Stir Crazy UP Newcomer Finds Lockdown Relief
Dawson Lightfoot launches Park Cities Amateur Radio Club
A year ago, Dawson Lightfoot sat frustrated in his new University Park home.
“I was going stir crazy because of six months of lockdown,” he recalled. “We had just moved to the Park Cities, and I was trying to meet new people, trying to get involved.”
Having dabbled in amateur radio in college, he thought, “Why not get my license and get back involved with the hobby?”
He did just that, forming the Park Cities Amateur Radio Club.
“There’s a Dallas amateur radio club, but there is nothing that focuses on our neighborhood,” Lightfoot said. “So, I started reaching out to my ham radio buddies. To me, the focus has always been, ‘What do we need right here?’”
PCARC members gather in person, online, and of course, via radio.
The relationships you find can last as long as you’re around.Dawson Lightfoot
“Radio is the original social networking,” Lightfoot asserted. “Pre-Covid, the hobby had been dying. But since, there has been a huge spike in interest in amateur radio.”
Club members congregate on online platforms like Discord to teach each other. They look forward to making their network of members available to volunteer when needed, such as during emergencies.
“Emergency communications are where we shine as a community. During an emergency, this system exists to provide civilian communication,” Lightfoot said, citing how, during last winter’s ice storm, many cell signals slowed to a crawl or even died.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity for community service yet, but we’re licensed, we’re capable, and we can’t wait to help out. We’re here to serve the hobby side, but we’re also here to serve the community in times of need.”
But it’s not all emergency stuff.
“With a handheld radio and a small antenna, you can track satellites, the International Space Station,” he said. “I can receive messages from around the world. You’re off the grid, and you can send and receive pictures, messages, talk to people. And you’re learning all along the way.”
Getting started, he said, is as simple as getting a technician license and buying a handheld radio. Those can cost from $50 to $500.
“Ham radio is inherently social,” he said.
The club has about 50 members, with close to a third from the Park Cities. Having members from elsewhere allows the club to serve as a communication hub when necessary.
Unlike the internet, “radio is not anonymous. I don’t want to talk to somebody who might be a bot. It’s a known person who you can form long-term relationships with,” he said. “The relationships you find can last as long as you’re around.”