Scouting News from the Internet

For a Winter Olympian, Eagle Scout Justin Krewson has a surprising favorite merit badge

Bryan On Scouting -

Justin Krewson is one of the world’s best at sliding 80 miles an hour down an icy track.

So good, in fact, that he’ll represent Team USA in the luge doubles event at the 2018 Winter Olympics this month.

Before he was into sliding, Krewson was into Scouting. And his favorite merit badge involved H20 of the unfrozen variety.

“I took [Small-Boat] Sailing merit badge at Scout camp, and I loved it,” Krewson says. “I bought a sailboat to sail around Lake Placid. You would learn the basics, prove your skills, and now later in life I can apply those skills and enjoy it.”

I spoke to Krewson by phone last month from Oberhof, Germany, where he was preparing for a pre-Olympics luge competition.

The Eagle Scout from Troop 221 of Manorville, N.Y., discussed how his Scouting past prepared him for an Olympics future.

Mind tricks

Krewson is speeding down the icy track going 80 mph. He executes each turn flawlessly. When he crosses the finish line, he and his doubles partner have posted an excellent time.

And then Krewson opens his eyes, switching off the movie playing in his head.

This is visualization, a technique used by elite athletes in nearly every sport. Krewson, who has committed the track’s layout to memory, closes his eyes and zooms through each turn in his head.

“We actually call them mind runs,” Krewson says. “They are so important, because we’re going 80 mph, and when things are happening that fast, they really have to be muscle memory.”

By the time Krewson and his doubles partner, Andrew Sherk, begin their first official run on Feb. 14, the pair will have been down the track countless times — in their minds.

A viewer’s guide

If there’s one complaint viewers have about the sliding sports — luge, skeleton and bobsled — it’s that each run looks rather similar. If not for the on-screen clock comparing the current run to the fastest time, viewers wouldn’t know whether they’re seeing a world-record pace or a last-place run.

Krewson offered a couple of tips for those of us watching from the warmth of home.

“Listen to the commentator who knows the sport,” he says. “They’ll point out the smaller things the viewer might not notice.”

Like a sled entering a curve too early. Or a little bobble. In a sport with razor-thin margins, these minor mistakes have a major effect.

In the luge doubles competition at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, for example, the team that won gold finished just 2.119 seconds faster than the team that finished 13th. And that’s a combined time from two separate runs.

So how can we tell whether Krewson, who is the top driver, is having a good run?

“If it looks like we’re doing nothing, we’re doing really well,” he says. “Toes pointed, head back.”

Justin Krewson in October 2010 at a West Point campout. Sliding to a start

Krewson was 6 years old when he and his dad were at a New York Islanders hockey game and met Adam Heidt, a 1998 and 2002 U.S. Olympian in luge. Heidt told Krewson he should try the sport when he got older.

He told Krewson about the White Castle Slider Search, where (lowercase-S) scouts go around the country to let kids ages 9 to 13 try luge on wheeled sleds.

“They had us go through a labyrinth of cones, go through physical and agility test,” Krewson says.

When he was 11, Krewson’s parents took him to give it a try. He didn’t make the cut, but a year later he did. The next step was a week in Lake Placid, N.Y., during winter to slide on an actual luge track.

By then Krewson was fully involved in Scouting, and balancing the two took work.

He camped and earned merit badges. He went geocaching on the beach with his troop and visited Washington, D.C., as a Scout. All this while working his way up the luge ladder.

While some might have been tempted to quit Scouting, Krewson wanted to finish what he started.

“You get to learn all these different things you wouldn’t learn in a school environment or back home,” he says. “It opens up a lot of doors, which is really cool.”

Ed Champ had just joined Troop 221 as an assistant Scoutmaster when he first heard about Krewson.

“This was in 2010,” he says. “Back then, I remember hearing that there was this kid in the troop that rides a luge in Lake Placid. I thought that was pretty neat, and in talking with Justin over the years, I got the sense that he was really into this. That it wasn’t just a passing fad. He would be absent for quite a bit of time practicing, training, competing in luge events, but when he came back, he was always helpful in the troop.”

Justin Krewson (second from left) at his Eagle project. Crossing the finish line to Eagle

His 18th birthday was zooming into view when Krewson realized he still had more Eagle requirements to complete.

“Everything was coming down to the wire,” he says. “I was getting closer and closer. You put the work in, and you finish what you started.”

For his Eagle project, Krewson renovated the Kent Animal Shelter on Long Island.

“He remodeled, reclaimed and repaired the building that was falling apart,” Champ says. “He worked very hard on planning and executing the project, and I could see how proud he was when it was completed.”

Krewson is proud, too. He wears his Eagle medal with pride.

“When you tell people, they get this awe,” he says. “Like, no way. It’s not a very common thing that people get. Because everyone else remembers doing Scouting when they were a kid. Most people remember being in Scouting, and when they realize that you’ve finished it, that’s really impressive to a lot of people.”

Justin Krewson (third from left) at Camp Hero in Montauk, N.Y. How to watch Justin Krewson

Competition date: Wednesday, Feb. 14. Krewson and his doubles partner, Andrew Sherk, will have two runs. The times are combined to determine the winner.

  • Run 1: Scheduled to begin at 6:20 a.m. ET Feb. 14
  • Run 2: Scheduled to begin at 7:40 a.m. ET Feb. 14

How to watch:

  • Live coverage on NBCSN. Replays that afternoon on NBC.
  • Livestream of both runs: Here
  • Viewing tip: When watching, it’ll be helpful to know that Krewson is the top driver.
Other Eagle Scouts in the Winter Olympics

Meet the other Eagle Scouts here.

Eagle Scout Taylor Morris tells how Scouting prepared him for 2018 Winter Olympics

Bryan On Scouting -

Taylor Morris’ progress toward the Eagle Scout rank was lagging when his parents made him a deal. Finish Eagle, they said, and you’ll get your driver’s license.

That did the trick. Morris earned Eagle in 2009, as a member of Venturing Crew 2834 of South Jordan, Utah.

Now 26 and preparing to competing in his first Winter Olympics, Morris is grateful for that extra push. He says his time as a Scout and Venturer in the Great Salt Lake Council was transformative.

“I believe that I have learned as many life lessons as a Scout as I have in my 16 years of traveling the world,” he says.

Around the world, down the track

If you want to compete in luge, world travel isn’t a luxury. It’s a requirement.

Of the 15 recognized luge tracks in the world, only two are in the United States (Lake Placid, N.Y., and Park City, Utah).

All that time in foreign airports, hotels and training facilities makes planning essential.

“You have to be diligent in all aspects. Organization and time management are crucial in being a successful athlete,” he says. “And it should go without saying that it is just as important in the Scouting community.”

It’s important in the military, too.

Morris is a sergeant in the U.S. Army and part of the Army World Class Athlete Program, which supports soldiers training to become Olympians.

Not giving up

In the late 2000s, Morris headed to Bear Lake, Idaho, with his fellow Scouts. They spent five days there, and the experience solidified his desire to stay in Scouting.

“We earned merit badges of all sorts, and it was one of the pivotal campouts that encouraged me to continue my goal earning my Eagle Scout,” he says.

Five years after earning Eagle, Morris narrowly missed qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympics. He considered hanging up his sled, but he didn’t. Four years later, he’s an Olympian.

I asked Morris whether he sees a message there for his fellow Scouts.

“There are so many times I thought of quitting and giving up,” he says. “But persevere through the tough times and come out a champion to yourself and those who support you.”

Ready for action

Competition in men’s singles luge begins Feb. 10. Morris will race four times, with each run lasting less than a minute. The racer with the lowest combined time wins.

But Morris knows it’s pointless to think about the other racers. All that matters is his time.

“Success in Korea would be navigating the course to the best of my ability all four of the Olympic runs,” he says. “Really I can’t ask for more, and staying focused on myself will be key in doing that.”

That means stick with what’s been working. During his six training runs and four competitive runs, Morris will try to stay on the same course that got him to Pyeongchang.

“I think I have a very concrete schedule and way of doing things before big races, and I will try my hardest not to change that for the Olympic races,” he says.

How to watch Taylor Morris

Competition dates: Two runs on Saturday, Feb. 10, and two on Sunday, Feb. 11. The four times are added up, and the fastest total time determines the winner.

  • Run 1: Scheduled to begin at 5:10 a.m. ET Feb. 10
  • Run 2: Scheduled to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET Feb. 10
  • Run 3: Scheduled to begin at 4:50 a.m. ET Feb. 11
  • Run 4: Scheduled to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET Feb. 11

How to watch:

  • Live coverage on NBCSN. Replays each afternoon on NBC.
  • Livestream of Runs 1 and 2: Here
  • Livestream of Runs 3 and 4: Here
Other Eagle Scouts in the Winter Olympics

Meet the other Eagle Scouts here.

Tips for deducting Scouting expenses on your tax return

Bryan On Scouting -

UPDATED: This text was updated Feb. 6, 2018, with 2017 tax season info. This includes a complete refresh and an accuracy review by Eagle Scout Michael B. Carr, CPA. (Thanks, Michael!)

When Baden-Powell said “Be Prepared,” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about income tax returns.

But still, there’s no better advice than that two-word phrase during tax time.

Scouters who heeded the Scout Motto last year remembered to track and document their Boy Scouts of America-related expenses. And now, they know that they can include those expenses if they plan to itemize their deductions.

But what if you didn’t know that BSA expenses were deductible? Or what if your “filing system” is really your glove compartment that’s stuffed with gas receipts and crumpled-up napkins? And what qualifies as an eligible expense, anyway?

Your fellow Scouters and I are here to help. Along with other Scout leaders on Facebook, I’ve collected some tips to help you track and deduct your BSA-related expenses.

And with the April 17, 2018, deadline approaching fast, there’s no better time than now to get started.

Before we go any further, remember that while this text was reviewed by a CPA, I can’t help you file your return. For the best advice, find a professional, use tax-preparation software, or check out the IRS Web site.

I can tell you this: You give your time and money to the Scouting program, and Uncle Sam wants to give you credit — at least for the money part.

General facts you need to know

Further clarification for this section comes from the Taxwise Giving newsletter (November 2016 edition).

  • On IRS Form 1040, “2017 Instructions for Schedule A”, the Boy Scouts of America is listed by name on page A-9 as a “qualified charitable organization,” so BSA expenses are eligible.
  • Four types of contributions can be deducted:
    • Cash/check donations
    • Property donations
    • “Out-of-pocket expenses you paid to do volunteer work”
    • Uniforms for leaders. “Uniforms that aren’t suitable for everyday use and that you wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization are charitable items in the year purchased,” Carr says. “Scout uniforms for leaders qualify.”
    • The cost of driving to and from BSA events
  • Some types of relevant contributions cannot be deducted:
    • The value of your time
    • Scouting dues or membership fees
    • A contribution to a specific individual. This includes giving to the Boy Scouts and specifying a particular person or Scout as the beneficiary of your donation.
  • IRS Publication 526 has lots more info (thanks, William)

Easy enough, right? Scouters will mainly be concerned with that third type of eligible deductions, “out-of-pocket expenses you paid to do volunteer work.”

Some items that you purchase to benefit your unit can be deducted, provided your unit didn’t reimburse you for them. You’ll want to check with your tax professional to be sure, but Scouters have told me they deduct merit badge pamphlets, den meeting activity kits, Wood Badge course fees and much more — again, as long as their pack or troop didn’t reimburse them.

However, there’s one expense that I’m certain you can deduct: the cost of driving to and from BSA events.

How to include driving expenses

Included in the third category is driving to or from a BSA event. Here’s what the IRS says about mileage:

  • First, you’re eligible to deduct the cost of driving to and from the volunteer work, which would include most BSA activities.
  • You have two options here:
  • You can deduct parking and tolls, so add that to the amount you claim under either method above.
  • As a reminder, you cannot deduct any expenses, mileage included, that were repaid to you by your unit, district, council or anyone else.
  • You also cannot deduct insurance or depreciation on the car.
Traveling as a volunteer

If you travel as a volunteer and must be away from home overnight, reasonable payments for meals and lodgings, as well as your transportation costs (previous section), are deductible. Also deductible: your transportation costs (air, rail and bus tickets, or mileage as described in the previous section).

This is where it gets tricky. You can’t deduct travel expenses if there’s a “significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation.” But enjoying your volunteer time doesn’t rule out a deduction.

For example, if you’re an on-duty troop leader who takes Scouts on a BSA camping trip, you may deduct those travel expenses even if you had a good time.

Important caveats

Next, there’s the tricky part of “gifts from which you receive benefit.” Let’s say, for example, that you attend your council’s annual dinner. Can you deduct that expense? Sort of.

Here’s what the IRS says: “If you made a gift and received a benefit in return, such as food, entertainment, or merchandise, you can generally only deduct the amount that is more than the value of the benefit.”

So if tickets for the council dinner were $75 and the value of the dinner was $35, you can only deduct $40.

Or if you paid $110 for a $100 gift card at a silent auction, you can only deduct $10.

Make sense?

Also, you’ll want to consult a tax professional or the IRS site for individual gifts of $250 or more. There are special rules that apply to those larger gifts.

How to deduct gifts of more than $250

Here’s what Carr says:

If the leader is deducting more than $250 in a single charitable contribution, he or she should maintain a record of these expenses (credit card receipts for travel, copy of a cancelled check for cash donations), as well a letter from the charitable organization showing:

  • Donee’s name
  • Contribution date
  • Contribution amount
  • Indication the donee received no goods or services were in return for the gift.
How tax law changes will affect Scouters

Carr says:

The threshold for itemizing (filling out the Schedule A) will increase from $12,700 for a married-filing-jointly (MFJ) return in tax year 2017 to $24,000 for an MFJ return in tax year 2018.

As a result, a lot of the detailed tracking Scout leaders may have done in the past for charitable givings will no longer be necessary in 2018.

Unless charitable givings, mortgage interest, and state and local tax deductions are greater than $24,000 (MFJ) or $12,000 (Single), a Scout leader won’t be itemizing, and as a result the charitable donation won’t be deductible.

Ten tips for keeping track of it all

Here are 10 tips your fellow Scouters offered:

  1. Theresa W. keeps a “notebook in the car for tracking mileage! Man, it adds up faster than you think!”
  2. “I update an Excel Spreadsheet with costs, and a folder for receipts,” says Jeff B. “I print out the Excel table when I do my taxes.”
  3. Jamie D. also has a high-tech approach: “I use to track all our expenses. I set up a category just for Scouts.”
  4. So does Tom H.: “I have a program called NeatReceipts that comes with a scanner. I use it for my expense reports for work. Just drop the receipts in the scanner then catagorize them. Set up a group for Scouting and everything is there at tax time.”
  5. But Michelle H. prefers the low-tech method: “We have a calendar and a folder (calendar stays in the folder) to keep track of everything!”
  6. Patricia L. makes it easy on her accountant: “I keep a file and drop my charitable receipts in it all year. Our accountant appreciated copies of online maps that we used for driving directions. Date, purpose, and mileage all in one place.”
  7. Julus P. doesn’t itemize, but he might start some day. “Scouting is not for profit, and not a hobby. Granted, it feels like a hobby sometimes! I don’t keep track of all these things but really should!”
  8. For Mark F., it’s not worth the trouble. “I don’t keep up with it. I enjoy being a Cubmaster and camp promotions chair, and so far, it’s cheaper than going to NASCAR races and cheaper than maintaining my boat and related gear I use for fishing!”
  9. Shawna R. keeps track of mileage, but not for every trip: “I don’t keep track of mileage for going to the store to pick up Scout items, even if it’s the only thing I’m going to the store for.” That’s probably a good call.
  10. And finally, please remember to heed the advice of Ann O.: “Check with your tax person on what you can deduct. It wasn’t as straightforward as I thought, and the rules seem to change.”

Want even more tips? Find them in the comments section below, and please share your own.

Oh, and good luck!

These are the Eagle Scouts competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics

Bryan On Scouting -

Three members of the Team USA delegation competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics are Eagle Scouts, the National Eagle Scout Association has confirmed.

The list includes two members of the luge team — one in singles and one in doubles — and one bobsledder.

Years ago they earned the Eagle Scout medal, representing their commitment to Scouting. Now they’ll represent their country while trying to earn another medal: Olympic gold.

The 2018 Winter Olympics officially begin on Friday, Feb. 9. Here’s what you need to know about these Eagle Scouts representing the United States in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Taylor Morris, luge singles

Read our interview with Taylor Morris on Wednesday.

Date of birth: June 4, 1991

Eagle Scout board of review date: June 28, 2009

Eagle project: Maintained and beautified a historic site in Utah

Scout unit: Venturing Crew 2834 of South Jordan, Utah (Great Salt Lake Council)

Olympics experience: First Olympics

Competition dates: Two runs on Saturday, Feb. 10, and two on Sunday, Feb. 11. The four times are added up, and the fastest total time determines the winner.

  • Run 1: Scheduled to begin at 5:10 a.m. ET Feb. 10
  • Run 2: Scheduled to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET Feb. 10
  • Run 3: Scheduled to begin at 4:50 a.m. ET Feb. 11
  • Run 4: Scheduled to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET Feb. 11

How to watch:

  • Live coverage on NBCSN. Replays each afternoon on NBC.
  • Livestream of Runs 1 and 2: Here
  • Livestream of Runs 3 and 4: Here

Interesting fact: Though he lives in Utah and is a Winter Olympian, Morris has never been skiing or snowboarding.

Quotable: “Organization and time management are crucial in being a successful athlete, and it should go without saying that it is just as important in the Scouting community.”

Justin Krewson, luge doubles

Read our interview with Justin Krewson on Thursday.

Date of birth: July 24, 1996

Eagle Scout board of review date: Aug. 11, 2014

Eagle project: Renovated the Kent Animal Shelter on Long Island, N.Y.

Scout unit: Troop 221 of Manorville, N.Y. (Suffolk County Council)

Olympics experience: First Olympics

Competition date: Wednesday, Feb. 14. Krewson and his doubles partner, Andrew Sherk, will have two runs. The times are combined to determine the winner.

  • Run 1: Scheduled to begin at 6:20 a.m. ET Feb. 14
  • Run 2: Scheduled to begin at 7:40 a.m. ET Feb. 14

How to watch:

  • Live coverage on NBCSN. Replays that afternoon on NBC.
  • Livestream of both runs: Here
  • Viewing tip: When watching, it’ll be helpful to know that Krewson is the top driver.

Interesting fact: Krewson is a member of the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department.

Quotable: “When you tell people [you’re an Eagle Scout], they get this awe. Like, no way. It’s not a very common thing that people get.”

Eagle Scout Chris Fogt (right) with fellow bobsledder Justin Olsen. Chris Fogt, four-man bobsled

Read our interview with Chris Fogt on Friday.

Date of birth: May 29, 1983

Eagle Scout board of review date: March 16, 2000

Eagle project: Mapped a cemetery so families could find and visit loved ones

Scout unit: Varsity Team 851 of Highland, Utah (Utah National Parks Council)

Olympics experience: Third Olympics. Fogt earned a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics and finished 22nd in the 2010 Olympics.

Competition dates: Two runs on Saturday, Feb. 24, and two on Sunday, Feb. 25. The four times are added up, and the fastest total time determines the winner. Fogt is a push athlete for the sled driven by Justin Olsen. Nathan Weber and Carlo Valdes are his fellow push athletes.

  • Run 1: Scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 24
  • Run 2: Scheduled to begin at 8:40 p.m. ET Feb. 24
  • Run 3: Scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 25
  • Run 4: Scheduled to begin at 8:40 p.m. ET Feb. 25

How to watch:

  • Live in primetime on NBC.
  • Livestream of Runs 1 and 2: Here
  • Livestream of Runs 3 and 4: Here
  • Viewing tip: Fogt’s position is in the back of the sled.

Interesting fact: A soldier in the U.S. Army, Fogt spent a year deployed in Iraq shortly after the the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Quotable: “I had a positive experience coming through the Scouting program. Being a shy kid, Scouting helped me find my voice and shape the man I am now.”

Other Eagle Scout Olympians

Meet the seven Eagle Scouts who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Hat tip: Thanks to Scott Olson and Ryan Larson for the research assistance.

‘CBS Sunday Morning’ examines past, present, future of Boy Scouts of America

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For 108 years, “the Scouts have never failed to live up to the motto: Be Prepared. So are they prepared for the challenge of a changing America?”

And so began the Feb. 4, 2018, episode of CBS Sunday Morning. The 90-minute newsmagazine, which averages between 5 million and 6 million viewers a week, made the Boy Scouts of America its cover story on Sunday.

From my seat on the couch, the 7-minute, 53-second segment answered that opening question with a resounding yes.

Yes, the BSA is prepared to meet the needs of busy families with programs that appeal to every family member — moms and dads, sons and daughters.

In doing so, as the Sunday Morning piece made clear, the BSA won’t forget what has gotten it to 108 years and counting: a movement that prepares young people to make ethical and moral choices throughout their lives.

‘Not just any Sunday’

The piece aired on a Sunday that was “not just any Sunday,” host Jane Pauley said. “No, not because of the Super Bowl. Today is Scout Sunday — a run-up to this week’s 108th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America.”

In the ensuing segment, journalist Tony Dokoupil sought to cover the past, present and future of the BSA.

He visited the Cascade Pacific Council, headquartered in Portland, Ore., to meet some of the country’s first girl Cub Scouts.

Jordana Garcia, 8, was among them. She had been coming to her brother’s Cub Scout meetings for years.

“Sometimes he would do carving and other stuff, and I just had to sit in the car and just do my notebook,” she said.

Not anymore. Now Jordana is a proud Wolf in Pack 4. She’s ready to earn the awards she’s seen her brother receive.

Traditions new and old

Welcoming girls into Cub Scouting this year and a Boy Scout-age program next year doesn’t mean losing sight of what got us here: a commitment to the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

To investigate that, Dokoupil headed to the mountains of Utah.

There he found Troop 1262 of Salt Lake City. When he arrived, the Scouts were busy building campfires and igloos — “the kind of outdoor adventure that’s defined the Boy Scouts of America for more than 100 years.”

That served as a perfect segue to an at-a-glance history of the BSA and some of its more famous Eagle Scout alumni: billionaire Michael Bloomberg, president Gerald Ford and astronaut Neil Armstrong among them.

‘Kids want what we have’

Dokoupil’s final stop was to see Michael Surbaugh, another famous Eagle Scout who serves as the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive.

“Kids want what we have,” Surbaugh told Dokoupil. “The traditional aspects of outdoors, camping, adventure, hiking. This is what we do.”

Dokoupil then returned to Troop 1262, revealing that most of its members are Burmese refugees. The troop, which Aaron Derr covered for this blog last year, gives these young men an opportunity to shine.

Dokoupil asked leader Saborn Va what the guys in Troop 1262 would be doing without Scouting.

“I’ll tell you what the boys told me: ‘If it wasn’t for Scouting, I’d probably be involved with a gang somewhere.’ Because that’s what all their friends are,” Va said.

Watch the segment below

Top 5 merit badges to make your Groundhog Day more ful-Phil-ling

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It’s Groundhog Day, and there’s just one question on everyone’s mind:

Will Scouting magazine release a list of the top five merit badges to celebrate this essential holiday?

The answer: Yes.

Mammal Study

Ah, the groundhog. Marmota monax. America’s cuddliest rodent.

Scouts who really want to burrow in and study the groundhog should earn the Mammal Study merit badge.

For that one, they’ll zero in on a specific mammal to photograph, track and observe.

But wait. I just remembered humans are mammals, too. In a close reading of the Mammal Study merit badge requirements, I see nothing precluding a Scout from selecting humans as their mammal.

And if you’re going to study a human, it might as well be Bill Murray. Begin your study with a viewing of the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

Snow Sports

Expecting six more weeks of winter? That’s actually good news for Scouts and Venturers.

After all, Scouting doesn’t pause in the winter. It just gets bundled up in non-cotton layers.

Six weeks is plenty of time to earn the Snow Sports merit badge, where Scouts get to try one of these four winter sports: snowshoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

After that, they’ll be ready to thaw out by the fire with a good movie. Maybe something like the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

Wilderness Survival

Groundhogs are known across the animal kingdom for their impressive underground shelters.

These burrows can be more than 60 feet long with multiple chambers, levels and points of entry.

But groundhogs aren’t the only mammals who build awesome shelters. Scouts improvise — and spend a night in — a natural shelter when working on my favorite merit badge: Wilderness Survival.

One thing to keep in mind about a shelter is that there’s no electricity inside. That means no way to watch your VHS copy of the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.


Groundhogs, like Scouts, will eat most commonly grown vegetables. (Other than okra, of course. Even a hungry Scout has limits.)

For the Gardening merit badge, Scouts must grow six vegetables. While it’s not specifically stated that Scouts should feed those vegetables to groundhogs, I’m sure Punxsutawney Phil and his cousins wouldn’t mind.

Just don’t bring up requirement 7 around the old G-hogs. They won’t like knowing you’re going to “identify five garden pests” and recommend two solutions for getting rid of them.

Speaking of getting rid of things, have you heard of a movie about a man who can’t seem rid himself of an endless time loop? It’s the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.


According to one analysis, Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions have been positively paltry. He’s been right just 39 percent of the time.

But don’t kick that groundhog to the curb just yet. (Actually never kick groundhogs!)

It’s a little-known fact that groundhogs are remarkably accurate at predicting whether it’s raining. If the groundhog’s fur is wet, it is currently raining. If not, it’s not.

Scouts who want to learn some real meteorological techniques should earn the Weather merit badge.

Speaking of weather, did you know Bill Murray plays a weatherman named Phil in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell?

What’d I miss?

What other merit badges belong on this list?

Remember the rule: This is a Top 5 list, not a Top 6 or Top 7. If you add one, you must say which one you’d remove.

More in this series

Click here for more “Top 5 merit badges” fun.

Scouts in Action story in Boys’ Life inspires Cub Scout to save a life

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One of the most popular sections of Boys’ Life magazine is Scouts in Action, a cartoon-style retelling of a true story of life-saving heroism.

What you might not know is that it’s sometimes difficult to convince a heroic Scout to let the BL editors tell his story in the magazine.

“I don’t need the extra recognition,” they often say.

“I was just doing what anyone would have done,” they say.

The counterargument to that, say the BL editors, is that by telling these stories, we aren’t just recognizing a single Scout. We are inspiring all Boys’ Life readers to act.

We’re saying, “You, too, can do this. You have the training. You’re prepared. You, too, can be a hero.”

Zoning in on Scouts in Action

Soon after Brendan Fatora joined Pack 219 in Fort Mill, S.C., as a Tiger last fall, he and his father Chuck sat down together and started reading Boys’ Life.

“He really zoned in on Scouts in Action,” Chuck Fatora says. “I read one to him, then he made me read another.”

One of the stories they read was the account of an 11-year-old Tenderfoot Scout who saved his sister from choking by performing abdominal thrusts. Brendan was fascinated. It was the first time the 6-year-old had heard of that technique.

What are the chances that the very next day … the very next day … the boy sitting next to Brendan at lunch would begin choking on his food?

According to paperwork filed by the Palmetto Council, “Brendan did not hesitate to act and pushed on the victim’s stomach. … After coughing and the involvement of a teacher, his classmate survived.”

When he got home from school later that day, Chuck says his son rather nonchalantly told him what had happened.

“I didn’t want my best friend to die,” Brendan said. “Boys’ Life magazine actually helped me, because he could have died.”

A proud father

His dad, understandably, was surprised and moved.

“He did just what the picture was in your magazine,” Chuck says.

Brendan will receive a Medal of Merit in a ceremony later this spring. He was also named the Palmetto Council’s “Scout of the Month” for January 2018.

“The point is,” says Chuck, “he didn’t not act, which is what I’m really proud of.

“Every time we get a new issue (of Boys’ Life), the first thing we read is Scouts in Action.”

Further reading

Click here for more true stories of Scouts in Action.

Click here for more information on how the BL editors choose the subjects of Scouts in Action.

Where do World Friendship Fund funds go? To help other people at all times

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You’ve probably heard of the World Friendship Fund. You might even have donated a few bucks to the cause at summer camp, roundtable, a training session like Wood Badge or a Scout’s Own worship service.

But what is the World Friendship Fund? How did it start? And where do World Friendship Fund funds go?

I checked with Janine Halverson, director of the BSA’s International Department, for the details.

The timing is perfect because from Feb. 1 to 15 every year — timed to coincide with the BSA’s birthday on Feb. 8 — Scout Shops join the World Friendship Fund effort.

Visitors to Scout Shops are encouraged to donate $1 or more to the World Friendship Fund. You may also make a one-time or recurring gift online.

What is the World Friendship Fund?

The World Friendship Fund takes voluntary contributions from Scouts and leaders and uses that money toward projects to help Scouting associations in less-fortunate countries.

Remember, we are not alone. Scouting is global, and the Boy Scouts of America is merely one of 169 different National Scout Organizations. There are more than 40 million Scouts and adult volunteers worldwide, according to the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Since the inception of the World Friendship fund, American Scouts and leaders have donated $11 million to support Scouts in other countries.

How did the World Friendship Fund start?

World War II was especially painful to Scouting worldwide. Scouts in many war-torn countries lost everything. They needed help to restart their Scouting programs.

In response to these Scouts’ needs, the BSA established the World Friendship Fund.

Where do World Friendship Fund donations go?

Donations help Scouts around the world with Scouting literature, uniforms, summer camp equipment, computers and other Scouting-related supplies.

The United States Fund for International Scouting (USFIS) is a subcommittee appointed by the National International Committee. They meet every February, May and October to review submitted grant proposals and vote on their approval.

When awarding a grant, the USFIS looks for projects that would assist a large percentage of the Scouts in the National Scout Organization. The projects should enhance Scouting in a significant way. Individual units aren’t eligible. Neither are Scouts from unrecognized Scout organizations.

Who are some recent World Friendship Fund beneficiaries?

Guatemala Scout Association: Scout leaders in Guatemala wanted to host the 2015 Inter-American Leadership Training. The six-day leadership and team-building course improved the skills of young Scout leaders from throughout the Inter-American Region of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. The training helped Scouting not just in Guatemala but also in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru and beyond.

The Scout Association of Mongolia: As part of its Safe Scouting project, Mongolia wanted to provide showers, modern toilet facilities and clean water for hand washing at its National Scout Camp. After the project was completed, the camp hosted several events, including a National Risk Management Workshop for the entire Asia-Pacific Region.

Pakistan Boy Scouts Association: Scout leaders in Pakistan sought to renovate and update the Scout Center at their National Camp. Improvements included adding new plaster for the building, rewiring electrical cables, treating the roof, adding an audio-visual system and more. The building, seen in the before-and-after photo above, was opened Feb. 7, 2017.

Asociación de Scouts de Nicaragua: Nicaragua’s Scout association wanted to reconstruct its national auditorium, which was in such disrepair it posed safety and environmental concerns. The rebuilt auditorium will be safer and have more air flow and natural light.

How to donate to the World Friendship Fund

Do your Good Turn for the globe. Donate to the World Friendship Fund today.

How to promote the World Friendship Fund

Collections for the World Friendship Fund can be organized during camporees, roundtable meetings, den and pack meetings, summer camping programs, blue and gold banquets, or any other Scout activity.

At many Wood Badge courses, offerings at the nondenominational worship service go to the World Friendship Fund.

World Friendship Fund brochures, posters and labels are available through your local council.

Download a printable PDF flier here.

Register for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree

Want to experience just how global Scouting really is? Register to attend the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Philadelphia Eagles punter Donnie Jones is an Eagle Scout

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It’s only fitting that Donnie Jones would make it to his first Super Bowl as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

After all, the veteran punter is an Eagle Scout.

Before he became the best punter in Eagles’ history — averaging a franchise-record 45.4 yards per punt — Jones became an Eagle Scout. He was a member of Troop 278 in Baton Rouge, La., part of the Istrouma Area Council.

Jones earned Scouting’s highest honor June 4, 1998, according to the BSA’s Eagle Scout database.

I checked with the Philadelphia Eagles, and while they weren’t able to grant an interview at this time, a team representative further confirmed that Jones is an Eagle Scout.

Going the distance

Jones, 37, is in his 14th NFL season. He has played for five different NFL teams: Seattle, Miami, St. Louis, Houston and now Philadelphia.

This is his first Super Bowl, meaning he’s finally getting the chance to shine on the biggest stage in sports.

“I look back at the sacrifices I’ve made, different cities I’ve lived in, moving my wife and kids around, countless hours of preparation and practice, and finally it’s all paying off,” Jones told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I couldn’t be happier about the opportunity.”

Like all punters, he’s an underrated part of the team. If you see No. 8 leave the sidelines to punt or serve as holder for field goal tries, it’s because the Eagles’ offense has sputtered.

Even in an often-overlooked role, Jones has impressed. His goal is to pin the opponents deep inside their own half of the field. When he succeeds, the other team has to traverse more of the field to score.

In the playoffs so far, Jones has done just that. Five of his six punts have been downed inside the 20.

Already a champion

A Super Bowl win on Sunday wouldn’t be Jones’ first major football title.

As punter for Louisiana State University, Jones won the 2003 college football championship game. He was a critical part of that game’s final play when, with nine seconds remaining and a 21-14 lead over Oklahoma, Jones took the snap and prepared to punt the ball.

OU thought its best chance to win was to block the punt, so the team devoted all its players to that effort. Once that failed, the Sooners couldn’t stop the final seconds from ticking off the clock as Jones’ punt rolled down the field.

Jones watched his punt roll down the field as the game ended.

That final play, seen below, inspired Jones to write a book, Nine Seconds to a Championship.

Other Eagle Scouts with Super Bowl ties

Jones was the only Eagle Scout we found on either Super Bowl LII roster. (If you know of one we missed, leave a comment below and we’ll check it out.)

See a list of other Eagle Scouts with Super Bowl ties here.

Hat tip: Thanks to the BSA’s Ryan Larson and Scott Olson for the research help.

Grandfather awards his Eagle medal to grandson

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Tiger Scout Zachary Hearon looked over his grandfather’s Scouting memorabilia displayed at his pack’s blue and gold banquet. He was fascinated with the Eagle Scout award.

His grandfather, Russell Hayes, earned his Eagle in 1965 while a member of Explorer Post 44 in Millville, New Jersey. He remained active in Scouting for decades, and his daughters became Cub Scout leaders. For this blue and gold, Zachary’s pack celebrated Scouting’s Centenary by asking family members to show off their collections. 

“At that time, he asked if he could be an Eagle Scout. I said, ‘I don’t see why not,'” Hayes says. “That stuck with him — I was really proud of that.”

A decade later, Hayes and Hearon attended another Scouting ceremony: Zachary’s Eagle Scout court of honor.

“I remember being a little Tiger Cub running around telling my mom I want to be an Eagle Scout just like my grandpop,” Hearon said at his court of honor. “That little Tiger Cub was right, he made it.”

To honor his achievement, Hayes pinned his Eagle award that Hearon had admired years before on his grandson.

“To watch him go through Scouting was an honor for me,” Hayes says.

Eagles fly together

Sharing your Eagle award with a family member who has also reached the pinnacle of Boy Scout ranks isn’t a common practice, says Ryan Larson, National Eagle Scout Association associate director. It’s permissible as long as the award is BSA-issued.

It’s also a special, heartfelt way to welcome a new member to the Eagle Scout brotherhood.

Eagle Scouts sometimes soar within families. Those who do can be featured in Eagles’ Call, the official magazine for Eagle Scouts. Siblings and/or generations who have earned Eagle can submit photos that you could see on the quarterly magazine’s pages.

Eagles’ Call also highlights Eagles who are serving in our armed forces, have recently received outstanding recognitions or who have passed away. Please submit entries via online form, email or mail.

Family tradition

Reaching the Eagle Scout rank isn’t the only way Hearon is following in his grandfather’s footsteps. After earning his Eagle, Hayes volunteered as a Scoutmaster, committee member and assistant district commissioner.

“He’s going to stay with the troop,” Hayes says of his grandson.

A member of Troop 1065 in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, Zachary also serves as a peer leader in school and was inducted into the National Honor Society. He is also interested in pursuing engineering as a profession. Hayes is a retired mechanical engineer.

“He’s taking after me in that, too,” Hayes says.

8 great scholarships for Eagle Scouts

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These days, higher education comes with a higher price tag. These scholarships for Eagle Scouts, sorted chronologically by deadline, will help take out some of the sting.

If you know of a scholarship not listed here, please share the name and link in the comments.

National Jewish Committee on Scouting scholarships

How much: Ranging from $500 to $4,000

Who’s eligible: Active Eagle Scouts who have earned the Ner Tamid or Etz Chaim religious emblem and are active in their synagogue. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.

Deadline: Jan. 31

What’s required: Application listing school and Scouting record.

Link: National Jewish Committee on Scouting scholarships

Questions: Email

American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year

How much: $10,000 for the winner and $2,500 apiece for three runners-up

Who’s eligible: Eagle Scouts who are at least 15 and registered, active members of a Boy Scout Troop, Varsity Scout Team, or Venturing Crew chartered to an American Legion post, American Legion Auxiliary unit or Sons of The American Legion squadron — or Eagle Scouts who are registered, active members of a chartered Boy Scout Troop, Varsity Scout Team, or Venturing Crew, and the son or grandson of a Legionnaire, Sons of The American Legion or Auxiliary member,

Deadline: March 1

What’s required: Application, photograph, school participation record, Scouting record, community service record, religious award record and four letters of recommendation.

Link: American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year

Questions: Email

Emmett J. Doerr Memorial Scout Scholarship for Catholic Scouts

How much: Six scholarships at $2,000 apiece

Who’s eligible: Catholic high school seniors who are Scouts or Venturers in any BSA program. Applicants must have earned the Eagle Scout Award, Silver Award, Summit Award or Quartermaster Award.

Deadline: March 1

What’s required: Photo and application listing service to Scouting, church and the community

Link: National Catholic Committee on Scouting scholarship

Questions: Email

Veterans of Foreign Wars Scout of the Year

How much: $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second place and $1,000 for third place

Who’s eligible: Young people who are are least 15 and registered, active members of a Boy or Girl Scout Troop, Venturing Crew, or a Sea Scout Ship who have received the Eagle Scout Award, Girl Scout Gold Award, Venturing Summit Award or Sea Scout Quartermaster Award.

Deadline: March 1

What’s required: Application, photograph, school participation record, Scouting record, community service record and three letters of recommendation.

Link: VFW Scout of the Year

Questions: Email

Mervyn Sluizer Jr. Scholarship for Philadelphia-area Scouts

How much: Two scholarships at $1,000 apiece

Who’s eligible: Eagle Scouts who have been active in BSA at least five years and live in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Deadline: April 16

What’s required: Application, essay, school transcript and two letters of recommendation.

LinkMervyn Sluizer Jr. Scholarship  

Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting scholarships

How much: $1,000 for first place and $500 for runner-up

Who’s eligible: Eagle Scouts who are active in an Eastern Orthodox Church and have received the Alpha Omega Religious Scout Award.

Deadline: May 1

What’s required: Application and four letters of recommendation.

Link: Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting scholarships.

Questions: Call 516-868-4050

National Eagle Scout Association scholarships

How much: At least 150 scholarships available, ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 per recipient

Who’s eligible:National Eagle Scout Association members. (Note: Eagle Scouts can apply for a NESA scholarship before you apply for a NESA membership.)

Deadline: Oct. 31

What’s required: Application (though one scholarship requires a reference letter).

Link: NESA scholarships

Questions: Email

Arthur M. and Berdena King Eagle Scout Award

Presented by the Sons of the American Revolution

How much: $10,000 for first place, $6,000 for second place and $4,000 for third place

Who’s eligible: All Eagle Scouts under 19 years old

Deadline: Varies by chapter. Find your state’s SAR society contact here.

What’s required: Application listing Scouting and school achievements and an essay about the Revolutionary War.

Link: Sons of the American Revolution scholarship

Questions: Email your state’s contact person here.

Institution-specific scholarships

There are a number of scholarships for Scouts attending specific institutions of higher learning.

Find a nice list here and always check with your college or university to see whether they recognize Eagle Scouts in this way.

Council-specific scholarships

Check your council’s website — or give them a call or email — to see whether there are scholarship opportunities exclusive to Scouts in your council.

This dad says his son’s former troop has the coolest meeting location in all of Scouting

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On a tree-lined farm in Tennessee, you’ll find one of the coolest places in the country to be a Boy Scout.

Troop 137 meets in an old barn in Franklin, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. Its horse stalls have been converted into patrol meeting rooms. The hay loft now has a climbing wall leading up to it. And, awesomely, there’s an indoor basketball court.

Troop 137 was the first troop Frank Limpus and his son, Ryan, visited when Ryan decided to become a Boy Scout.

It was the first, and it became the only.

“All I can say is after our one visit that night to the barn, Ryan didn’t want to visit any other troop,” Frank says. “Troop 137 and its environs was where he wanted to spend his time in Scouting. No question, it was the best place — and some of the best years of his life.”

Never a Cub Scout

Unlike many Boy Scouts, Ryan wasn’t a Cub Scout.

“His early years were spent with baseball, soccer and taekwondo,” Frank says. “But when the outdoor urge hit, he decided to try Scouting.”

Frank and Ryan started researching the handful of troops nearby. They found several finalists, with Troop 137 the top candidate. One big plus: the troop had been active since 1975 and was large, averaging 120 active Scouts per year.

They also liked that the troop had just one Scoutmaster in its history.

Troop 137’s founder

John Green, now 90 years young, started Troop 137 in 1975 with 15 boys.

At first the troop met at a church, but Green thought the guys needed more space to do Scouting things. So the Scouts and leaders started meeting in the old barn.

Thanks to the barn, Green and his fellow leaders have offered some interesting outdoor activities Scouts can’t get anywhere else. The Scouts tend beehives on the property and grow veggies in the garden. There’s a fire pit, a zip line and a large activities field. Troop 137 has even raised a calf.

“We look for ways to give the boys something to work with, no matter what they’re interested in,” Green told RealtorMag in 2002.

Frank says the Scoutmaster has been a fine role model for boys like his son, who became an Eagle Scout in 2011.

“With Mr. Green as an example, you can imagine how consistent the troop’s leadership ranks have been and how strong its ongoing support from parents,” Frank says.

One barn, endless possibilities

Troop 137’s home is more than a barn. Within 100 yards of the building you’ll find a second barn and several fields. It’s basically a Scouting playground.

Combined, these areas offer an array of Scouting experiences and merit badge possibilities. I’m talking things like:

  • Orienteering
  • Rappelling
  • Archery
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Astronomy
  • Zip lining
  • Gardening
  • Beekeeping
  • First aid
  • Ham radio
  • Leatherworking
  • Knot-tying
  • Pioneering
  • Flag ceremonies
  • Cooking
  • Webelos crossover

That’s not to mention the Scout Law pathway and merit badge library — both favorites of Scouts like Ryan.

The ample space in front of the barn makes for a perfect setting for ceremonies like courts of honor. Parents and family members bring camp chairs and watch the proceedings as the Tennessee sun sets.

What we’ve learned

Frank says you don’t need a barn to offer the kind of Scouting fun found in Troop 137. It’s possible anywhere.

“Maybe as Scout leaders there are some ideas in what Mr. Green and leaders have done for Troop 137 that might help you make Scouting in your area not only appealing but a magnet for all types of youth,” he says. “Not everyone can dedicate several barns and a field or two to Scouting, but maybe there are ways to develop some onsite merit badges or experiences to attract more kids to consider Scouting and your troop.”

Inside the barn, Scouts pack in for meetings — and games of basketball. Onsite gardening allows Scouts to develop green thumbs.

Boyhood troop of President Gerald Ford and astronaut Roger Chaffee turns 100

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Few troops can count astronauts among their alumni. Only one can say it was the troop where a future U.S. president became an Eagle Scout.

Troop 215 of Grand Rapids, Mich., can claim both.

The troop, which turns 100 on Feb. 4, 2018, was the boyhood troop of astronaut Roger Chaffee, who died in the Apollo 1 disaster, and President Gerald Ford.

Both men earned the Eagle Scout Award in Troop 215 — previously called Troop 15.

The troop’s history is so remarkable that its chartered organization, Trinity United Methodist Church, is a Michigan Historic Site.

7 things to know about Troop 215/15 1. It’s been continuously chartered for 100 years.

Troop 215 was formed Feb. 4, 1918, and has been chartered to Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids ever since. The troop is part of what’s now called the Michigan Crossroads Council.

2. It hasn’t always been called Troop 215. The members of Troop 215 today.

Some time around the late 1940s or early 1950s — troop leaders aren’t sure — the local council renumbered all of its Scout units. All Grand Rapids-area troops were given numbers starting with 2. Troop 15 has been Troop 215 ever since.

3. President Gerald R. Ford was a member.

Before he took the oath of office as our 38th president, Gerald Ford recited the Scout Oath as a member of Troop 15.

Ford was in the troop from 1925 to 1930. He became an Eagle Scout in 1927. In 1970, when Ford was House Minority Leader, he received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Ford became president in 1974 and died in 2006.

Read more about our only Eagle Scout president (so far) in this blog post from 2015.

4. Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee was a member. From left: James Lovell (Apollo 8 and 13), Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), and Roger Chaffee (Apollo 1) at Philmont.

At least two-thirds of astronauts were Scouts. At least 39 selected since 1959 are Eagle Scouts.

Roger B. Chaffee is on both lists. He was a member of Troop 15 from 1947 to 1952 and became an Eagle Scout in 1951.

Chaffee didn’t stop at Eagle. He earned Bronze and Gold Eagle Palms, signifying 10 additional merit badges beyond the 21 required for Eagle.

Chaffee especially loved Boy Scout summer camp, where he learned skills in camping, cooking and outdoor living. He served one summer as assistant waterfront director, where he helped teach young Scouts how to swim.

As an astronaut, Chaffee was part of the delegation NASA sent to Philmont to study geology.

Chaffee was killed Jan. 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission. Crewmates Gus Grissom and Ed White also died in the fire.

Roger Chaffee is sixth from right in this photo. From left: Pete Conrad, Buzz Aldrin, Dick Gordon, Ted Freeman, Charlie Bassett, Walt Cunningham, Neil Armstrong, Donn Eisele, Rusty Schweikhart, Jim Lovell, Mike Collins, Elliot See, Gene Cernan (behind See), Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Gordon Cooper, C.C. Williams (behind Cooper), Bill Anders, Dave Scott, Al Bean. (NASA photo via Mark Griffin.) 5. The place where Troop 215 meets is a registered historic site.

Two icons of America experienced Boy Scouting in the same building. That’s more than enough to qualify Trinity United Methodist Church as a Michigan Historic Site.

6. Troop 215 is holding a campout to celebrate its birthday.

How does a Boy Scout troop throw itself a birthday party? With a campout, of course.

Heroes on the Grand is a regionwide campout held May 4 to 6 in Grand Rapids. The campout, hosted by Troop 215 and the Michigan Crossroads Council, is the first campout in 50 years at the city’s historic Riverside Park.

Scouts will hike 3 miles on the Gerald Ford Historic Trail, visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum and experience the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium.

7. Gerald Ford was part of the first Governor’s Honor Guard on Mackinac Island. Gerald R. Ford (left) holds the flag as he and his fellow members of the Eagle Scout Guard of Honor prepare to raise the colors over Fort Mackinac at Mackinac Island State Park, Mich. The troop served as guides during the summer months of 1929.

Gerald Ford was part of the very first Governor’s Honor Guard on Mackinac Island — officially called the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp.

In August 1929, eight Eagle Scouts, including Ford, raised and lowered the flags on the Island, welcomed tourists at the fort and other historic buildings, and participated in service projects.

The tradition continues to this day, with up to 60 Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts participating each week. Two Troop 215 Scouts were members of the Honor Guard in 2017.

The Scouts’ duties are basically the same as they were in 1929. They also have free time to bike the island, shop downtown, play games and eat fudge.

Scouting magazine wrote about this cool tradition back in 2005.

Two Troop 215 Scouts were members of the 2017 Governor’s Honor Guard.

Special thanks: Thanks to Bonnie Czuhajewski and Don Shepard for the blog information.

Earn this special patch to celebrate 70 years of Wood Badge in U.S.

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On July 31, 1948, William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt served as Scoutmaster at the first official Wood Badge course in the United States.

Seventy years later, Wood Badge has grown into an essential training experience for adult volunteers. You’ll find proud Wood Badge alumni — myself included — in every council in the country.

Celebrate the 70th anniversary of Wood Badge in the United States with a special award available only in 2018.

The American Wood Badge Alumni 70th Anniversary Service Award can be earned by completing five of the nine requirements listed below. Think of this like a second, easier-to-complete Wood Badge ticket. (The actual Wood Badge ticket is a series of five projects that benefit local Scouting. After the in-person course, Wood Badgers complete these ticket items to receive their beads.)

To receive the 70th Anniversary Service Award, you might participate in a council Wood Badge gathering, volunteer at a BSA training event, donate $7 or $70 to your council’s Wood Badge scholarship fund, or become a member of Scouting Alumni and Friends.

Applications must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. Award recipients get a commemorative certificate and the special patch seen above.

A brief history of Wood Badge

Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell conducted the first Wood Badge course in 1919 at Gilwell Park in England. Nearly three decades later, the BSA decided its volunteers would benefit from this training, too.

“Green Bar Bill,” the Scouting legend you can read about in detail here, was Scoutmaster for the first two American Wood Badge courses in 1948. Each course was nine days long — three days longer than they are today.

The first was July 31, 1948, at Schiff Scout Reservation in New Jersey. Twenty-nine men from 12 states showed up to learn about Scout skills, Scoutcraft and pioneering.

The second was Oct. 2, 1948, at Philmont in New Mexico. This time it was 35 men from 19 states in attendance. They gathered at the Villa Philmonte before traveling to Cimarroncito for the actual course.

These Wood Badge courses were conducted by the BSA National Council’s Volunteer Training Division. Councils began conducting their own courses in 1953.

In 1973, the focus of Wood Badge shifted from Scoutcraft to leadership development. In 2000, Wood Badge for the 21st Century debuted to give leaders the latest leadership tools.

American Wood Badge Alumni 70th Anniversary Service Award requirements

Wood Badgers will agree to and work a new ticket. To qualify for the award, individuals must complete five of the following nine requirements during the anniversary year — Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018.

  1. Register as member of the Scouting Alumni and Friends, at any level.
  2. Attend a district, council or national level training course either as a participant or staff member OR serve as staff on a Wood Badge course.
  3. Participate in a 70th Anniversary celebration in your Council such as a reception, reunion or other special acknowledgement at a Council wide event such as annual recognition or F.O.S. dinner.
  4. Recruit another individual to attend and volunteer at a Boy Scout training event or Wood Badge service activity.
  5. Share the values of Wood Badge and Scouting by recruiting an individual to take Wood Badge.
  6. Promote Wood Badge training at a unit, district, council area, region or national event.
  7. Contribute $7 or $70 or whatever larger amount you can to an existing council custodial fund for Wood Badge scholarships.
  8. Solicit another individual to join you in contributing $7 or $70 or whatever larger amount they can to an existing council custodial fund for Wood Badge scholarships.
  9. Become a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America at the unit, district or Council level. Consider such opportunities for service as: district committee, commissioner, roundtable staff, Alumni or NESA committees and more.
Learn more and download an application

Visit this site to learn more and apply.

Get your popcorn ready — here’s some fun ideas to do ahead of the Oscars

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Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced this morning, and if you’re a movie buff, that will probably put you in the mood to pop some popcorn and watch a film.

But you’re also a Scouter, so now could also be a good time to dive into some cinematic activities with your Scouts before the red carpet rolls out.

Cub Scouts

Webelos dens/patrols have 18 elective adventures to choose from on the trail to the Arrow of Light rank, one of which is Moviemaking. This adventure prompts Scouts to be creative and confident as they make a movie to share with others, which many will love to do. Here’s a fantastic and funny short produced by a patrol in Pack 451 in Durham, N.C.

Working on this adventure presents the perfect opportunity for a den outing, too, perhaps to a small film studio. Below are the adventure’s requirements:

1. Write a story outline describing a real or imaginary Scouting adventure. Create a pictured storyboard that shows your story.

2. Create either an animated or live action movie about yourself. Your movie should depict how you live by the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

3. Share your movie with your family, den or pack.

Boy Scouts and Venturers

Boy Scouts delve deeper into the film production process with the Moviemaking merit badge. Scouts learn about filming techniques, equipment and careers in moviemaking. Again, this is a chance for a Scout to be a producer as well as a showman in that he is required to prepare a treatment and storyboard before filming his project and showing the final product to a group.

As part of the merit badge, Scouts can visit a film set or television production studio and watch the magic from behind the cameras.

The Eagle-required Citizenship in the Community merit badge calls for Scouts to watch a movie that highlights how one’s actions can have a positive impact on the community. Some ideas that other Scouters have suggested are 12 Angry Men (1957), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), We Are Marshall (2006) and Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). Documentaries are also a great resource for this requirement.

Scouts who have reached the First Class rank and Venturers can work on a Supernova Award. One science-oriented activity topic involves researching and reporting on unbelievable aspects in space films. Using scientific principles, Scouts examine what is realistically plausible in the movie and what falls into the “science fiction” category.

Other fun ideas

This time of year could call for a “Movie Night”-themed pack meeting or court of honor. Roll out a red carpet, ask Scouts to escort their parents to their seats and serve some popcorn for the evening. Scouts could screen their films for the pack or troop.

You could also consider showing excerpts from Scouting-related movies. Check out Follow Me, Boys! (1966), Mister Scoutmaster (1953) and Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts (1937).

If you’re thinking of screening a film for youth, it’s a good idea to watch it first to make sure it’s appropriate and look at these resources on ratings and movie licensing.

When Troop 707 lost all of its gear in the California fires, other troops stepped up

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The flames burned so hot that they melted aluminum canoes into silver puddles of metal, rendered camping gear unrecognizable and warped Dutch ovens.

The Tubbs Fire, which burned for more than three weeks in October 2017 in Northern California, destroyed 5,643 structures and killed 22 people.

Among the fire’s less-publicized victims: Troop 707 of Santa Rosa, Calif., part of the Redwood Empire Council.

Six Troop 707 families, including the Scoutmaster’s family, lost their homes. As luck would have it, all of Troop 707’s camping gear was stored at three homes that were completely burned.

The troop lost its trailer, canoes, canoe trailer, camping stoves, Dutch ovens and camping supplies. This is gear acquired over years and years, and it was gone in one roaring blaze. How many delicious meals were prepared in those Dutch ovens? How many miles had Scouts paddled in those canoes?

This story really got me thinking about how I’d feel if all of my troop’s gear had been wiped away in a natural disaster. No Scout should have to go through that.

Fortunately, this story has a positive outcome. When other troops learned what happened to Troop 707, they stepped up, donating supplies and money to the cause. Troop 707 plans to pay this Good Turn forward. They’ll be frugal when buying replacement gear and will donate what’s left to help less-fortunate Scouts.

Left: Troop 707’s trailer in summer 2017. Right: The trailer after the October 2017 fire. An emergency meeting

The day after the initial firestorm, with the blaze still raging, Troop 707 Senior Patrol Leader Sam Chatfield and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Bradley Benzce called an emergency meeting of the patrol leaders’ council.

They invited other troops within the Redwood Empire Council that had lost gear.

Soon the council got involved, helping the troops recover what was lost. The council replaced many uniforms for free and offered Scout Shop gift cards to help Scouts buy replacement gear.

Kindness from strangers

Northern California troops that were spared during the Tubbs Fire stepped up to help Troop 707.

Troop 237 of Orinda donated more than $3,000 and a truckload of new and gently used gear. Troop 200 of Lafayette sent $2,500. Troop 135 of Santa Rosa donated four canoes.

Within a few weeks, troops from different states and backgrounds donated enough to replace all of Troop 707’s equipment.

In all, Troop 707 received $14,500 in cash donations and another $5,000 in gear.

Paying it forward

The Scouts and parents of Troop 237 visited in person. The leaders felt the Scouts would benefit from seeing the devastation firsthand.

“You could tell that seeing the actual remains of the trailers and driving through the neighborhood gave them a much better understanding of the fire and its impact on the community,” said Robert Erlach, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 707. 

Now that Troop 707 is back on its feet, the Scouts plan to shift from Good Turn recipient to Good Turn provider.

“We will be thrifty replacing our gear and expect to have funds left over,” Erlach said. “We plan to pay them forward to the World Friendship Fund so that other Scouts, who perhaps never had much equipment to start with, can benefit from the overflow of generosity that Scouting has shown us.”

What’s the difference between ‘two-deep leadership’ and ‘no one-on-one contact’?

Bryan On Scouting -

While no Scouter questions the value of Youth Protection training and policies — we all agree on the need to keep young people safe — some Scouters have asked for clarification about implementation.

Many of those questions are about policies requiring two-deep leadership and prohibiting one-on-one contact. On occasion, those separate policies get confused and intermingled.

So I checked with the Youth Protection team for clarification.

Essentially, it boils down to this: At least two adults are required on every BSA outing. During that outing, there should be no one-on-one contact between an adult and a youth. The “no one-on-one contact” rule also applies to leaders interacting with youth outside of the Scouting program where grooming of youth, parents and other adults could occur. Parents and youth are advised to follow this and other Youth Protection policies for the overall safety of all involved.

But there might be moments when just one leader is present with two or more Scouts. That’s fine, as long as the situation doesn’t involve one adult and one youth. (Of course, if we’re talking about a Scout with his or her parent/guardian, that’s always OK.)

For example, let’s say Troop 451 is driving to a campout. There are nine Scouts and three adults on the trip. The first SUV might have two adults and five Scouts. The other would then have one adult and four Scouts. Is this a “two-deep leadership” violation? No. (I covered this back in 2015.)

What about if there are only two adults present on a campout of eight Scouts, and one group wants to go hiking while the other stays at camp to fish?

While Youth Protection policies don’t expressly forbid it, it’s not the recommended approach because of health and safety concerns. What if the adult on the hike gets injured? What if the adult back at camp has an emergency? In those situations, it would be helpful to have a second adult present. Many troops in that situation would want at least four leaders: two to go on the hike and two to stay at camp.

For a closer look at this important subject, here’s what the Youth Protection team said:

What do ‘two-deep leadership’ and ‘no one-on-one contact’ mean?

While sometimes the Youth Protection policies may seem to be confusing, they really aren’t. Therefore we’d like to provide the following in hopes of clarity on the actions of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact.

From the Youth Protection website, let us provide the following:

Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse

The BSA has adopted the following policies for the safety and well-being of its members. These policies primarily protect youth members; however, they also serve to protect adult leaders. Parents and youth using these safeguards outside the Scouting program further increase the safety of their youth. Those who serve in positions of leadership and supervision with youth outside the Scouting program will find these policies help protect youth in those situations as well.

  • Two-deep leadership is required on all outings. A minimum of two registered adult leaders — or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent or another adult — is required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older.
  • One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is prohibited. In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.
  • The policies of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact between adults and youth members also apply to digital communication. Leaders may not have one-on-one private online communications or engage one-on-one in other digital activities (games, social media, etc.) with youth members. Leaders should copy a parent and another leader in digital and online communication, ensuring no one-on-one contact takes place in text, social media, or other forms of online or digital communication.
Why are these policies in place, and how do they differ?

Safety from all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse and injury from accidents, is crucial for all Scouting programs. Requiring a minimum of two adults participating allows for more supervision so that leaders can take a break and still have more than enough supervision present.

The “no one-on-one contact” rule (which, remember, includes digital communications, such as text, emails and gaming) is a core component of combating the “grooming” of a youth for sexual abuse.

An abusive adult will seek to have a one-on-one relationship with a youth separate from adults, parents and peers which includes inappropriate conversations, and seeking to being alone with a youth. This typically occurs in and out of Scouting program activities when a leader seeking to sexually abuse a child seeks to separate the child from appropriate adult.

While similar to two-deep Leadership in some ways, “no one-on-one” specifically states that adult/youth interactions is not appropriate without another adult — preferably a Youth Protection-trained leader — being present.

Additionally, our Health and Safety team strongly recommends a minimum of two adult leaders on all outings in case of injury to a youth or an adult. This is so aid can be sought without putting youth at risk.

A question from a Scouter, annotated

Below I have included an email I received from a Scout volunteer in New York.

The Scouter’s words are in black. The Youth Protection team’s responses are in red.

In our troop, and at summer camp with other troops, it seems nobody understands Youth Protection consistently. The most common misunderstanding is that two adults must always be present with any number of Scouts. 

This causes our Troop leadership to require at least four adults on each campout, so two can remain in camp while two others go off on activities with the boys, for instance. That’s great.

It seems like the policies of Two Deep, and No One-on-One get confused and intermingled, when in fact they are generally related, but different policies. See the explanation above.

My understanding is, as long as Two Deep is practiced for the overall campout or event, it is always OK for a single adult to be with Scouts as long as there is more than one boy present. Not quite, we prefer to have a minimum of two adults as your previous paragraph described.….

For instance, if half the Scouts stay in camp with one adult, and half go on a hike the the other adult, that is OK. Not a good idea, especially for Health and Safety reasons listed above. If the Scout leader were sick or injured, there would be no adults present. 

 I also understand it is OK for a single adult to be with a single Scout, as long as they are in view of others. For instance, at summer camp, an adult could take a boy to the infirmary, as long as they were in view of others during that time. True, given this example.

Or an adult and boy could canoe together, if they were in the proximity of other Scouts and adults. True, given this example.

I have put together the following summary of the Youth Protection policies that I am hoping may clarify things for those in our troop who don’t quite understand it. I would appreciate it if you would review it and tell me if you feel it is accurate and appropriate for me to share with other leaders. 

Two Deep Leadership

A minimum of two adults: at least one adult a minimum of 21 years old, and at least one adult who is a registered leader, is required for all trips and outings. Correct.

One-on-One Contact 

One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is prohibited. 

The following exceptions and situations are allowed:

– One Scout with his parent/guardian. No problem 

– One adult with two or more Scouts. That depends on the situation. For example, traveling to and from program activity, Scouting meetings and especially outside of Scouting it is not a good practice to have one adult with two Scouts, as the sexual abuser can and will use this as an opportunity to have singular access to Scouts.

– One adult with one Scout in view of other adults and/or youth. Seems OK, given the examples above. 

– Two adults with one or more Scouts. Excellent.  

Boy Scout, Venturer selected to join part of Out of Eden Walk around the world

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A Boy Scout from Washington, D.C., and a Venturer from Cincinnati were selected to join a leg of National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s 21,000-mile walk around the world.

Christopher Sherman and Miciah Thacker penned thoughtful essays reflecting on their experiences at Philmont and the 2017 National Jamboree, respectively. They then impressed the judging panel with stellar interviews.

Both young people took Salopek’s call for “slow journalism” to heart. They paused to observe and appreciate the little details of life.

As of this writing, Salopek is in Pakistan — more than 5,000 miles in. He regularly posts fascinating stories to this page.

Christopher and Miciah will join Salopek for a few days later this year in northern India. (And, yes, Salopek and his team will follow Youth Protection rules of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact every step of the way.)

This awesome opportunity doesn’t end with Christopher and Miciah. Anyone who participates in a Philmont Trek or a Summit Bechtel Reserve program in 2018 and writes an essay about their experience will be eligible to be selected to join Salopek on a similar trip. Scouts and Venturers can learn more at those high-adventure bases when they visit.

Special shout-outs

Before you learn more about Christopher and Miciah, I must give props to the folks who made this possible.

First, the Pulitzer Center. They started working with Philmont in 2014 and provided an incredible experience for Boy Scout Nick Fahy of Milton, Mass., in 2016, when he wrote a winning essay and was selected to join Salopek in Uzbekistan.

In 2017, the stakes got even bigger. Salopek encouraged tens of thousands of Scouts at Philmont and the 2017 Jamboree to slow down and reflect on their experiences.

Traveling overseas isn’t cheap, and this latest opportunity was made possible by the Pulitzer Center and because of the generosity of the Philmont Staff Association and the Summit Bechtel Reserve Staff Association. The associations invest and provide incredible support for not only the staff, but for the overall mission of both high-adventure bases.

Meet the winners

Christopher Sherman, a member of Boy Scout Troop 52 of the National Capital Area Council, wrote an essay about his life-changing Philmont experience.

The 16-year-old shared how his Philmont trek helped him grow as a person.

“I look forward to introducing the younger Scouts in my troop, and others, to the possibilities inherent in simply spending time alone and together in nature,” Christopher wrote.

Miciah Thacker (right), a member of Venturing Crew 5257 of the Dan Beard Council, was selected from 2017 National Jamboree entrants.

The 16-year-old wrote how the Jamboree helped her connect with people from a variety of backgrounds.

“I continue to volunteer and talk to people I see who look down or lonely, or simply don’t mind spending a few moments talking to me,” she wrote. “Before my new experiences, I was kind to everyone. Now, I try my best to love everyone as an individual, because everyone could be anyone.”

About winner selection

Christopher and Miciah were selected for this globe-trotting adventure because they slowed down to think about their Scouting experiences and put those thoughts into a 500-word essay.

Scouts or Venturers who attended the Jamboree or Philmont received Passport Journals. The journals encouraged young people to reflect on their once-in-a-lifetime experiences through a practice Salopek calls “slow journalism.”

Slow journalism is about taking time to observe what’s around you. It’s about paying attention to the little details of life. It’s about appreciating everyday interactions.

Salopek invited Scouts and Venturers to write 500 words or less about their National Jamboree, Philmont and/or Scouting experiences. Those essays were then assessed by the Boys’ Life and Scouting magazine teams, volunteer and professional staff from the Jamboree and Philmont, and the Pulitzer Center Education Team. Once the top essays were identified, Miciah and Christopher worked through a competitive interview process, during which they provided evidence that they had adopted concepts from the Out of Eden Walk in their Scouting experiences and everyday lives.

You can read Christopher and Miciah’s winning essays here.

It wasn’t all about the essays, though. Interviews with finalists were what ultimately determined the winners. Judges asked about their curiousness, interest in the walk and how much they’d internalized the lessons of intentionality.

What’s next?

Three things:

  • I’ll share stories from Christopher and Miciah after their trip to India.
  • Anyone who participates on a Philmont Trek or a Summit Bechtel Reserve program in 2018 will be eligible for a similar opportunity. Learn more here.
  • Look for more Scouting testimonials from the Philmont and Jamboree Out of Eden Walk essays throughout the year.

Without the Boy Scouts, Band-Aids might not have stuck around

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Sales of Band-Aids were flagging until Johnson & Johnson made an ingenious marketing move.

In the 1920s, the company began distributing, for free, an unlimited supply of Band-Aids to Boy Scout troops across the country, according to this lesson from TED-Ed.

Band-Aids also were included in the custom first-aid kits Johnson & Johnson produced for the Boy Scouts of America. The kits were designed to help Boy Scouts earn merit badges like First Aid.

The original 1925 “Boy Scout First-Aid Packet” contained a triangular bandage for a sling, a compress and two safety pins. It came in a simple cardboard container.

The 1925 kit.

In 1926, Johnson & Johnson and the BSA asked silent film cowboy Fred Thomson to show Scouts how to use the kits. He bandaged the leg of his horse, Silver King, for the demo.

A few years later, Johnson & Johnson debuted an upgraded BSA first-aid kit in a tin box. Inside, Scouts found burn and antibiotic creams, first-aid instructions, and several kinds of bandages, including Band-Aids.

Appealing to families

The collaboration with the BSA proved fruitful. Johnson & Johnson effectively made Band-Aids a default part of every Scout’s camping gear — a tradition that continues today in many packs, troops, ships and crews.

“This was the beginning of marketing to children and families that helped familiarize the public with the Johnson & Johnson name and their new product,” according to this article in Smithsonian magazine.

Boy Scouts, with Band-Aids handy inside the tin box attached to their belt loops, were ready to deal with any cut, scrape or burn they might pick up on the trail.

After all, as one Johnson & Johnson ad from the March 1934 issue of Scouting magazine put it, “a Scout with a first-aid kit is a better Scout.”

Watch this

Pennsylvania borough renames street after Eagle Scouts

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Three boys in the Lennon family earned the Eagle rank. So did the three boys in the Smith family, who live behind the Lennons. Two families with six Eagle Scouts living within a block of each other in Bridgeville, Pa. — a borough of 5,300 people near Pittsburgh. What are the odds of that happening?

“The chances of this are very low, something like this occurring in a very small neighborhood,” Adam Kenerwell told the Bridgeville council. “The chances of that are less than winning the Powerball lottery.”

Kenerwell, the senior patrol leader of Troop 2, made a case to honor the Eagle Scouts at a Bridgeville Borough Council meeting last month. The council members obliged, voting unanimously to change the name of an alleyway between the two streets where the families live to Eagle Way.

“The troop is excited about it,” says Norm Miller, Scoutmaster of Troop 2.

Bridgeville’s Boy Scouts

The Scouts in the Lennon and the Smith families make up six of Troop 2’s 69 Eagles. Larry Lennon Jr. earned his award in 1994, Justin Lennon in 1997, Colin Lennon in 2003, Caleb Smith in 2011, Daniel Smith in 2015, and Matthew Smith earned his Eagle last July.

Troop 2 began on April 28, 1982, after the Women’s Club of Bridgeville offered to charter a Boy Scout troop. The troop gave back to the club by shoveling snow and mowing the lawn around the building. Troop 2 quickly outgrew the building, swelling to 50 members. The Rotary Club of Bridgeville-South Fayette stepped in to serve as the new chartering organization.

The troop stays active in the community, participating in the Memorial Day parade and handling flag ceremonies at the Special Olympics. Scouts also help out during the Wreaths Across America campaign, which honors fallen veterans. Many of the Scouts’ Eagle projects have supported the city’s historical society.

Other Scouting streets

This story had us thinking about other roads named after Boy Scouts. Pathways leading up to camps excluded, do you know of some Scouting-inspired streets in your city? Share them in the comments below. Here are a few we found after a brief Google search:


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