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The official blog of Scouting magazine, a publication of the Boy Scouts of America.
Updated: 46 min 33 sec ago

Scoutmaster conquers Mount Everest to complete his Seven Summits quest

12 hours 16 min ago

There’s a reason it’s called the “Death Zone.” At 29,029 feet, the lack of oxygen atop Mount Everest seriously limits how well a person can function. Risks of fatigue, frostbite and stress to the heart and brain skyrocket. It’s so dangerous at that altitude that climbers are cautioned to only linger for about 20 minutes before descending.

In that brief time at the top of the world, Bruce Terry, Scoutmaster of Troop 181 in Gladwyne, Pa., was able to unfurl three flags: a custom flag thanking his family, a troop flag and a National Eagle Scout Association World Explorers flag.

The 58-year-old’s ascent on May 23, 2019, completed his quest to climb the tallest mountains on every continent.

“It was by far the most technically and physically challenging peak I’ve done,” Terry says. “It was like a compilation of all the other climbs I’ve done in one.”

Years-long goal

Terry, an Eagle Scout, began his mountaineering journey in 2004 when his wife, Susan, urged him to try after reading a magazine article about climbing Mount Rainier in Washington and thought he would love the challenge. After all, he loved to explore as a Scout.

“The best part was going backpacking every weekend,” he says. “We were hardcore; we got out of town and set up our tents on Friday night, and go backpacking Saturday and Sunday. That’s what I lived for — I loved it.”

Terry’s challenge would be a sacrifice for his wife and the couple’s two children, Caroline and Henry. Mountaineering requires intensive preparation. For Everest, Terry trained for more than a year, an hour-and-a-half every day before and after work, four to five hours on Saturdays and Sundays — weightlifting, cycling, running and hiking with a backpack.

“Training is not as easy at this age,” Terry says. “If I wasn’t prepared, I only have myself to blame for not being physically ready.”

The endodontist tried to involve his family in his training and adventures. Terry got involved in Scouting again when his son joined, and the two hiked at Philmont Scout Ranch. They also followed the Tour Du Mont Blanc, a 101-mile journey around the mountain in France together in 2011.

That was just one of many peaks Terry climbed leading up to Everest: Mount Rainier (2004), Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (2007), Mount Elbrus in Russia (2010), Aconcagua in Argentina (2012), Cotopaxi and Cayambe in Ecuador (2013), Denali in Alaska (2014), Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia (2015) and Vinson Massif in Antarctica (2016), Cho Oyu in China (2018) and Lobuche in Nepal (2019).

When the time came to tackle Everest, his family and friends were hesitant at first, knowing how many climbers have perished on the mountain.

“I’m not out there for the thrill of it; it wasn’t a death wish,” Terry says. “I just want to go to these beautiful places.”

After sitting down with his family, they got on board with him finishing his quest.

Climbing Everest

To scale the tallest mountain in the world, set on the border of China and Nepal, it takes time. You simply don’t go up the mountain. To acclimate to different elevations, climbers hike back and forth to camps on their route. The process took Terry about a month-and-a-half to finally make it to the third camp up the mountain.

It’s important to stay healthy, especially at camp when you’re around other people. One of Terry’s fellow climbers broke a rib from a bad cough, ending their trip. Hand sanitizer was very popular, and most teams kept to themselves to prevent the spreading of colds. Still, Terry met people from all over the world, from their mid-20s to their mid-60s with varying backgrounds and careers, all of them with the same goal.

Terry traveled with an expedition company, International Mountain Guides IMG, which led a group of 23 climbers, 11 of whom were able to reach the summit. Everyone had their own tents at base camp and shared tents higher on the mountain.

The trek took Terry across the Khumbu Ice Fall, a glacier that shifts and changes every day, often requiring ladders to cross crevasses.

“It’s a maze of ice and rock. It takes six to seven hours to get through it, and I had to do it four times,” Terry says.

The temperatures on Everest can drop to negative-30 degrees — and that’s with little wind.

“When it’s windy, the probability of getting frostbite goes up 1,000%,” Terry says.

The summit

After reaching the fourth camp, Terry planned the last push to the summit — a 10-hour overnight climb, arriving at the top around sunrise. The conditions were perfect: a light snow and no wind. His Sherpa guide, Pega Sherpa, monitored his bottled oxygen supply and radioed to others about their progress.

“All in all, I had a very easy summit day,” he says. “I never really felt in danger.”

Danger was still all around as he navigated across narrow paths next to 12,000-foot drops. In places where you’re going up and you encounter someone coming down, you literally have to hug and rotate, maneuvering to get around each other. But when he reached the top, it was pure elation.

“That feeling hits you like a wave, crying for joy and happiness,” Terry says.

High-fives and hugs all around, it was time to take photos, and then soak in the accomplishment while watching other climbers trek up both sides of the mountain. Terry isn’t the first Eagle Scout to climb Everest, nor is he the first Eagle to climb the tallest mountains on all seven continents. But, he’s pretty sure he’s the first American dentist to achieve the Seven Summits challenge. It’s estimated that fewer than 500 people can make the Seven Summits claim.

Returning home

Climbing involves a lot of luck. The now-infamous photo taken by Nepalese climber Nirmal Purja that shows a long line of climbers stuck, waiting to reach the top, was captured just hours before Terry’s ascent. Weather conditions were so brutal that climbers only had two favorable days to get to the summit. About 1,000 people, including guides, tried to take advantage of the short window. Since he climbed overnight, Terry didn’t get caught in the traffic.

After returning home, he’s considering what his next challenge will be. When he’s not climbing, working or leading Scouts, he teaches at a dentistry school and organizes free dental clinics for underserved patients in Pennsylvania.

“I consider myself the luckiest man in the world,” Terry says. “Work is great, but you should also love what you do outside of work. Everest is an example of what people can do.”

Buy this patch to help our fellow Scouts affected by the fires in Australia

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 8:00am

When disaster strikes, Scouts step up.

They’ve been there after tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes destroyed homes and uprooted lives in communities across our country.

This time, even though the disaster is a little farther from home, it affects the Scouting family all the same.

Scouts Australia is selling patches to benefit Scouts who lost their homes in the country’s devastating wildfires. Their goal: to make sure these Scouts can “remain connected to Scouting as they work through this traumatic period,” according to Scouts Australia’s official site.

Like the Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Australia is a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. There are more than 50 million Scouts across 171 countries, and these Aussie Scouts wear the purple World Crest just like we do.

Many BSA members were able to meet Australian Scouts at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, held last summer at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Scouts from Australia celebrate Scout Unity Day during the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. (Photo by Jeff Hattrick) About the patch

The patches cost 5 Australian dollars each — about $3.44. The patches themselves were donated to Scouts Australia by an Australian outdoor clothing retailer, meaning 100% of the proceeds will benefit Scouts.

But heads up: Shipping patches 9,000 miles isn’t cheap. Postage to the U.S. will cost you a flat 40 Australian dollars ($27), whether you’re ordering one patch or 100. If you do plan to order the patch, Scouts Australia suggests combining orders with other packs, troops, ships or crews in your area.

“Australian Scouts thank our international Scouting friends for your support during this difficult time,” a message on the order page says.

At least one BSA troop has already purchased patches. I heard from Jason Fish, Scoutmaster of Scouts BSA Troop 112, based in Paris, France — part of the BSA’s Transatlantic Council.

“Our troop in Paris has decided to buy a bunch to help them out,” Fish says.

Rebecca Lake of Australia trades patches with American Scouts at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. (Photo by Chuck Eaton) Helping themselves

In true Scouting fashion, even those Scouts who have been forced to leave their homes have been stepping up to serve.

According to a Jan. 12, 2020, blog post on the official site of Scouts Australia, Australian Scouts have served as volunteer firefighters, helped injured wildlife, distributed food donations, volunteered in evacuation centers and even hosted barbecue fundraisers.

“As Scouts, we help to create a better world,” the post says. “We’re there for each other during the good and bad times.”

As of Jan. 16, 2020, Scouts Australia has sold 19,500 badges and raised AU$97,500 — about $67,000. Together, let’s help get that number even higher.

Top photo by Steven Penton

Make sure you have these essentials for your next Pinewood Derby

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 9:00am

Looking for a list of tasks that will get you and your pack up to speed on hosting a Pinewood Derby? Well, look no further: we have compiled a list of to-do’s. All you have to do is check everything off the list, and you will be ready and set to race into the perfect day.

Task List

Download a printable version of this task list here.

  • Decide on a date. [6-9 weeks out]
    • This is a great time to also set a pre-weigh-in date and time — don’t underestimate how long this can take! Some Scouts may need to make adjustments to their car that could involve tools and time, so this is best done hours to a day or two before race. After cars are weighed in, the cars can be locked away until race day time.
  • Secure the event space. [6-9 weeks out]
  • Come up with a hashtag for the event – this can be one that is used every year so that you can follow annual progress on social media, or a different one for each year. Be sure that you check the hashtag online and make sure you aren’t picking one that is already in use. You want this one to be unique to you, so that when you search the hashtag, it only comes up with the photos you and your pack are sharing. [4-9 weeks out] 
  • If the pack funds the purchase of the cars, have someone pick up enough car kits for all Scouts, siblings and racing adults. The pack should hand out the cars four to six weeks before the race event to allow for adequate build time. If the pack does not purchase cars, provide details on rules along with your local Scout Shop’s address and details. [4-9 weeks out]
  • Decide on rules and distribute them – if you have a pack website, then post them there and email them to parents. [4-9 weeks out]
  • Make event invites — paper fliers are a great reminder, and emailed invites are convenient for tracking RSVPs and sending out calendar reminders. [4 weeks out]
  • Reach out to your local Scout Shop to find out when they will be conducting Pinewood Derby Champ Camp workshops for car building tips. Publicize dates to pack membership or set a date for everyone to go together. [Champ Camps are typically in January and February]
  • Reach out to a local Scouts BSA troop for volunteers and support. If they get involved, it would also be fun to let them have their own race, too. Cub Scouts can see what kind of cool designs the older Scouts come up with. [4 weeks out]
  • Choose how you are going to manage food and snacks. [2-3 weeks out]
  • Secure a track and finish gate. [2-4 weeks out]
  • Choose how your pack will score and run the races. You can use the timed method, a bracket-and-elimination system, separate by age, etc. [2-4 weeks out]
  • Decide on how many award categories your pack will have and what they will be, and gather the awards for the winners. [2-4 weeks out]
  • Compile a list of fun extracurricular activities that Scouts can do to keep their attention. [2 weeks out]
    • Velcro darts
    • Race-themed cornhole
    • Non-official, for-fun races
    • Prizes or giveaways (guess how many toy cars are in this jar, etc.)
  • Assign a day-of task force team – be sure to have a great mix of parents, Scouts BSA volunteers and others who like to get involved. [2 weeks out]
    • Set-up team
    • Check-in
    • Manning the food table
    • Official scorekeeper
    • Demo team (a couple of people who can demonstrate how each race will be run)
    • Spare parts helper
    • Judges (for those contest categories) – be sure to get the categories to these judges in advance so they are in the loop.
    • Master of ceremony
    • Official picture-taker
    • DJ
    • Breakdown
  • Pick a theme and make or buy decorations. [1-3 weeks out]
  • Make a spare parts table – nobody wants to be without a wheel or an axle if something happens on race day. (Psst… has race-ready supplies; it’s an easy one-stop shop) [1 week out]
    • Wheels
    • Axles
    • Fast-drying super glue
    • Graphite
    • Scales
    • Weights
    • Screw driver
    • Hammer
  • Pull together tables, chairs, speakers and boundary markers. [1 week out]
  • Make the final run of show list with set-up time, official start time, race times, award ceremony times and breakdown times. [3 days – 1 week out]

Check out more ideas here.

Remember, this is all about having fun at a family event! Happy racing!

‘Friendly competition’ in Scouting brings brother and sister closer together

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 8:00am

They’re in separate troops, but make no mistake: Charlotte and Alex Beatson are on this Scouting journey together.

They’ve worked on merit badges together, were inducted into the Order of the Arrow at the same time, and have even attended some of the same camporees and service projects.

“It is full of friendly competition,” says Charlotte, a 15-year-old Star Scout from Troop 114. “This drives us to work our hardest and enjoy all we can learn.”

Alex, a 12-year-old Life Scout from Troop 361, agrees.

“It’s been fun to work on some merit badges together,” he says. “It’s been cool to see my sister finally get to do and be recognized for the things I have been doing in Scouting for years.”

Families like the Beatsons out of Littleton, Colo., illustrate why the BSA made the move to welcome girls into Scouting at all levels. Families want incredible experiences for their kids. And that’s exactly what Charlotte and Alex’s dad, Anselm, has seen so far.

“The principles and values of Scouting transcend all gender and social barriers,” he says. “It has been rewarding to watch both my son and my daughter develop the same sense of social responsibility and community involvement working off of the same equal platform and foundation.”

I wanted to know more about Charlotte and Alex’s Scouting journey so far, so I caught up with the Denver Area Council Scouts to learn more.

The Beatson family ‘It started by chance’

Alex joined Scouting in third grade, thanks, in part, to luck.

It just so happened that Anselm saw a Cub Scout recruiting table at his son’s school. Intrigued, the dad asked a few questions and signed his son up. Anselm liked Scouting’s values, and Alex liked that he’d get to “camp, hike and just be outside.” As often happens, it wasn’t long before Anselm was asked to serve as a pack volunteer.

“The fun and challenges have only grown over time,” Anselm says.

Charlotte, who is three years older than Alex, was on the sidelines throughout her brother’s Cub Scout journey. But she was hardly a spectator.

She built her own Pinewood Derby car, toured the fire station and helped her little brother with fundraising projects.

“Together, we sold a lot of popcorn,” Charlotte says.

Soon after Alex joined what was then called Boy Scouts, Charlotte learned that girls would be invited to join the newly named program Scouts BSA.

“I got very excited and immediately recruited a few high school friends — some of whom also had brothers in Boy Scouts,” she says. “On Feb. 1, the very first day girls could join BSA, I helped found my own troop.”

Charlotte and Alex after their induction into the Order of the Arrow Unrivaled experiences

Alex and Charlotte’s 2019 was packed with Scouting adventures.

In May, Charlotte was elected senior patrol leader of Troop 114.

“I was surprised about how much leadership I was given,” she says. “The young Scouts really looked up to me. It makes me proud to be someone they look up to.”

In June, Charlotte earned the First Class rank and attended National Youth Leadership Training, or NYLT.

In August, Charlotte and Alex took a family backpacking trip to hike Machu Picchu. (That’s the awesome picture at the top of this post.)

In September, they had the rare thrill of being siblings inducted into the Order of the Arrow at the same time.

And in November, they each completed their 21st merit badge, fulfilling a key requirement on the journey to the Eagle Scout rank, the highest honor in Scouts BSA.

“My favorite was Camping [merit badge],” Charlotte says. “I really love going on campouts. I have the opportunity to learn, lead and gain experience. I have so much fun singing campfire songs and hanging out with my new friends.”

Charlotte teaches Webelos Scouts how to tie a knot. About that magazine

When I saw what Alex was holding in that Machu Picchu photo — a copy of Boys’ Life magazine — I had to ask both Scouts what they liked about the official youth magazine of Scouting.

Charlotte says she likes “that it highlights regular Scouts doing extraordinary things. I love reading about people who have learned from Scouting and used it to help others.”

Alex’s answer was more succinct but just as excellent: “I like to read about other Scouts doing fun stuff.”

Charlotte is interviewed by Denver’s CBS affiliate. The 2019 Denver Area Council Camporee

Bright idea: How a ‘good conduct candle’ can improve den meeting behavior

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 8:00am

Imagine if those weekly meetings at your office had a “good conduct candle.”

Blake’s texting and missed a question from the boss? Candle goes out. Rhonda brought her breakfast? Bye-bye, flame. Peter forgot the PowerPoint? Poof.

But if the candle burns all the way down, it’s reward time. Everyone! Gets! Ergonomic keyboard trays!

OK, so your workplace might not be ready for a “good conduct candle” just yet.

But there’s one place they’re proven to mitigate mayhem: Cub Scout den meetings. Good conduct candles are cheap, simple to implement and give the Cub Scouts a persistent visual reminder to follow the rules.

Here’s what to do.

1. Start by creating a den code of conduct.

It’s unfair to tell your Cub Scouts that they broke a rule if you haven’t yet defined those rules.

Those rules should start with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, which can be displayed using the Den Code of Conduct chart.

Beyond that, it works best to have your Cub Scouts create their own rules. You can nudge them in the right direction, but let them make the big decisions. You’ll be impressed as they come up with good rules and police themselves.

They might come up with rules like:

  • No talking when a leader is talking
  • No running around the room
  • Be quiet when the Scout Sign goes up
  • Wait your turn
  • Raise your hand if you’d like to speak
2. Display the code of conduct where all can see.

Put these rules on a poster board and make them a part of every den meeting.

When necessary, remind the Cub Scouts that they came up with these rules themselves.

3. Introduce the good conduct candle.

The BSA recommends you purchase a candle with a burn time around two hours.

Go to a home improvement store or look online for a candle that advertises a short burn time — or buy a couple of options and time it yourself at home. (See the photo above for an idea of the size.)

So why two hours instead of, say, this 144-hour monster candle?

With a two-hour burn time, the Cub Scouts will see the candle burning down during the meeting and realize that a reward is within reach.

4. Have the Cub Scouts choose their reward.

The Cub Scouts defined the rules, so they should get to select their reward.

They might pick a pizza party, ice cream treat or special activity, like a fishing outing for the entire den.

Finalize the reward selection before lighting the candle.

5. Light the candle at the start of your meeting.

After you light the candle, proceed with the plan for your meeting. If all goes well, the candle keeps burning until the meeting is over.

If a rule is broken, blow out the candle. Some den leaders give a warning after the first rule violation and then extinguish the candle after the second. Others use a one-and-done method.

Whichever you choose, make it known from the start and stick with it.

6. Remember it’s about more than a candle.

With a good conduct candle, you’ll see your Cub Scouts’ behavior improve.

But a candle isn’t magic. Your best bet for boosting behavior is to plan den meetings that are fun and active. If you use and follow the BSA’s den meeting plans, your Cub Scouts will be having so much fun that conduct won’t be an issue!

Need even more den meeting tips?

Find them …

5 Quick Questions with: Brian White, Eagle Scout and restaurant entrepreneur

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:00am

Sometimes, a merit badge will spark a future career path for a Scout. For Brian White, it was a leadership outing.

White, who earned the Eagle Scout Award with Troop 299 of Dublin, Ohio, in 2004, owns a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Six years ago, the business began as a food cart on a college campus. Recently, he opened a brick-and-mortar establishment, specializing in pho, a Vietnamese soup featuring broth, rice noodles and meat. His restaurant, Pho Fast, also serves as a corporate catering company.

I caught up with White via email to ask him 5 Quick Questions about how Scouting specifically helped him as an entrepreneur.

How did Scouting help shape your career path?

Brian White: My most memorable moment was at Brownsea Leadership Training Camp. For the first time in my life, I heard the phrase “use your resources.” That changed my life.

I’m very good at finding opportunities and surrounding myself with highly intelligent people, yet I had not yet learned how to utilize my network. Ever since that leadership training, I began to have confidence in delegating more of my duties while still seeing them performed at a high level.

I felt like my natural thought processes had been validated in a way that I’d never heard a teacher in school mention.

Why did you gravitate toward Vietnamese food?

White: I’m a foodie and appreciate high-quality food. The first time I tried Vietnamese pho, I found it refreshing and filling, yet still light and delicious.

I love to eat, but I’m also cognizant of what I put into my body. Food is medicine. My favorite part is the broth. A hot cup of vegan or bone broth has numerous health benefits and warms the soul.

Brian White How did you structure your business model to meet the needs in the Columbus market?

White: In June 2013, there were zero catering options for Vietnamese pho in Columbus. Pho Fast started as a food cart for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, but we quickly pivoted to serving inside food courts for Aramark and Sodexo. Now after years of serving only lunch, we’ve listened to our customers and are opening our first brick-and-mortar restaurant for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?

White: The biggest challenge actually came this year. During an outpatient surgery earlier this year, I was infected with E. coli, and almost died twice, needing four surgeries this year alone. Being self-employed and not being able to work is very, very difficult. What I faced was both taxing on my mind and on my body.

I credit a lot of my mental toughness to both sports and Boy Scouts. I always try to Be Prepared and enjoy planning ahead. Although this was not an event I could have planned for, I’m fortunate that I took care of my body and had staff to help fill in the gaps while I was recovering. Without “using my resources,” Pho Fast would have gone out of business.

What advice do you have for Scouts and Scouters who are considering starting their own business?

White: Pho Fast was created by thinking outside the box and asking questions. So, first and foremost, I’d encourage anyone who’s considering starting their own business to ask lots of questions. Always be curious. Talk to your professors, your parents and your friends’ parents. Go the library or read online as much as possible about the industry you have an interest in. Don’t just talk, do!

Don’t be afraid to say, “no.” Value your time and create boundaries for yourself and your clients. Learn from your mistakes, so they’re not repeated. Lastly, if you want to talk more, then come to Columbus, Ohio, and let’s have a chat over a warm, welcoming bowl of pho.

2020 Order of the Arrow national officers elected; here’s who represents your region

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 8:00am

Zachary Schonfeld, an Eagle Scout from Virginia, has been elected by his peers to serve as National Chief of the Order of the Arrow for 2020.

Zachary, along with National Vice Chief Noah Smith of Arkansas and four region chiefs, will serve and represent nearly 200,000 members of the OA, the BSA’s national honor society.

As a new decade begins, Zachary and his fellow leaders will steer the OA toward continued greatness under their commitment to selfless service. They’ll also continue to welcome young women into the OA as female members are eligible for election in Scouts BSA troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships. (Previously, elections only were for Boy Scout troops.)

This spring, Zachary and his fellow officers will help support PhilBreak, Philmont’s alternative spring break program in which participants help Philmont mitigate fire risk and recover from the 2018 fires that forced the high-adventure base to close for the summer.

After that, Zachary and his fellow officers will be at the helm for the OA’s signature event: NOAC, the National Order of the Arrow Conference. NOAC 2020 will be held in August at Michigan State University. (For an idea of what to expect, take a look back at our complete coverage of NOAC 2015.)

Let’s meet your national OA officers and introduce you to the chief for your region. (Not sure which region you’re in? I’ve blogged about that.)

2020 National OA Chief: Zachary Schonfeld
  • From: Reston, Va. (National Capital Area Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2006 and an Eagle Scout.
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member and a Founder’s Award recipient from Amangamek-Wipit Lodge. Former Section NE-6A chief and served as the Northeast Region NLS Chief of Staff.
  • Education: Studies political communication at George Washington University, with hopes of becoming a journalist.
  • Favorite hobby: Traveling and visiting national parks.
  • Random fact: His dad’s best man was 1988 National Vice Chief Angelo Cappelli.
  • Quotable: “I’m excited to build on the momentum we created this year to improve lodge performance and initiate long-term change for our organization. Between NOAC, Section ACT Conferences, and every event in between, I can’t wait to meet Arrowmen from all over and make our brotherhood stronger than ever before.”
2020 National OA Vice Chief: Noah Smith
  • From: Brookland, Ark. (Quapaw Area Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2007 and an Eagle Scout.
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member and a Founder’s Award recipient from the Quapaw Lodge. Lodge chief and served for two terms as the Section SR-8 chief.
  • Education: Intends to major in business management at the University of Central Arkansas.
  • Favorite hobby: Playing soccer and partaking in high-adventure opportunities.
  • Random fact: He drinks a glass of chocolate milk every night.
  • Quotable: “The 2020 National Conference Committee has been laying the foundation for this past year. I’m excited to see all of the future generations of Arrowmen all across the nation!”
2020 Central Region Chief: Patrick McInerney
  • From: Mundelein, Ill. (Northeast Illinois Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2005 and an Eagle Scout.
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member and a Founder’s Award recipient from the Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Lodge. Previously served as the Section C-7 chief and has also served as a section secretary and chairman for various committees.
  • Education: Majoring in mechanical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology.
  • Favorite hobby: Swimming and diving.
  • Random fact: He has a 75-gallon fish tank at home.
  • Quotable: “I’m very excited to help plan NOAC, NLS, and support our lodges and sections throughout the Central Region.”
2020 Southern Region Chief: Seth Greiling
  • From: Chesapeake, Va. (Tidewater Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2006 and an Eagle Scout.
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member and a Founder’s Award recipient from the Blue Heron Lodge. Served as the Section SR-7A chief.
  • Education: Information systems technology major at Tidewater Community College and plans to transfer later on to a four-year school.
  • Favorite hobby: Serving as a senator in his Student Government Association and spending time with friends.
  • Random fact: He once ate at Chick-fil-A for every meal for six days straight.
  • Quotable: “Excited to see what the year will offer while serving as the Southern Region chief and to build relationships with all lodge and section officers in the region.”
2020 Northeast Region Chief: Conor Power
  • From: Hingham, Mass. (Mayflower Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2008 and an Eagle Scout
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member from the Tantamous Lodge. Served as the Section NE-1 chief.
  • Education: Attends Stonehill College as a communications major. He plans to serve as a brand identity strategist for nonprofit organizations.
  • Favorite hobby: Camping and pursuing his hobby of graphic design.
  • Random fact: He’s a self-taught graphic designer.
  • Quotable: “I am looking forward to leveraging the first ACT Conferences and the 2020 National Order of the Arrow Conference to continue building high-performing lodges.”
2020 Western Region Chief: Gavin Cho
  • From: Burbank, Calif. (Verdugo Hills Council)
  • Scouting background: Member since 2007 and an Eagle Scout
  • OA background: Vigil Honor member and a Founder’s Award recipient from the Spe-Le-Yai Lodge. Served as both the section secretary and as the section chief for Section W-4N.
  • Education: Majoring in public policy at the University of California, Riverside. Hopes to one day be a campaign manager.
  • Favorite hobby: Scouts.
  • Random fact: He is a “big advocate of pineapple belonging on pizza.”
  • Quotable: “I am incredibly excited for 2020. This opportunity to capitalize on the momentum gained from the Focus 19 movement is unique and must not be squandered.”
Your three national youth officers

As national chief, Zachary Schonfeld joins 2019-20 National Venturing Officers’ Association President Pamela Petterchak and 2019-20 National Sea Scout Boatswain Hannah Carter as the three highest-ranking youth leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.

These three youth leaders sit on the BSA’s National Executive Board, helping shape the future of our great movement.

As one of his first acts, Zachary will join Pamela, Hannah and a group of other impressive Scouts and Venturers at the BSA’s Report to the Nation, beginning in late February in Washington, D.C. (As always, you can expect full coverage of the Report to the Nation experience right here on Bryan on Scouting.)

Thanks to Ryan Palmer, the OA’s communications lead, for the info.

Consider all your options when you register at high-adventure bases

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 10:15am

We’re in the middle of registration periods for 2021 adventures at the BSA’s national high-adventure bases, with sign-ups at Sea Base starting this week.

While you and your Scouts might have your sights on a specific experience, keep in mind that there’s more than one path to adventure. For example, you can consider Sea Base’s adventures to St. Croix, now in its second year of operation. Life Scout Matthew Polanco of Troop 209 in Tucson, Ariz., perfectly sums up what that aquatic adventure was like last year.

“Close your eyes and stand on the grass in front of your tent, looking out at the ocean vista to start your day of scuba. You could feel the harmony of nature and the power of the ocean that awaits,” Matthew says. “I have been to three of four high-adventure BSA bases, and this is my favorite yet.”

Sea Base hosted 41 crews for its St. Croix Adventure last year, and another 25 went on the St. Croix Scuba Adventure. Matthew’s crew, most of whom were from Arizona, went on the weeklong Scuba Adventure.

“We saw tons of sea life, including sharks, turtles, eels, a wide variety of fish, coral and sponges,” says Grant Grimit, a Star Scout in Troop 209. “Scuba diving is an amazing activity to do.”

Sea Base offers 20 different adventures at six different locations. Options abound at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Philmont Scout Ranch and Northern Tier as well. Some of the lottery periods for these high-adventure bases have passed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find slots still available or alternate adventures.

Choose your season

Troop 256 of Austin, Texas, recently returned from a winter adventure at Philmont. Instead of a 50-mile summer backpacking trek, these Scouts trudged through a foot of snow into the backcountry, built snow shelters and ended their time with a day of skiing at Red River Ski Area. For many in the crew, this trip introduced them to the most snow they had ever seen as well as temperatures as low as negative-11 degrees at night.

“I didn’t see anybody with a frown,” says Aidan Flores, a Second Class Scout. “It was a really fun experience.”

The ski trip is one of several winter adventures Philmont has; others include ice fishing and cross-country skiing. You could also go to Philmont in the autumn and try fly fishing, rock climbing or mountain biking.

At Northern Tier, you can choose a canoe trek in the summer or a winter adventure at one of two locations, the newest site being Gerber Scout Reservation in Twin Lakes, Mich., where Scouts can enjoy fat tire biking. Dog sled treks are available at the base in Ely, Minn.

Sea Base also has treks in the winter, spring and summer. The Summit has programs in summer, autumn, and new this year, winter, which includes housing and program opportunities for Scouts and Venturers at the nearby Winterplace Ski Resort.

‘We got this’: Mother-son duo first on scene of horrific highway accident

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:00am

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.

Tradition says to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary with a ruby.

But when Marlys and Jerry Berg reached 40 years of marriage in November 2019, they celebrated with something even more precious: the strangers who saved their lives.

On Nov. 1, 2018, Troop 127 Life Scout Dutch Bishton and his mom, Debbie, were the first on the scene of a three-vehicle accident in the Texas panhandle. What happened next, Marlys says, likely saved her life.

In a letter to the BSA’s Pikes Peak Council, Marlys writes that “without Debbie and Dutch’s fast thinking and stopping, I might not have made it to tell this story.”

Exactly one year later, the Bergs held a family reunion and party to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

“My mom and dad and I were invited to celebrate with them,” Dutch says. “That was my true reward. Seeing them celebrate their wedding anniversary after witnessing that day means so much more than any medal or honor.”

Even so, the Pikes Peak Council honored Dutch and Debbie with the National Certificate of Merit. It’s a fancy piece of paper, sure, but it tells the story of a Scout and his mom being incredibly brave, helpful and kind.

“As for my son, I could not be more proud,” says Greg Bishton, Dutch’s dad. “He is truly my hero. And as for my wife, she is an incredible mom, wife and best friend. I love them both so very much.”

First on the scene

The drive from the Bishton home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to their relatives in Odessa, Texas, takes about 10 hours. Dutch and Debbie got an early start, pulling out at 6 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2018.

They were making excellent time when they pulled into Dalhart, Texas, to stop for lunch at a pizza buffet.

“We were in no hurry,” Dutch says. “Our family was not expecting us until later in the day.”

After lunch, they got back onto the road toward Odessa, passing cattle ranches and farms at the posted speed limit of 70 mph. Near Hereford, about 45 minutes southwest of Amarillo, Dutch and Debbie pulled up to a “horrific accident,” Dutch says. A semitractor-trailer had collided with an SUV and a pickup. It looked like the accident had happened just moments earlier.

Realizing they were the first people who stopped to help, Debbie and Dutch got to work.

“I found my phone and called 911,” Dutch says. “I spoke with the operator for about three minutes, describing the accident and location.”

Dutch tried to describe his exact location based on signage nearby, but the operator said they had pinged Dutch’s location using his cellphone. They knew just where he was.

Comfort and aid

While Dutch was on the phone, Debbie talked to Marlys, the passenger of the SUV, which had come to rest on its side.

“I felt a strong need to help,” Debbie says. “An urge. When someone is in need of help, you help.”

Dutch and his mom spent the next few minutes providing comfort and aid to Marlys while two off-duty paramedics assisted others in getting the driver, Jerry, out of the SUV.

The off-duty paramedics then switched places with Dutch and Debbie. The off-duty paramedics worked on treating Marlys, who was still trapped and would need a hydraulic rescue tool to be extracted.

While that happened, Dutch and Debbie went to Jerry, who was then out of the vehicle and on the ground. Debbie immobilized Jerry’s head, and Dutch and Debbie spent the next 20 minutes talking to Jerry.

“My mom and I kept the driver awake by asking him a lot of questions,” Dutch says. “He told us how they were going to visit his son in Odessa. He told us everything about his family.”

When the fire department showed up, 40 minutes had passed since Dutch called 911.

“The first fireman asked us if we were OK still taking care of the driver,” Dutch says. “And I replied, ‘We got this.'”

(Side note: It’s important to do as first responders say, right away. Sometimes trying to help can interfere with a first responder trying to do their job.)

Before long, another first responder took over. For the first time since they had arrived, Dutch and Debbie were able to step back to assess the entire scene.

They saw mangled vehicles. They saw a rescue helicopter and ambulances. They saw fire trucks and police cars.

They watched as Marlys was removed from the car and airlifted to Amarillo.

“I hugged my mom so tight at that moment, because we were not sure she was going to make it,” Dutch says.

Looking back

Once they were sure they could do no more, Dutch and Debbie got back on the road south. They were on edge all weekend, unable to shake what they had seen.

When they got back to Colorado a few days later, Debbie went on Facebook to try to find the Berg family. From talking to Jerry, she knew the name of the couple’s son and found his profile.

Debbie told the son about their role in the accident. The son was able to tell Debbie about the condition of the Berg family.

Jerry had a concussion and needed stitches. To this day, he still doesn’t remember the accident. Marlys spent two months in the hospital before being released to recover at home.

A year after the accident, Dutch and Debbie received recognition from the council. But the real reward was helping Jerry and Marlys celebrate 40 years of marriage.

“It’s not about any awards,” Dutch says. “It’s about knowing you did the right thing. It’s knowing you helped those in need. Helping others is more gratifying than any award.”

Helpful resources

The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy Scouting — and life — safely. Here are some Health & Safety resources worth sharing:

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  1. Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.

A year in the life of Troop 5109, one of the first Scouts BSA troops for girls

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:00am

Madison Burrell uses these adjectives to describe her time at the wet and windy West Point Camporee: “tiring, scary, wet, muddy, crusty and painful.”

Hardly a ringing endorsement, right?

But then read what Madison says next: “I hope I’ll get to make more memories like this.”

For Madison’s mom, Troop 5109 Scoutmaster Christine Burrell, that’s the perfect metaphor for Scouting right there.

“It seems everyone these days is talking about grit as the big predictor of success,” Christine says. “That is what the BSA develops in spades.”

In its first year in existence, Troop 5109 has camped in sun, rain and snow. They’ve earned merit badges, religious emblems and the Messengers of Peace Award. They’ve met Scouts from across the country and around the world. And they’ve learned they’re capable of more than they ever thought possible.

They’ve learned they have grit.

“I’ve opened my mind up to new experiences and adventures that have made me feel like a better person, physically and mentally,” Madison says.

Ready to go

Troop 5109 was one of hundreds of Scouts BSA troops for girls that formed on the first possible day: Feb. 1, 2019.

I first learned of this group of remarkable Scouts long before they were officially Scouts. I interviewed Christine, her fellow Troop 5109 leader Kim Towne and some of the soon-to-be Scouts for the September-October 2018 issue of Scouting magazine.

In that story, Christine shared the five-step process she used when co-founding Troop 5109.

Fast forward to summer 2019 — nine months after that article appeared. Christine and Troop 5109 were at summer camp at Woodruff Scout Camp in Georgia.

“We shared a campsite with another female unit,” Christine says. “I met one of the leaders, shook his hand, and introduced myself. He brightened at hearing my name and took out his phone. There, on the notes app on his phone, was my name and a quote from page 31 of Scouting magazine, talking about starting up a troop for girls. He told me that he was reading that article and said to himself, ‘If she can do that, I can, too.’ He proceeded to start up his own troop just a few miles down the road.”

Christine says she’s grateful for Scouting magazine and the ways it “inspires all of us leaders to keep growing this great program.”

But this story isn’t about Scouting magazine. It’s about Troop 5109. And Christine insists that Troop 5109’s story not be told by her.

“This is a youth-led program, so I’d rather you hear about how it’s going in their own words,” she says.

Finally a part of it

Scouting has been in Kayla Bell’s family for generations. Thanks to Scouts BSA, she’s continuing in the footsteps left by men she admires greatly.

“I am so happy that I can finally be a part of it, too,” she says.

So far, she’s been camping and caving, climbing and kayaking. And the troop is only getting started.

“I am in an amazing troop,” Kayla says. “I have met many new people and I love collecting new patches from different events and places that I have been.”

Sarah demonstrates the Scout salute. Getting closer as friends

A little awkwardness is inevitable any time you join a group of strangers. Sarah Takahashi felt exactly that when she joined Troop 5109.

But Scouting is the ultimate icebreaker. The journey of planning campouts, learning new skills and experiencing the outdoors together has a way of breaking down barriers and building up friendships.

Whether camping inside caves (“fun and challenging, especially in the dark,” Sarah says) or hiking to see llamas at the top of a mountain, Sarah’s adventures with Troop 5109 have formed unbreakable bonds.

“Our troop may have a few arguments and disagreements every now and then, but we are definitely getting closer as a team and as friends,” Sarah says.

Madison (left) and Christine Burrell. A year in pictures

The photos below tell even more of Troop 5109’s first-year story. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

“We are an exceptionally active troop, and these girls are so full of energy and passion,” says Christine, their Scoutmaster. “We are fostering in these Scouts independence and curiosity, and an ability to overcome and even cherish challenges. I am so proud of these girls.”

A drawing from Troop 5109’s founding day. Cleaning up trash in the river. Fire-building practice. Disc golf. Zip-lining. The “view” atop Bull Mountain at the West Point Camporee. Teaching some Scouting skills to Webelos. Pottery merit badge. Stand-up paddleboarding. Troop 5109’s first court of honor. Some court of honor photos are serious. Others are not. A challenge course at summer camp. Okpik at Northern Tier

Indiana Scout restores community cemetery for Eagle Scout project

Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:00am

You wouldn’t know the cemetery near Thorntown, Ind., was the resting place of nearly 50 African Americans. For a long time, it was a patch of grass, recognized only by a few decrepit stone tombstones and a black-and-white sign.

Four years ago, Reece Thompson of Troop 350 in nearby Advance, Ind., decided to do something after reading an article about the cemetery in a local newspaper. Since his older brother had restored a cemetery for his Eagle Scout project, Reece chose to do the same.

“Only a part of it was making it look pretty,” Reece says. “The other part was spreading awareness.”

The cemetery now has a new sign, a historical marker about the community, an iron fence and restored tombstones. But more importantly, it now has newfound meaning and history for the community.

“Although we have long had a list of 25 names of people buried there and have logged three more from research, it was not until Reece got involved … that it has been discovered that there may be as many as 49 graves,” says Karen Niemeyer, librarian at the Thorntown Public Library. “That, I think, is significant.”

A significant project

People began to settle around Thorntown in 1827. African-American families had established a community outside of town several years later. By 1870, the community outside of Thorntown — the Sugar Creek Community — had grown to more than 170 residents; however, in subsequent decades, the community began to dissipate and eventually dissolved.

In doing research for this project, Reece discovered the community’s cemetery likely was formed in 1869, not 1836 like the original sign stated.

“As the project went on, I did really like learning the history,” Reece says. “I learned how much this meant to people.”

To preserve this history, Reece partnered with numerous experts, including students at Ball State University who used ground-penetrating radar to identify where people were buried. Reece restored the headstones and found others that were buried.

It was a three-year endeavor that culminated in a dedication and unveiling of a state historical marker.

“This marker serves as a tangible reminder of this community,” says Casey Elizabeth Pfeiffer, historical marker program director at the Indiana State Library. “We’re able to restore these stories to the communities where they belong.”

Unsung Hero: He helped rescue a skier dangerously entangled in plastic fencing

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 8:00am

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.

In February 2019, Shane Holbrook was snowboarding with friends and family at Snow Summit Ski Resort in Southern California when he spotted a skier in danger.

The man’s skis had become trapped in some green plastic safety fencing. The fencing, installed to prevent people from falling into a pool of near-freezing water that supplies the snow-making machines, was thin and held up with narrow PVC pipes.

“Although it had some support, I knew it wasn’t going to hold for long,” Shane says.

While others continued past the man, Shane hopped over to help — one foot still in the binding on his snowboard.

Shane was just 12 years old when this happened, but he’s a Scout. And Scouts know there’s no minimum age to begin helping others.

(Still, it’s important to know your limits so you avoid making yourself a victim. Scouts should notify an adult and/or emergency services and wait for help if they aren’t comfortable attempting the rescue.)

Shane kneels near the plastic fencing where he rescued a skier from possible danger. What he did

As he was preparing to board the ski lift to head back up the mountain, Shane saw a man lose his balance and fall backward into the fencing.

Shane, now a Star Scout with Troop 731 of Fallbrook, Calif., approached the man and told him to remain calm.

Shane’s gloves made it difficult to get a good grip on the man’s hand. But persistence won out, and Shane eventually managed to pull the man away from the plastic fencing and the ledge just beyond this temporary boundary.

Had the fencing not held — a real possibility, Shane says — the man could have fallen several feet and suffered injuries to his head, neck or back.

Why he did it

Shane’s proud of what he did, but to hear him tell it, it’s exactly what any Scout would do in his boots.

“Our Scout Law states [to be] loyal, helpful, courteous,” Shane says. “They teach you the Scout Oath and that we need to be ‘mentally awake.'”

But Scouting’s value goes even deeper than that, Shane says. During his Scouting journey, he’s also learned to believe in himself.

“I felt confident that I was able to help that man, who was larger than me and older than me, due in part to the training I have had through Scouting,” Shane says.

Additional resources

The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy the outdoors safely. Review the following before your next winter sports outing:

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  1. Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.

Six easy steps to planning the ultimate Pinewood Derby

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 9:00am

The Pinewood Derby can seem like a maze of tasks that make up a million-piece, very complicated puzzle, but it is time to simplify things a bit and make this all about fun for everyone. These steps should guarantee that you throw a successful and well-run race day event, whether it’s your pack’s first time or 50th.

  1. Pick a Pinewood Derby task force team. This team will handle the list of to-dos and make sure that everything gets done on time. Depending on the size of your event, this can be anywhere from two to six people. If you can, grab a mix of veteran Derby-goers and newbies so that you can keep things fresh with new ideas and pull in best practices from past Pinewood Derbies. Also, it never hurts to name your team and assign a hashtag to them for social media sharing purposes.
  2. Make a list of the essential to-do’s that cover your event from start to finish. This is crucial to making this whole shindig run smoothly. Get the ideas out of your head and onto paper so that it is easy to see what needs to get done and where there may be gaps in planning. It also makes it easy to spread the workload evenly across your task force team.
  3. Assign those specific tasks and dates to your task force team members. After you have created your list of essentials, re-review everything and put names and deadlines next to each line item. Again, this makes it easy to check in with everyone. Be sure to share the essentials list with your Cubmaster as well, so they can add if need-be and to keep them in the know (if they are not at your planning party).
  4. Set a date to visit your local Scout Shop’s “Champ Camp.” This is an easy way to take the pressure off of the task force team because all you need to do is check the dates they are hosting Champ Camps and grab a couple that work for people. The Scout Shops will have experts on-hand to answer any and all questions about Pinewood Derbies and how to build cars. It also adds an extra bit of fun – think of it like a field trip. It can also be fun to plan a cookout for after your Scout Shop visit, so that you can talk about everything you learned at Champ Camp. If the Scout Shop does not do a Champ Camp or it’s too far away, identify someone who has woodworking tools and/or a shop that will host a building workshop for the pack.
  5. Assign a day-of Pinewood Derby team (a do team!) and make a run of show list. The do team will be in charge of running the races, making sure that the venue is set up with everything from the track to snacks and decorations, along with breakdown. Obviously, tasks can be divvied up between parents and Cub Scouts, but having a core team in charge of the day will make everything run more smoothly, so people know who to go to with questions.
  6. Have fun! Remember that this is a gathering of all of your friends. Things may get off track, but in the grand scheme of things, the main goal of the whole event is to have a great time and celebrate your pack and the amazing friendships that come from Scouting. Be sure to take lots of pictures to share on social media. Sharing exciting events like this can not only be fun to look back on, but they can also help with planning the next year and attract new families to Scouting.

The key to making things more fun and less “I might pull my hair out!” is to plan and write everything down. One of the tricks of the trade that I have found to be particularly effective is to have a couple little planning parties to hammer out all of the details. Get your task force team together, make it festive, and go over what you want the day to look and feel like.

Check out more tips, tricks, games and how-to videos here.

Happy planning!

Why is Bear Grylls wearing a World Crest on his sleeve in his TV show ‘Running Wild’?

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 8:00am

It has traveled deep into the jungles of Panama, through slot canyons in Arizona and down a waterfall in Italy.

It has shared screen time with celebrities like Brie Larson, Channing Tatum and Zachary Quinto.

And it’s on the Scout uniform hanging in your closet right now.

The purple World Scout Emblem, which BSA members call the World Crest, has been spotted on Bear Grylls’ right sleeve in the current season of his National Geographic show Running Wild With Bear Grylls.

An eagle-eyed fan of Running Wild emailed me recently to check whether the purple patch she spotted was, indeed, the World Scout Emblem.

“Please confirm that Bear Grylls wears a World Crest on his right sleeve on his TV show — and why,” Eileen L. wrote. “Thanks!”

That is indeed the World Crest, Eileen. As for why, we’ve got that answer, too.

Bear Grylls and actor Channing Tatum hike through Norway for Grylls’ National Geographic show, “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” (National Geographic/Ben Simms) A global Scouting ambassador

The host wears the patch in a nod to his role as the first Chief Ambassador of the Scout Movement. Grylls accepted the volunteer position in November 2018, pledging to “promote Scouting worldwide, champion youth education, and inspire more adults and young people to join the Scout Movement.”

By wearing his support of Scouting on his sleeve, Grylls gives viewers a near-constant reminder of his connection to the World Organization of the Scout Movement, of which the BSA is a proud member.

The show itself pairs quite well with Scouting. Each week, Grylls takes a different celebrity along for an extreme outdoor adventure. He demonstrates survival skills, explores natural areas not seen by the average tourist and challenges his guests to step out of their comfort zones.

Scouts and Venturers do much of the same, using the outdoors as their classroom for developing skills, learning leadership and improving self-confidence.

Bear Grylls drops in to the opening ceremony at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. (Chuck Eaton/BSA) Bear at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree

Last summer, Grylls made a surprise appearance at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, held at the BSA’s Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

With 45,000 Scouts in the audience and millions more watching around the world, Grylls shared a message of hope and challenged Scouts to be champions for good everywhere they go.

“Scouts, you have my absolute respect by playing such a key role in shaping the next generation of global citizens,” he said.

In addition to addressing the opening ceremony, Grylls toured the Summit to meet with Scouts from around the world.

He stopped at the Sustainability Treehouse for a discussion with Scouts about how they’re promoting sustainability in their home countries. This wasn’t a photo op; it was a chance to talk about practical solutions with change-makers from the U.S., U.K, Philippines, Korea, Slovenia, Ukraine, Egypt, Brazil, Ethiopia, Namibia and South Sudan.

“You are changing your communities and our society for the better from inside out,” Grylls said. “An unstoppable force for good — and we are only just getting started!”

Bear Grylls has a fireside chat with actress Cara Delevingne during the filming of National Geographic’s “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” (National Geographic/Jeff Ellingson)

Face the Challenge: Participant registration now open for the 2021 National Jamboree

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 8:00am

A celebration that happens just once every four years. World-class venues packed with incredible moments. A spirit of unity, patriotism and courage.

Turns out the National Jamboree and the Summer Olympics share a lot of similarities — with one exception: At a National Jamboree, everyone leaves a winner.

Participant registration is now open for the 2021 National Jamboree, to be held July 21–30, 2021, at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, the BSA’s gold-medal-caliber high-adventure base in West Virginia.

A National Jamboree will happen only once or twice during a young person’s time in Scouts BSA, Venturing or Sea Scouting. That’s why many people, myself included, call a National Jamboree a “flagship BSA experience.” (I’ve been lucky enough to attend, serve on staff or cover every National Jamboree since 1997. Each has been spectacular.)

Over the course of 10 days, Jamboree participants will experience unforgettable adventures they’ll remember all their lives. They can experience the Summit’s legendary adventure sports programs, earn merit badges, enjoy stadium shows and trade patches with Scouts from all 50 states and many foreign countries.

In doing all that, Jamboree participants join a tradition that has been a part of the BSA since the very first National Jamboree in 1937.

Participant requirements

Youth participants must:

  • Have a current BSA membership.
  • Be at least 12 by the first day of the Jamboree (July 21, 2021) but not yet 18 by the last day of the Jamboree (July 30, 2021). If your Scout will be too old to be a youth participant, they should consider applying for an adult leader role or Jamboree Service Team (staff) position.
  • Be approved by the unit leader and local council.
  • Have an appropriate parent/guardian to complete the online parental consent. (An email will be sent to the parent/guardian during the application process.)
  • Participate in pre-Jamboree training experience with their local council and unit leader.
  • Submit their BSA Annual Health & Medical Record using the online Jamboree submission process. (The AHMR must be dated on or after July 1, 2020.)
  • Submit all registration fees per the local council’s payment schedule.

Adult participants must:

  • Have a current BSA membership in a local council unit.
  • Meet the age requirements:
    • Scoutmasters and First Assistant Scoutmasters: At least 21 by the first day of the Jamboree (July 21, 2021).
    • Second Assistant Scoutmasters: At least 18 by the first day of the Jamboree (July 21, 2021).
    • Third Assistant Scoutmasters: At least 18 by the first day of the Jamboree (July 21, 2021) but not yet 21 by the last day of the Jamboree (July 30, 2021).
  • Be approved by the local council.
  • Be currently serving as a primary unit leader (Scoutmaster applicants) or be currently serving in any unit leadership position (other applicants).
  • Have completed appropriate leader-specific training (Scoutmaster applicants only).
  • Be current with Youth Protection Training.
  • Participate and assist in planning the pre-Jamboree training experience with local council.
  • Submit their BSA Annual Health & Medical Record using the online Jamboree submission process. (The AHMR must be dated on or after July 1, 2020.)
  • Submit all registration fees per the local council’s payment schedule.

See more requirements, including the Code of Conduct and physical fitness requirements, at the official site.

Registration and fees

The cost for participants will be $1,175. Learn more and register here.

What about Jamboree Service Team (staff) registration?

That is live as well. Learn more in this post.

2021 National Jamboree staff registration opens, with bonus for first 2,021 to apply

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 8:00am

Don’t just experience the National Jamboree. Bring it to life.

Applications are now being accepted to serve on staff at the 2021 National Jamboree, coming July 2021 to the BSA’s adventure-packed Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

The first 2,021 people who sign up and pay their deposit to serve on staff, now known as the Jamboree Service Team, will receive the limited-edition “Challenge Accepted!” patch seen above.

The new “Jamboree Service Team” name is meant to underline the unified approach to Jamboree staff in 2021 and beyond, says National Jamboree Director Dan Busby.

“No matter the capacity that you serve on staff — youth, adult, volunteer, exhibitor, paid BSA employee, etc. — it is our desire to convey that participants are our customer and we want them to have the best Jamboree experience ever,” Busby says.

What kind of Jamboree Service Team position is the right fit for you? Your Jamboree role might match your vocational expertise, skills or simply your desire to positively impact Scouts and guests attending Scouting’s premier celebration.

You’ll find JST openings in program, medical, logistics, operations and administrative areas.

Begin your application at this link.

Choose your session

Once again, the National Jamboree will offer three staffing options to provide maximum flexibility for those who serve.

Jamboree Service Team members will be able to select a session that best suits their schedule when applying. Options are:

  • Session 1: July 17–24, 2021
  • Session 2: July 24–31, 2021
  • Session 3: July 17–31, 2021

Fees range from $450 to $895 depending on which session you select. A deposit of $150 will be due when you apply.

Get your patch

The first 2,021 Jamboree Service Team applicants that sign up and pay the deposit will receive a “Challenge Accepted!” temporary uniform patch. Patches will be mailed out on a monthly basis beginning in January 2020.

Learn more at the official Jamboree Service Team page, and submit questions to one of the email addresses below.

What about participant registration?

That is live as well. Learn more in this post.

In its effort to welcome a vegetarian Scout, troop embarks on a culinary adventure

Wed, 01/01/2020 - 8:00am

To call the adults in Troop 96 carnivores is a bit of an understatement.

As in any youth-led troop, the Scouts in Troop 96 of the Northeast Illinois Council are on their own at mealtime. Scouts in each patrol plan the menu, shop for ingredients and prepare the meals.

That leaves the adults to fend for themselves. And in Troop 96, the adults eat like royalty.

The “adult patrol,” to use its unofficial name, has a proud history of preparing delicious dishes you’d think would be too difficult for campsite cooking. Pork loin that’s both stuffed and wrapped with bacon. Beef brisket cooked to perfection in a Dutch oven. Barbecue ribs that fall off the bone.

When prospective Scouts and their families come to visit Troop 96, the adults always make plenty of extras for the visitors to enjoy.

But at one of these campouts not too long ago, the adults learned that one of their guests was a vegetarian. They had non-meat options, but they were mostly plain vegetable sides.

“While it did the job, it was not too inspiring,” says Troop 96 assistant Scoutmaster John Boos. “We felt that we could have done a better job of making that person feel more welcome. After all, a Scout is friendly, kind and courteous.”

That vegetarian Scout joined the troop, and Boos was determined not to make him feel like an afterthought. The Cooking merit badge counselor also saw a teachable moment: showing Scouts that vegetarian meals can be just as tasty as their meat-based counterparts.

“Our troop started down this road to be more inviting to our vegetarian guests,” Boos says. “We learned that we could easily expand our food horizon, lower our food budget and add more variety.”

Here’s how they did it.

A recipe for success

Boos wanted to debut the new plan on a nine-day trip from the Chicago area through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The troop would camp and prepare meals each night.

Working with the Scouts, Boos aimed for one large vegetarian dinner option for each night of the trip. (Breakfast and lunch were simpler and required less prep, but these had vegetarian options, too.)

Boos decided the vegetarian meals needed to be:

  • Nutritionally balanced.
  • Varied. “Nine days of canned string beans would not fly. We needed to mix it up,” Boos says.
  • Tasty and attractive. “The dishes had to stand up next to some elaborate meat dishes,” Boos says. “They had to look and taste good.”
  • Not too complicated to prepare.
  • Not based on imitation meat like meatless burgers or hot dogs. “I thought it would be a better experience for the troop to see vegetables in a way that would highlight the ingredients,” Boos says.

Next, he scoured cookbooks and online resources to find recipes that might work. These had to be scaled up (each would need to serve 10 to 12 people, or about the capacity of a standard Dutch oven) and simplified (no complex cooking operations or fancy equipment).

It turned out that cooking vegetables is, in many ways, simpler than cooking meat. While meat must be heated to a minimum temperature for food safety, veggies can be eaten raw. Cooking only changes the flavor and texture.

“One of our favorite methods was to cube the unpeeled vegetables, quick-fry them in a small amount of really hot oil, then season and combine with the rest of the ingredients,” Boos says. “This gave a good brown on the vegetable and kept some crunch and texture.”

Tastes like happy

Even the skeptics were pleased with the way the meals turned out.

“The dishes were almost always fully gone by the end of supper,” Boos says. “Some Scouts who said they would never go vegetarian were surprised that they enjoyed the meals — and that they could lower their camping menu cost by using some vegetarian options.”

But getting to that point took work. Here’s what Boos recommends to other troops wanting to add vegetarian menu options:

  • Don’t overcook the vegetables. Most vegetables don’t need the high temperature or long cook time that meat needs for safety.
  • Rethink the recipe search. Don’t limit yourself to vegetarian cookbooks or recipe sites. Meat recipes with lots of flavor, like tacos, Italian dishes, chili and goulash can be quickly adapted. Just substitute cubed vegetables like zucchini or sweet potatoes for the meat and add some black beans, sunflower seeds or nuts for protein.
  • Expect to save some money. Boos found that vegetarian dishes were cheaper than their meat counterparts. “The cost was about half or less per person compared with meat dishes,” he says.
  • Start slow. You don’t have to eliminate meat entirely. Begin by introducing some vegetarian dishes along with your meat creations. You’ll have your Scouts eating their vegetables in no time.
Extra helpings

Does your troop have Scouts with special dietary needs? Leave a comment below to share how you’ve helped welcome these Scouts by adapting the way you prepare meals.

Can a den chief work with a Cub Scout den of the opposite gender?

Mon, 12/30/2019 - 8:00am

Let’s give a giant Scout salute to the den chief. When entrusted with enough responsibility, this young person can be a Cub Scout leader’s best friend.

A den chief is a Scout, Venturer or Sea Scout who:

    • Helps plan and conduct den meetings.
  • Suggests games and activities the Cub Scouts might enjoy.
  • Serves as a role model for the Cub Scouts.
  • Guides Webelos Scouts as they transition into Scouts BSA.

I can hear Cub Scout leaders everywhere saying, “that would be a handy person to have around!”

Walter Carroll, committee chairman for a pack and troop in the Northern New Jersey Council, had den chiefs on the mind when he sent me these two related questions:

  • Can a Scouts BSA boy be a den chief for a girl Cub Scout den?
  • Can a Scouts BSA girl be a den chief for a boy Cub Scout den?

The answer to both questions is yes.

We asked the expert

For confirmation, I checked with Anthony Berger, national director of Cub Scouting.

“The answer is yes,” he says. “Since den chiefs are never alone with the Cub Scouts, and there is always two-deep leadership, the gender of the den chief does not need to be the same as the den they serve.”

Berger also points out that den chiefs can be Venturers or Sea Scouts. Both of these programs are fully co-ed, and members of either program can serve as den chiefs for any Cub Scout den.

Den chiefs across the programs

Scouts BSA members who enjoy giving back to Cub Scouting make excellent den chiefs. The role also fulfills the position of responsibility requirement for Star, Life or Eagle.

Venturers who serve as den chiefs gain an important connection to Cub Scouting and complete work toward the requirements for the program’s second-highest and highest awards: Pathfinder and Summit.

Sea Scouts who serve as den chiefs gain vital leadership skills and check off requirements for the Quartermaster award, Sea Scouting’s highest rank.

How to get the most out of den chiefs
  1. Recruit them. Pack leaders should visit Scouts BSA troops, Venturing crews and/or Sea Scout ships to explain the role and find prospective den chiefs. Remind these young people that the position counts toward advancement requirements.
  2. Show them you depend on them. A den chief who feels needed and important will be more likely to show up meeting after meeting.
  3. Train them. The BSA’s den chief training, delivered online or in person, sets your den and its den chief up for success.
  4. Award them. Have an active den chief who has served for at least a year and met other requirements? Reward them with the Den Chief Service Award.
  5. Understand their role. Just because your den chief is a “go-getter” doesn’t mean you should use them exclusively to go and get things. Instead of asking your den chief to run errands, ask them to run activities or entire segments of the den meeting. Let them lead, and watch them shine.

8-year-old Cub Scout raises money for Scouts BSA troop that had its trailer stolen

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 8:00am

In September, Ashley Panko looked up from her computer in shock.

On TV, a reporter was telling the heartbreaking story of Troop 193 of Duncanville, Texas. The reporter said a thief had stolen Troop 193’s trailer and all the camping gear inside.

Ashley, an 8-year-old Cub Scout from Dallas, loves camping with her friends in Pack 325. So she knew just how terrible it must be to lose all the stuff you’d need to enjoy a camping trip.

Rather than simply feeling sorry for Troop 193, Ashley got to work. She rallied her community, asked for donations from her pack and even sold lemonade in her driveway. In the end, Ashley’s efforts raised $500 in cash and several hundred dollars’ worth of camping equipment.

All for a bunch of Scouts she hadn’t yet met.

“I felt sorry for them, and I wanted to help them,” Ashley tells Bryan on Scouting. “I also thought of the Scout Law because it says to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly and kind.”

We spoke with Ashley, her Cubmaster and the committee chairwoman of Troop 193 to learn how this incredibly great Good Turn came together.

Ashley presents the gear to Troop 193. Developing a plan

Though “youth-led” is more the mantra of Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouting, it’s never too early to entrust young people with positions of responsibility.

That was the technique expertly demonstrated by Wes Alost, Ashley’s Cubmaster.

“Ashley approached me immediately after she saw the news stories about Troop 193,” Alost says. “She was very motivated to help other Scouts who had lost the ability to go camping.”

In Ashley’s altruism, Alost saw a dual opportunity: a chance for his Cub Scouts to do a Good Turn and an opportunity for Ashley to take a leadership role in a cause she cared about.

“Ashley and I discussed several ways the pack could assist and developed a plan of action,” Alost says. “I encouraged Ashley to take responsibility for collecting contributions.”

With her parents’ help, Ashley created a short YouTube video. She circulated it within her pack and sent it to the Scouts BSA troop chartered to the same church. She also made announcements at pack meetings to encourage donations and even sold lemonade in her driveway.

“I learned how to email, make a YouTube video and a speech,” Ashley says. “I learned to make a plan and to put the plan into action.”

That plan was well underway when word got to Troop 193.

A copy of Ashley’s speech to Troop 193. Disbelief and surprise

Bettie George is chairwoman of Troop 193. She remembers how the Scouts first reacted when learning of the theft: “What are we gonna do?” “We don’t have any of our camping gear.” “Now how are we going to be able to go and camp?”

The thieves had stolen propane tanks and cookstoves, shovels and rakes, cast-iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Gone were the water tanks and wash stations. The troop flag was taken, too.

Donations and words of encouragement started to come in from across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And then, a couple of months later, George got an email from Alost. He explained what Ashley was trying to do.

“We had never met Ashley nor any of her unit’s Cub Scouts,” George says. “We were complete strangers to her when she took on the effort to help us.”

George remembers thinking that Ashley must have good leadership in her life — from her parents and Scout leaders — “to have that much of a giving heart.”

George says her initial reaction to Ashley’s story (“How sweet!”) turned to surprise when she learned that Ashley had raised an impressive $500 on her own. As an 8-year-old.

“The actions of Ashley truly show that there is a generation out there that looks beyond themselves and out to others,” George says. “If, as citizens of the United States, we give the young people the opportunity to step up and do the things that are on their heart and mind, we would all benefit.”

Ashley speaks to Troop 193 alongside (from left) Wes Alost, Heather Panko and Bettie George. No problem too big

Scouting is a family activity for Ashley. Her parents are den leaders, and her little brother is a Tiger. From his perspective as Cubmaster, Alost says he’s seen how Scouting has helped Ashley grow as a leader.

The Good Turn for Troop 193 has only accelerated that, Alost says.

“Although she’s always been a determined young lady, she’s seen that she can exceed her own expectations,” he says. “We promise to ‘do our best’ and ‘to help other people at all times,’ but this demonstrated to our Cub Scouts precisely what that means.”

To her fellow Cub Scouts, Ashley wants to share that you don’t have to wait to make a difference in someone’s life.

“You can make your own plan and talk with others and put your plan into action,” Ashley says. “Don’t be discouraged because you think you are too small or the problem is too big. Even small acts of kindness go a long way.”

Every year, this pack gathers to assemble Christmas care packages for the troops

Wed, 12/25/2019 - 8:00am

The theme of Pack 164’s annual Christmas party hasn’t changed in four years: service before self.

Every year, members of the pack from Madison, Miss., gather to assemble care packages for military personnel deployed overseas.

The Cub Scouts fill boxes with things like dental floss, gum, foot powder, candy bars, shaving cream, beef jerky and other essentials available at every gas station in the U.S. but harder to find in a combat zone.

In 2018, the pack shipped 300 boxes. This year, they increased that number to 359, an all-time high.

Each box also gets a handwritten letter from a Cub Scout, thanking the soldier for their service. Even though it may take a while, the pack usually gets a response.

“I’m sorry that it took so long to write you all back. We don’t have a lot of free time — we have to fight the bad guys,” U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Siegel wrote in her response last year. “It puts a big smile on our faces to read your letters, so please keep sending them!”

Better year after year

George Fondren, Pack 164’s assistant Cubmaster, oversees the event. Each year, he’s added a new element to make it even more impactful for the Cub Scouts.

This year, the Cub Scouts got to FaceTime with Mississippi soldiers stationed in Qatar. Cub Scouts and family members held up supportive signs and asked questions to these brave men and women.

The Cub Scouts learned about the mission in Qatar, the equipment used and what it’s like to be away from family during the holidays.

Fondren also created a “Hometown Heroes” wall displaying more than 100 photos of veterans or active-duty soldiers related to anyone in the pack.

“We had hundreds of these photos — from World War I to present,” Fondren says.

To make the display interactive, Fondren created a game. The Cub Scouts worked to figure out the significance of acronyms like CWT (Chief Watertender, a Navy officer who worked in the boiler room) or WAF (Women in the Air Force, started in 1948).

Fondren also invited residents from the nearby VA Nursing Home so the Scouts could thank them for their service.

“Four attended, including my father,” Fondren says. “He said it was the best day he had had in over a year.”

Wolf elective: Hometown Heroes

In Hometown Heroes, a Wolf elective adventure, Cub Scouts learn about the heroes living in their own communities — people like police officers, firefighters and veterans.

For Requirement 4A, they must, “as a den or family, honor a serviceman or servicewoman by sending a care package along with a note thanking them for their service.”

You don’t have to pack hundreds of boxes like Pack 164 to meet the requirements. Your den could work together to fill one box and send it overseas.

Make the perfect care package

Kind gestures aren’t just in season at Christmas. Sending care packages to our soldiers overseas can — and should — be a year-round occasion.

For guidance on what to include and what to leave out, check out this article from the USO. You can also go right to your nearest USO location for assistance.

What have you included in a care package for soldiers? Let me know in the comments below.