Getting that call feels really good.
I know something else good that will come of this. When things get a little less hectic for Bob he will be the one stepping up and helping the next one of us who needs a little helping hand. And we will, most of us, need it someday. He knows how good it feels to realize that the people of his club honor and value him and want him to be amongst a group of friends who know that they will all be better off for his unique contribution to the group. So he will loan a new kid his old antenna tuner, visit a fellow ham in the hospital, help with kids day or when that winning power-ball ticket comes in send a whole busload of those kids off to Costa Rica with Dave.
This thread is titled "Disappointment with the hobby and clubs so far". For Bob 'so far' is over. I hope there are tons of club members who will take Bob's story to their next meeting and read it to the assembled masses. As long as there are clubs like DARA, led by people like Don, with members like Dave and his crew, ham radio will not be on the decline. It will just be getting better and better. I sincerely hope that everyone who reads this will stop by the DARA booth at the Hamvention next year and pat whoever happens to be there on the back.