Scouting News from the Internet

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary establishes Sea Scouts as its official youth program

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The BSA and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary announced a new agreement to make Sea Scouts the official youth program of the Auxiliary, the uniformed volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The new agreement, which is an enhancement of the longtime friendship between these two organizations, will benefit both parties. Sea Scouts will get access to state-of-the-art Coast Guard training, Auxiliary vessels and a broader pool of adult leaders. The Auxiliary will extend its message about safe boating and maritime careers to more young people.

For Sea Scouts, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will lower its entry age from 17 to 14.

“The BSA is proud to continue our partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary as we continually strive to improve leadership development, real-life skill-building and unique STEM training through the Sea Scout program,” said Mike Surbaugh, BSA Chief Scout Executive.

This new partnership will begin in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and portions of New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania before a nationwide rollout.

How Sea Scouts benefit
  • Access to training at Auxiliary or Coast Guard facilities, including advanced training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM
  • Free safety checks on Sea Scouts vessels
  • An invitation to Auxiliary unit meetings as guests of the Auxiliary
  • Access to Auxiliary flotillas as chartered organizations
  • A broader pool of adult leaders with seamanship skills and training
  • Access to vessels for training

“Working with the Coast Guard Auxiliary will give Sea Scouts an opportunity to benefit from Coast Guard seamanship and vocational training, while giving Sea Scouts a unique introduction to the Coast Guard,” said Admiral Wurster, Sea Scout National Commodore.

How the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary benefits
  • Introducing young people to the benefits of Auxiliary membership and the joys of recreational boating
  • Potential Coast Guard Academy candidates
  • Promotion of the Auxiliary’s message of safe boating and service to the nation to future leaders

“With this cooperative effort we will reach out to the emerging population of young adults who share the Auxiliary’s commitment to safe boating, service to the nation, and Coast Guard and maritime careers,” said Rick Washburn, Auxiliary National Commodore.

For more information

For more information about Sea Scouts, check out Questions about the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s support of Sea Scouting should be directed to Bruce Johnson at

When is Scout Sunday 2019? What about Scout Sabbath and Scout Jumuah?

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Already planning your calendar for 2019? You aren’t alone.

Sandie Graber of Troop 349 in Macomb, Mich., emailed me last week to ask about Scout Sunday 2019.

Her seemingly simple question — when is Scout Sunday 2019? — has a somewhat complex answer.

“The reason I’m asking is because I’d like to have my son’s Eagle Court of Honor at our church on Feb. 10, but I don’t want to do it if it’s on Scout Sunday, because our church will need that room for that,” she writes. “Any answers you could find for me would be appreciated!”

In addition to answering Sandie’s question about Scout Sunday 2019, we’ll also discuss Scout Sabbath 2019 and Scout Jumuah 2019.

These three days, scheduled around the time of the BSA’s birthday on Feb. 8, celebrate the strong bond between Scouting and our faith-based chartered partners.

When is Scout Sunday 2019?

The BSA’s Calendar of Religious Dates lists Feb. 10, 2019, as “Scout Sunday, interfaith.” It lists Feb. 17, 2019, as “Scout Sunday, United Methodist.”

But those are just guidelines. The BSA says a local church may celebrate “on the Sunday most acceptable to the pastor and congregation.” So check with your chartered organization representative or faith leader.

Depending on your faith organization, Scout Sunday could be held any Sunday in February. It could be Feb. 3, Feb. 10, Feb. 17 or even Feb. 24.

In the past, Scout Sunday was always held on the Sunday before the birthday of the BSA on Feb. 8. Realizing that each chartered organization has a unique schedule of worship, the BSA no longer uses that guideline.

When is Scout Sabbath 2019?

The BSA’s Calendar of Religious Dates lists Feb. 8 and 9, 2019, as Scout Sabbath.

Scout Sabbath (also called Scout Shabbat), for Jewish Scout units, begins at sundown on Friday, Feb. 8, and continues into the next day.

Though the National Jewish Committee on Scouting has designated Feb. 8-9 as Scout Sabbath for 2019, some councils or units will celebrate the occasion on other days.

You’re advised to check with your council or local Jewish Committee on Scouting to verify the date.

When is Scout Jumuah 2019?

Scout Jumuah is Feb. 8, 2019, but units may adjust this date to best meet their needs.

Scout Jumuah offers a chance to recognize the contributions of young people and adults to Scouting within the Muslim community.

Find Scout Jumuah program ideas on this page about Scout Jumuah 2018, published by the National Association of Muslim Americans on Scouting.

Does your Scout unit really need a website and social media presence?

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You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I definitely judge a restaurant by its website.

If I’m looking to try somewhere new, my first step is to find the eatery’s official site. I’ll scroll the menu, browse photos and confirm that it’s open when I want to eat.

But some restaurants are shrouded in secrecy. Either they don’t have a website or they haven’t updated it since 2013. You won’t find them on Facebook or Instagram, either.

This sends a subtle message: “We aren’t really looking for new customers right now.” So I find a different place.

In this way, Scout units are a lot like restaurants. They need an online presence — a website, a social media account, or both — for two main reasons.

One, an online presence shows potential Scouting families that the unit is an active part of the community. They do fun things with regularity. And two, it keeps existing Scouting families updated on the latest news about campouts, fundraisers, meetings, service projects and more.

Is a website worth the time and money?

Stephen Lavoie, a Scouter who emailed me last week, wants to start a website for his pack.

“One of the biggest questions I keep getting is, ‘why spend the money on a website, and what benefits does it provide to the pack?'” he says.

Lavoie wants to illustrate to his fellow volunteers that a website is an important recruiting tool that gets new parents excited about Scouting.

And better yet, Lavoie says, a great-looking website can cost nothing and take little time and effort to get started.

Your best options for free website builders: Wix and Weebly

Many of the website builders designed for small businesses are perfect for Scout units, too.

The best ones include drag-and-drop customization, attractive templates and mobile-optimized design.

If you don’t mind a few ads and a slightly longer domain name (picture something like “”), you can get all those features for free.

Or budget some unit funds toward the paid version that makes everything look a little bit better.

There are hundreds of website builders out there, but the trusted review site Wirecutter likes Wix and Weebly best of all.

WordPress, which powers the Bryan on Scouting blog, is great for a chronological stream of posts like you find here. But it’s less ideal for a unit website that needs a lot of static information and easy navigation. It can be done, but the learning curve is steeper.

6 ways to make your unit website better
  1. Include a calendar: Modern moms and dads plan their calendars months in advance. By including meetings and outings on a detailed online calendar, you’re giving parents and Scouts fewer excuses for missing activities down the road. But if you’re going to prominently display a calendar, be sure it’s up to date.
  2. Keep it updated: If the most recent activity on your unit’s online calendar is from 2015, that sends one of two messages to potential recruits: (1) this unit has stopped operating or (2) this unit is unorganized. There’s some work involved in keeping a website up to date, but it’s one outward-facing sign of a vibrant, active pack, troop or crew.
  3. Appoint at least two people to update the site: Many hands working on a website make everyone’s job easier. So giving admin powers to multiple users makes sense, especially if someone goes on vacation or gets swamped at work. For troop or crew websites, at least one of the admins should be a youth to keep their needs and interests in mind. After all, “youth-led” applies to the online realm, too.
  4. Upload packing lists: Consider this scenario: It’s the night before summer camp, and, of course, Chase hasn’t even started packing. That’s not a huge problem, except for one thing: Chase can’t find the packing list he was given at the troop meeting on Monday. Sound familiar? Alleviate this headache by including last-minute details right on your homepage. I’m thinking departure time, meeting location, emergency numbers, and, yes, the all-important packing list. But this sensitive information shouldn’t be publicly displayed, which brings us to …
  5. Avoid personal info: Visitors to the site should be able to see the time of your weekly meeting, a way to contact the Scoutmaster, a summary of your unit’s recent successes, a few photos and other key information. Don’t keep information like Scouts’ last names, trip itineraries, members’ contact info, or anything else that could be used maliciously, on the unit’s website.
  6. Visit the BSA Brand Center: Using the BSA’s official logos, images and brand guidelines will help you put your best foot forward online. Go here to find all you need.
Your best option for social media: Facebook

On the social media front, nothing matches Facebook’s ability to support a unit’s needs. You can schedule events, share photos from recent adventures, post a poll to vote on the next trip destination, stream live videos of courts of honor, answer parents’ questions and much more.

If operated correctly and updated frequently, a Facebook page itself could be your unit’s website. That’s one-stop shopping.

One important note: Be sure to consult the BSA’s Social Media Guidelines before you proceed. You’ll learn, for example, that the BSA does recommend that units use Facebook for public information and marketing but does not recommend the use of closed or private Facebook groups. Scoutbook is a better option for that.

What about Twitter, Instagram and YouTube? These have their place, but if you’re short on time, it’s better to do one platform well instead of five or six that you update irregularly.

Already have a unit website? Add it to

Want to reach more potential members? Make sure your unit’s website is part of your listing on Here’s how to update your pin (link opens a PowerPoint).

By the time firefighters arrived, Calif. Scout had already extinguished apartment fire

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Matthew Qualls awoke with a start. Someone was screaming in his neighbor’s backyard.

Matthew looked out his window and saw smoke.

That’s when adrenaline — and Matthew’s Scout training — kicked in.

On Aug. 15, a fire broke out in Matthew’s apartment building. The 17-year-old Life Scout in Troop 36 of the Orange County Council says Scouting gave him the bravery and wisdom to react. He saved at least seven families’ homes.

“I knew where everything I needed in an emergency was, because I am in the Scouting program,” he told Melissa Dundovich of the Orange County Council.

A Scout is brave

The screaming was coming from the direction of Matthew’s neighbor Dale.

After seeing the smoke, Matthew grabbed a hammer and broke into the fire extinguisher case in the hallway of the apartment building. He ran next door.

Another neighbor was there, but she told Matthew she didn’t know how to use a fire extinguisher. Matthew told her to call 911.

Matthew began using the fire extinguisher the way he had learned: pull the pin in the handle, aim the nozzle at the fire’s base, squeeze the lever and sweep from side to side.

When the extinguisher ran out, Matthew went to grab another one. He kept at it until the fire department arrived on scene to find most of their work done for them.

When Matthew isn’t learning to save lives, he’s spending time outside. To date he has been on more than 150 campouts.

Great job, Matthew!

Speaking of fire extinguishers …

Nearly 38 million fire extinguishers manufactured by Kidde and sold between 1973 and 2017 are part of a nationwide recall. If yours is included, Kidde will send you a free replacement.

Check to see whether your family or Scout unit owns one of these recalled extinguishers.

Scout volunteer raises money for campers by cycling across the country

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After Scout volunteer Don Harter retired from the University of Missouri power plant, he planned to spend a lot more time on his bike. What he didn’t anticipate: blogging from a new smart phone. But people wanted to know how his first retirement endeavor was going — a cycling trip that took him 4,300 miles from Oregon to Virginia, and he was raising money for Scouts along the way.

Harter, a roundtable commissioner for the Great Rivers Council’s Boonslick District, collected $5,400 for the district during his 63-day journey. The money will be earmarked for the district’s Scoutreach program, providing camperships for underprivileged Scouts to attend the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation in Missouri.

“I’ve seen the benefits of the program,” says Harter, who has volunteered in the Great Rivers Council for the last 30 years.

During the trip, he also raised just as much for Enlace, a nonprofit that equips churches for mission work in Central America and Nepal.

Blogging across the country

Equipped with a sturdy 1982 Centurion Pro Tour 15 bicycle; a wide, comfy seat, and packs to carry 30 pounds of gear, Harter was ready for the longest ride of his life. He had cycled from South Carolina back home to Missouri during 30 days of R&R while he was in the Navy. After he was discharged after serving aboard a ballistic missile submarine, he completed a bike trip from Maine to Missouri. But the Trans Am Bike Ride was more than three times as long as each of his previous two treks.

He and more than 110 other riders were going to try the annual cross-country challenge. More than 60 reached the finish line, including Harter, who began June 2 and got to the end last month. The 62-year-old wasn’t trying to finish first; he simply wanted to finish strong.

“I just got out there and got in as many miles as I could,” he says.

Some days that meant nearly 100 miles on the road, others he had to stay put as storms loomed over windy paths, making the route dangerous. On average, he traveled almost 70 miles a day. After each day of riding, Harter typed a blog post on his phone that he bought a month before the race. Scouts had shown him how to use it, so he could update supporters.

“It was beyond me that people found it interesting; how do you make a day of bicycling sound interesting?” Harter says.

Harter’s posts soon shifted to focus on the people he encountered. Drivers would slow down as they passed him on the road to shout a few words of encouragement; residents would welcome him and fellow cyclists into their homes for a nice meal and a hot shower.

“The scenery changed dramatically, but the people never did,” Harter says. “It was always the same friendliness. The only thing that did change was the twang in their voice.”

Riding forward

Harter endured plenty of frustrating days during the Trans Am Bike Ride, from 100-plus-degree days to grueling uphill rides.

But he kept reminding himself that he could’ve been in a worse situation. That resiliency he attributes to Scouting. He also credits his success to the power of prayer. He told people at home to think about him often and to say a little prayer.

“I had things happen that I can’t explain,” Harter says. “I was being helped by God.”

During one stretch, a car struck a two-by-four in the road, sending wooden shrapnel in his direction, narrowly missing him. Another time, a dog attacked him, fortunately satisfied with only biting at his food satchel. And yet another time while cycling on a desolate road, he came across a clean port-a-potty, just as he was feeling ill.

But the good times definitely outweighed the bad. In Sterling, Kan., Harter and fellow rider Nishanth Iyengar stopped to enjoy the small town’s Fourth of July celebration, which featured pizza-eating contests, a parade with antique tractors and fireworks. When he reached Missouri, friends and former coworkers joined him on the ride.

Cycling for Scouting

Harter was a Life Scout; his son, Justin, became an Eagle. He took leadership roles while his son was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts — as an assistant den leader, a Cubmaster, an assistant Scoutmaster and a Scoutmaster. He helped run Pinewood Derby Day for the district and volunteered at summer camp to ensure Scouts had a great time.

So when fellow Scout volunteer Hank Stelzer proposed the idea of a fundraising campaign to go along with his ride, Harter was intrigued. Volunteers quickly pitched in $500. With a goal of $4,300, Harter’s campaign would fund summer camp for 16 Scouts.

Along the way, Harter wore a BSA cycling jersey. He camped at city and state parks. And he took in the natural beauty of the country — from Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park to Haystack Rock on the Oregon coast to the wheat fields of Kansas and scenic valley overlooks in Virginia.

This Scout sells more popcorn than most entire troops, but what he does with the money is even more impressive

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In 2011, Beck Garnett was just a 7-year-old Tiger Scout when he sold $1,800 worth of popcorn — a pack record.

A year later, he extended the record with more than $3,000 in sales. Up and up the sales numbers went until 2017, when Beck sold a staggering $51,420 in popcorn. Beck wasn’t just the top seller in Virginia. He outsold most entire troops in his state and across the country.

The money Beck has raised — $111,807 in seven years of selling — has helped grow and sustain Scouting in Beck’s pack, troop, district and the entire Heart of Virginia Council.

You see, Beck isn’t after records or notoriety or even the pile of rare patches he has earned as a leading seller. Beck just wants to bring Scouting to as many people as he can.

Last year, he donated $17,000 to help grow Scouting in underserved areas through a program the council calls Scoutreach.

Thanks to Beck’s efforts, Troop 442 can enjoy Scouting without worrying about worn-out gear. ‘It’s not just about making money’

“What’s impressed me about Beck is that he’s not just out selling popcorn to raise money for his troop,” says Todd Martin, director of support services for the Heart of Virginia Council. “He’s really out there doing it to raise money to help these Scoutreach troops and packs get started and funded and to have the same opportunities that his troop had. It’s not just about making money. It’s about how we can do good in the community.”

Beck used his fundraising powers to help turn around Troop 442, a previously struggling troop on the south side of Richmond, Va. Thanks to Beck, the troop replaced its leaking tents, worn-out cooking equipment and sagging backpacks with new gear. The troop shares its gear with two Exploring posts and a Cub Scout pack — further extending the reach of this great Good Turn.

“They finally have some quality stuff so we can make these trips happen,” says Troop 442 Scoutmaster Tom Hayes.

As Beck, now 14, gears up for another popcorn season, I asked him for his top popcorn-selling tips.

As a Tiger, Beck set a pack record with $1,800 in sales. Getting sales, giving back

But first, here’s a look at Beck’s first seven years of selling.

Year Age Grade Rank Overall sales (online and in-person) Online sales Ranking Where the money went 2011 7 1st Bobcat, Tiger $1,800 n/a No. 1 in pack, pack record Beck’s pack 2012 8 2nd Wolf $3,381 n/a No. 1 in pack, pack record Beck’s pack 2013 9 3rd Bear $5,087 n/a No. 1 in Cardinal District Bought new Pinewood Derby track for pack 2014 10 4th Webelos $11,728 $2,877.50 No. 1 in council and Virginia Sent every Cub Scout in his pack to camp for a week and covered pack’s dues for a year 2015 11 5th Webelos, Arrow of Light $15,026 $3,781 No. 1 in council and Virginia, No. 5 in region Gave $1,000 to pack, gave $3,800 to Scoutreach, got himself a tent and pack for Boy Scouts 2016 12 6th Scout, Tenderfoot $23,365 $10,570 No. 1 on East Coast, No. 2 in nation, No. 1 online salesman in nation Gave $7,000 to Scoutreach 2017 13 7th Tenderfoot, Second Class $51,420 $31,745 No. 1 on East Coast, No. 1 troop in council, No. 2 in nation, No. 1 online salesman and troop in nation Gave $17,000 to Scoutreach Overall $111,807 $48,973.50 Beck’s top tips

Jay Lugar, development director for the Heart of Virginia Council, says Beck has a knack for peddling popcorn.

“I’ve never encountered a more natural salesperson than Beck,” he says.

Here’s how Beck says he got to more than $110,000 in sales:

  1. Set and meet daily goals to help reach your overall goal.
  2. Never give up. If you knock on enough doors, someone will say yes.
  3. Always wear your Scout uniform when selling, and be polite and professional.
  4. Sell online to friends and family who live far away.
  5. Know your products and be able to comfortably explain the value of larger products. You’ll get a bigger sale, and they’ll get a better deal.
  6. Remind customers that “it’s not about buying or selling popcorn. It’s about supporting the Boy Scouts.”
Learn more

If you’d like to hear more from Beck, visit his website,, and watch the video below. Beck’s family has a friend who owns a video production company that created this excellent video for him.

Extreme Makeovers, Round 23: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

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Note: This is the 23rd in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here.

To fully understand the impact Eagle Scout projects have on communities, you need to see to believe. That’s why I asked to see Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos — the same photos prospective Eagles are asked to include with their post-project report.

This week’s batch of 12 projects includes a handsome horseshoe pit in California, a majestic memorial in Florida and an antique apple orchard in Virginia.

What’s great is that you can multiply each individual act of stupendous service by more than 50,000. That’s how many Eagle Scout projects get completed every single year.

TIP: Click or tap and drag the slider below each image to see the change.

Ryan from Virginia

Who: Ryan, Troop 155, Rustburg, Va.

What: Ryan and his helpers created an antique apple orchard in Long Mountain Park in Rustburg. Many people think that the only varieties of apples are those seven to eight they see in the grocery store, but there are many more. The project promotes as many different varieties of apples as possible to preserve them for the future. The goal is to educate the community and feed its residents and wildlife.

Ryan from California

Who: Ryan, Troop 716, Westchester, Calif.

What: Ryan and his helpers installed a rosary garden at St. Jerome Church.

Dylan from Kansas

Who: Dylan, Troop 888, Gardner, Kan.

What: Dylan and his helpers built a 24-by-46-foot metal shelter and four picnic tables and benches at the community garden in his town. The shelter and tables allow for educational classes and a place of shelter for the community gardeners.

Jackson from Illinois

Who: Jackson, Troop 282, Flora, Ill.

What: Jackson and his helpers arranged for his school to purchase a surplus scoreboard from another village in the school’s athletic conference. He then led the volunteers as they installed the scoreboard on the baseball diamond at the school, where his junior high co-op team plays home baseball games.

Noah from Minnesota

Who: Noah, Troop 506, Ham Lake, Minn.

What: Noah and his helpers designed a boardwalk for a trail system at St Benedict’s Monastery. After fundraising, Noah, along with his team, built the boardwalk over an area where runoff washes the trail away.

Chris from Missouri

Who: Chris, Troop 404, Kirksville, Mo.

What: Chris and his helpers remodeled a space to serve as the new home for a church-run clothes closet, which provides clothes at no cost to community members in need.

Jonathan from Texas

Who: Jonathan, Troop 1226, Houston, Texas

What: Jonathan and his helpers installed and landscaped a covered sitting area and built three picnic tables benefiting the Lamar FFA in Houston.

Matthew from California

Who: Matthew, Troop 444, Concord, Calif.

What: Matthew and his helpers improved local community recreation by removing and replacing an existing horseshoe pit in a neighborhood park.

Andrew from Missouri

Who: Andrew, Troop 118, Kansas City, Mo.

What: Andrew and his helpers built a fire pit in an Urban Core park for neighbors to congregate while their children play in the park.

Andrew from Tennessee

Who: Andrew, Troop 76, Jefferson City, Tenn.

What: Andrew and his helpers built and installed a “Little Free Library” caboose and an octave of playground chimes for Mossy Creek Station, an ongoing revitalization project in the downtown area of Jefferson City.

Crosby from Florida

Who: Crosby, Troop 113, Ocala, Fla.

What: Crosby and his helpers renovated and reconstructed the Garden of the Crosses Memorial at First Christian Church, breathing new life into a project originally accomplished by his dad 40 years before. His project is valued at nearly $51,000, and he led 65 volunteers to deliver 2,170 man-hours of service during 25 separate service days spread over 18 months. To date, approximately 100 members of the church community have chosen to spread their ashes at the site.

Ryan from New Jersey

Who: Ryan, Troop 63, Stewartsville, N.J.

What: Ryan and his helpers planned, fundraised and led the installation of an ADA addition to the Lopatcong Elementary School playground so all the the students can enjoy it. His addition included two ADA compliant swings, two buddy benches and a picnic table.

Like these? See more here. Have before-and-after Eagle photos I can use in future posts? Go here to learn how to send them to me.

BSA will make Scoutbook free for everyone beginning Jan. 1, 2019

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It’s a bit like learning there’s enough Dutch oven peach cobbler for everyone to have seconds.

It seems too good to be true, but you will absolutely take it.

The BSA announced today that it will make Scoutbook subscriptions free to all BSA units beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Units that already use Scoutbook won’t be charged when they renew their subscription on or after Sept. 1, 2018.

Scoutbook is the BSA’s online unit management tool and helps Scouts, parents and leaders track advancement and milestone achievements along the Scouting trail.

Previously, units paid a small annual fee — up to $1 per Scout per year — to access Scoutbook’s powerful features, which are accessible on any device. By making Scoutbook free for everyone, the BSA can drive program consistency and deepen our movement’s engagement with youth and adult leaders.

The move means everyone can enjoy what more than 1 million users already know: Scoutbook can improve your Scouting experience.

What does this news mean for existing Scoutbook users? How will this affect the future of Scoutbook? Here’s what you need to know.

How will my unit be affected?
  • Units with a current Scoutbook account: When they need to renew their subscription this fall, they will not pay any renewal fees, effective Sept. 1, 2018.
  • Councils that provide Scoutbook accounts for their units: When they need to renew these unit subscriptions this fall, they will not pay any renewal fees, effective Sept. 1, 2018.
    • (Essentially, units — or councils paying for their units — can renew Scoutbook subscriptions in September, October, November or December 2018 at no cost.)
  • Units without a current Scoutbook account: They can begin their free Scoutbook unit subscription on Jan. 1, 2019.
Will existing users get a refund?

No. There are no plans to reimburse anyone who has previously paid for a Scoutbook subscription. This change applies only to any new Scoutbook subscriptions effective Jan. 1, 2019, or later — and to any renewing Scoutbook subscriptions that would normally be paid between Sept. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2018.

What if a current Scoutbook unit needs to add more Scouts this fall?

Let’s say your pack has a 75-Scout subscription with 15 open slots. You expect to recruit well over that number this fall. Can you add Scouts to your subscription when/if that happens?

Yes, if you have a current Scoutbook subscription, after Sept. 1, 2018, you can renew your subscription (if needed) or add more youth to Scoutbook at no cost.

What should units that don’t currently have Scoutbook do this fall?

Scoutbook will be free to all units beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

In the meantime, watch for the release of Scoutbook Lite for all units later in 2018. This free online tool will provide a slightly different user experience from the full Scoutbook, but it will help your unit track advancements for all your youth members.

How will subscriptions/renewals work in 2019 and beyond?

The need to “subscribe” or “renew” annually will become unnecessary. Once your unit is on Scoutbook, you’ll be set for as long as your unit would like to continue using this free tool.

How will making Scoutbook free affect its performance?

Scoutbook will only continue to improve. The BSA IT and Member Care teams will continue to support Scoutbook with their timely service and quality resources. Scoutbook performance enhancements have been implemented regularly over the years, and its performance is continually monitored.

Where can I get more information about this change in Scoutbook?


At inaugural Health Care Explorer Camp, young people learn by actually doing

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They prepared a mock victim for transport by helicopter. They toured the human body at a cadaver lab. And they practiced diagnosing patients in state-of-the-art nursing simulation rooms where mannequins blink, talk and, if something goes wrong, lose color in their toes.

It’s safe to say this was no typical week of summer.

At the inaugural Health Care Explorer Camp held earlier this month in New Jersey, 10 Explorers ages 14 to 18 got a hands-on introduction to the fast-paced, challenging field of medicine.

Like all Explorers, they didn’t just read about the career that interests them. They actually experienced it.

Exploring is the BSA’s career exploration program for young men and young women. It’s built on the concept that you learn best by actually doing things. Explorers discover their future in one of 12 career fields, ranging from arts and humanities to social services.

The Explorers participate in a wilderness first aid course. Learning from the best

The health care Explorers didn’t have to look far for role models. At every stop, they met professionals who are working every day to save lives, cure ailments and advance the field of medicine.

Some of the highlights:

  • Meeting EMTs from Monmouth Ocean County Hospital Service Corporation who demonstrated a helicopter rescue.
  • Visiting the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School cadaver lab in Piscataway, N.J., where people have chosen to donate their bodies to science and learning. There they chatted with Dr. George Mulheron, who gave a tour of the human body with a hands-on discussion of the brain, heart, lungs and view of the workings of the knee joint.
  • Touring the Rutgers School of Nursing Simulation Laboratory, in New Brunswick, N.J., with Professor Tita Viray. At this state-of-the-art simulation lab, they met “Checo,” a young mannequin boy, and listened to his lungs and took his pulse. They also met “Jovanni,” a mannequin burn victim who spoke, had simulated burns on his legs, became cyanotic (blue color in toes to simulate lack of oxygen) and blinked his eyes.
  • Hearing from lunchtime guest speakers, including Jerry Ceres, who discussed electronic medical records; Gerry Case, a retired physician assistant; and Linda Hassler, who spoke about the various specialties in nursing. Tim Hogan, Regional Vice President for Bayshore and Riverview Medical Centers and president of the BSA’s Monmouth Council, gave the graduation address on various careers in health care.
  • Completing the 16-hour Wilderness First Aid certification course, including in-pool water rescues and CPR certification classes.
The Explorers practice water rescues in the pool. Enjoying some downtime

Even with all that hands-on learning they couldn’t get anywhere else, the Explorers still had time (and energy) for even more fun.

They saw a movie, went bowling and perfected their swing at the driving range. They spent each night at Quail Hill Scout Reservation in Manalapan, N.J.

“I enjoyed learning about the different career opportunities available,” says Chelsea Chen, a 17-year-old Explorer.

Another of the Explorers, 17-year-old Erin Wong, thanked volunteers like Linda Hassler and BSA professionals like district executive Priscilla Borges for coordinating the week.

“Thank you for making it such a fun and immersive experience,” Erin says.

One of the Explorers experiences the effects of aging by wearing glasses that affect her vision and trying to organize colored dots. What’s next?

The council plans to run the event again in 2019, so stay tuned to the council’s website.

In a world too often seen through a screen, ‘Scouting reminds us there’s another way’

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There was a time all our tweets came from birds and building things with friends didn’t just mean Minecraft.

As the pace of our technology-filled world quickens, families have fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions and outdoors experiences.

That’s why Didi Gorman, a Scouter (volunteer) from Canada is thankful for Scouting.

“In a world where the environment is at risk and social interaction happens more and more on a screen rather than in real life,” she writes, “Scouting reminds us there’s another way — that nature is precious, and that meaningful friendships, the ones that happen face to face, are priceless.”

Gorman wrote a short essay and agreed to let me reprint it here. Her words are a reminder that the values of Scouting span generations and borders.

Didi Gorman Are You in Scouts?

By Didi Gorman, a Scouter with 1st Lennoxville Scouts in Quebec, Canada

If we asked a Scout (or a Scouter) why they’re in Scouts, they’d probably say something like:

  • “It’s fun!”
  • “I love camping and sleeping in tents!”
  • “We build cool things and make fire!”
  • “I try things I’ve never tried before”
  • “I love going outside and spending time with my friends”

Answers will vary depending on age and personality, but the recurring themes are adventure, friendship, sense of belonging, love of nature, exploring new skills, caring for others and creating things.

Before moving on, please look at this list again. Can you spot an overarching principle?

If you’re thinking: “Hey, these concepts are timeless, universal, and fundamental to the human spirit!”

Well, bingo! I would also argue that these are the building blocks of our well-being, and are at the heart of any flourishing society. But I’m digressing.

My point?

Scouting is based on these values. It takes us outdoors and reconnects us with our community and friends, thus providing meaningful experiences to its participants, which explains why millions of people worldwide are in Scouts and why it’s a lasting movement.

In a time where most children (and many adults) spend hours staring inactively at a screen, often watching meaningless content or “learning” twisted ideas through social media about what matters, Scouting reminds us that life has so much more to offer if we only went outside and connected with one another. It teaches us important life skills, offers healthy activities, and restores a much-needed balance.

The picture I chose for this article epitomizes what the Scouting experience is to me. I took it during our last summer camp at Lake Lovering, near the town of Magog, Quebec, Canada. Our Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Scouters were having a blast kayaking on the lake. The adventure, sense of togetherness, the sheer beauty of nature around us, and the accomplishment of a successful paddling endeavor all combined into a memorable experience, to be cherished for a long time.

Keep up your awesome work, Scouts! You inspire wonderful things.

BSA reinstates Heroism Award, one of three national-level lifesaving awards

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The Boy Scouts of America has reinstated the Heroism Award, filling a gap between the Honor Medal, presented for attempting to save a life with “considerable risk to self” and the Medal of Merit, which honors Scouting service but does not require a lifesaving attempt.

The Heroism Award was first presented in 1977 and discontinued in late 2012. Its official reinstatement came after a vote by the National Executive Board in February 2018. The award honors youth members or adult leaders who demonstrate “heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life at minimal personal risk.”

Councils nominate their members using this application and send the proper documentation to the National Court of Honor for final approval.

Heroism Award recipients — then and now — receive a red square knot on a white background and a medal with a red-white-red ribbon that says “For Heroism.”

To learn more, I spoke with one of the volunteers on the National Court of Honor. This is the national committee responsible for reviewing the nominations and determining which award, if any, to approve.

Like all members of the National Court of Honor, this person remains anonymous to preserve impartiality.

The Heroism Award medal and square knot. The BSA’s Lifesaving and Meritorious Action Awards

The BSA has five awards to recognize members who attempt to save someone’s life or show extraordinary use of Scouting skills in a difficult or interesting situation.

There are three lifesaving awards. For these, councils submit a nomination to the National Court of Honor, which has the final say.

The awards are:

  • Honor Medal with Crossed Palms: awarded in exceptional cases to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.
  • Honor Medal: awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.
  • Heroism Award: awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at minimal personal risk.

There are two meritorious action awards.

These awards can be presented directly by the local council. They recognize individuals who show that “a significant or outstanding act of service, of an exceptional character, was performed.”

There’s no requirement of a lifesaving attempt — merely that the person put into practice Scouting skills or ideals.

The awards are:

  • Medal of Merit: awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.
  • National Certificate of Merit: awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed a significant act of service that is deserving of special national recognition.
Why the Heroism Award was reinstated

Consider the list of awards above without the Heroism Award. You might notice a gap exists between the Medal of Merit and the Honor Medal. How can the BSA recognize someone who saves a life without risking his or her own? Perhaps the person performed lifesaving CPR. Maybe he or she stood on a riverbank and skillfully executed a throw bag rescue in Class III rapids.

“We found we were getting almost two out of three nominations where there was some risk to the person, but not, quote, ‘significant risk,'” the National Court of Honor member told me. “There’s a gap here, and that’s the reason there was a Heroism Award.”

The discontinuation of the Heroism Award was meant to simplify the process and eliminate “unnecessarily overlapping.” But in doing so it left that gap.

The National Court of Honor member told me that the volunteers approached the BSA about reinstating the award, and the BSA agreed to take a careful look. After that consideration, the reinstatement was approved in February 2018.

Even with the reinstatement of the Heroism Award, the nominating process remains unchanged.

The burden first is on the local council, which determines whether to make a nomination to the National Court of Honor. If the action being considered is deserving of merit but does not qualify for one of the three lifesaving awards, the council has the power to award either the Medal of Merit or National Certificate of Merit with consulting the National Court of Honor.

For lifesaving awards, the council uses this form. That triggers a review by the seasoned volunteers on the National Court of Honor. They can select one of the three lifesaving awards or choose to decline and send the request back to the local council.

“We take it very seriously,” the volunteer told me. “We give every nomination very careful review. We want to make the best decision possible given the circumstances of each situation.”

What about Scouts in Action and Scouters in Action?

Scouts in Action, the popular page in Boys’ Life that turns stories of heroism into inspiring comics, pulls its stories from National Court of Honor award recipients. As such, there is no process for submitting stories directly to BL. Boys’ Life waits until the award determination before selecting stories to turn into comics.

Scouters in Action is the Scouting magazine column modeled after Scouts in Action. Instead of youth, it recognizes adults who earn a lifesaving award. Scouting magazine uses the same process for selecting subjects.

Whom to contact for more info

If you have questions or need further information, you can email

This Scout wanted to help his home away from home — in South Africa

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Every summer and every other winter, Stephen Henley visits his mother’s side of the family in Howick, South Africa. When the time came for the 17-year-old Life Scout to choose an Eagle Scout project, he decided to help out a community he was familiar with, which happened not to be his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Just south of Howick sits the village of Mafakathini.

“I visited that village a lot, so I know the struggle over there,” Henley says.

The teachers who taught at a dilapidated schoolhouse for children with disabilities there were struggling so much that when they heard Henley wanted to do a service project, they walked 10 miles to see him and ask that he consider helping them.

‘Dirt and concrete’

The schoolhouse, which could accommodate only a fraction of the children with disabilities in the village of 5,000, stood in startling disrepair. It had no running water, no kitchen, paint was peeling off the walls, a single exposed lightbulb served as the building’s only illumination. Children in wheelchairs had a hard time navigating the grounds to reach the outhouse toilet; teachers usually ended up carrying the kids to the toilet, which was 100 feet away. The only toy for the children — ages 3 through 9 — was an old teething toy.

“It was mainly dirt and concrete,” Henley says of the schoolhouse. “It was a lot to take in.”

But, Henley was up for the task. He organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the project and collected toys, blankets, backpacks and school supplies in Tennessee. He recruited volunteers, including Scouts from a troop in Howick, to help with the labor. Over the course of two weeks, they repainted the walls; replaced broken windows; installed an indoor bathroom and kitchen; repaired the roof, floors and outdoor sidewalk; put in insulation and new lighting, and set up a swing set and garden.

When they were finished, Henley hosted a ribbon cutting for the refurbished schoolhouse, which can now accommodate more than twice as many students as it could before the project.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Henley says. “I saw the kids — it made it all worth it. I got overwhelmed by it. We were all tearing up.”

Eagle Projects Around the World

South Africa has been a home away from home for Henley. He has been visiting the country with this family ever since he was 2 years old.

While most Scouts choose an Eagle Scout project close to home, they can certainly do one anywhere in the world. Section of the Guide to Advancement states Scouts can expand their oath “to help other people” to the “community of the world.” Check out more international Eagle Scout projects at Boys’ Life Eagle Scout Project Showcase.

Iowa teen used Scouting skills to build $1,500 tiny house in his parents’ backyard

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Many teenagers have their own room. Luke Thill has his own house.

The 14-year-old Life Scout from Dubuque, Iowa, raised $1,500 performing odd jobs for neighbors and used a mix of reclaimed and purchased materials to build his own 89-square-foot tiny house in his parents’ backyard. The process took nearly two years.

Luke says Scouting gave him both the leadership skills and craftsmanship needed to complete the process.

“All the merit badges helped — Personal Management, Woodwork, Welding, Public Speaking, Communication,” Luke told me by phone. “All that kind of stuff plays a role.”

The project has made Luke something of a celebrity both in the burgeoning tiny house community and beyond.

He has nearly 45,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and his story has been featured by ABC NewsCountry Living magazine and many local media outlets.

How he did it

When Luke approached his dad, Greg, with the idea for building a tiny home in his backyard, the dad had just three rules.

Luke had to raise the money. Luke had to build it. And Luke had to own the house when it was finished.

In a way, the tiny house process was like a massive Eagle Scout service project. Luke needed to recruit volunteers, deal with adults and make tough financial decisions. It’ll be great prep for Luke’s actual Eagle project, which he’s currently planning and says it’ll be “a little bigger than normal.”

“[The tiny house] was a chance for a kid to do something more than play videogames or sports,” Greg Thill told the Des Moines Register. “It teaches life lessons.”

Luke raised money by mowing lawns, performing landscape work and doing side jobs wherever he could. He deposited every dollar at the bank.

“I put all that money into a savings account so it was harder to get at and spend,” he says.

Luke sits in the loft of his tiny house. Learning the trade

He also did some bartering. An electrician neighbor agreed to help him with the wiring if Luke would clean his garage. A Scout leader agreed to lay carpet if Luke would mow his lawn.

About three-fourths of Luke’s tiny house is made from reclaimed materials. The 5.5-by-10 foot house includes a small kitchen, a sitting area, a table and a wall-mounted TV. Upstairs — yes, a ladder leads to a second-story loft — is a mattress where Luke can sleep.

The house has electricity but no plumbing.

Luke often spends a couple of nights a week in his tiny house, which is also great for entertaining friends.

“I haven’t had one friend not like it,” Luke says. “A lot of them didn’t know what it was, but a lot of them were open to the idea.”

The dining table folds up when not in use. The accidental celebrity

Luke didn’t set out to become a YouTuber whose top video has been viewed nearly 10 million times. He just kept posting videos, and people eventually found them.

Now, in addition to the news coverage, Luke has been invited to speak at tiny house festivals like TinyFest Midwest in Colfax, Iowa.

“At first, I wasn’t too worried about the alternative lifestyle or the tiny house aspect of it,” Luke says. “But as I started building it, and started doing YouTube videos, I really engaged with the community. I was realizing that not many people can build the average house. But me, being only 13 years old, I was able to build that and learn a lot of things.”

And Luke’s learning more than just how to install a window or build a kitchen backsplash.

“I also learned a lot of communication skills, networking skills and how to work with other people,” he says.

In addition to the support from his Scout leaders and fellow Scouts, Luke has been wowed by complete strangers — young people his age who have cheered him from afar.

“One of my main goals has been to inspire others,” he says. “It’s awesome seeing the young generation, people watching my videos. … It’s awesome to see people getting inspired.”

Tiny house, tiny fridge. Luke’s grandmother made the curtains. What’s next?

Luke and his twin brother, Cole, are thinking about ideas for Eagle Scout projects. They’ll do separate, but related, projects.

“We want to do something a little bigger than normal,” Luke says. “We’re in the planning stages — nothing set in stone yet.”

One thing is for sure: Luke wants to build another tiny house when he turns 16. This one, he says, will be a full-functioning home with plumbing and a shower.

You can follow that journey on — where else? — YouTube.

This Scout found a lost Eagle medal. Can we help him get it back to its owner?

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When a Scout from North Carolina found, among his grandmother’s possessions, an old Eagle Scout medal and six Eagle Palms, his reaction was instant.

“I wish we could return it to its owner,” he told his mom.

Hayden Stanley is a First Class Scout in Troop 334 of Raleigh, N.C. As someone on the trail to Eagle himself, he knows how much work goes into earning the program’s highest rank.

Hayden knew the medal didn’t belong to anyone in his family. And his grandmother died two years ago, so Hayden and his parents aren’t able to ask her how she came in possession of the Scouting artifact.

“I can only speculate,” says Hayden’s dad, Dwight. “In retirement, my parents would often go to auctions in Fayetteville, N.C., and many times they would bring home boxes of random stuff auctioned off as a lot.”

The box itself contains a few more clues as to the owner’s identity. Dwight Stanley reached out to me to see if the Scouting community could help.

Can you help solve this mystery?

The clues

Here’s what we know:

  • The Eagle medal was contained in a crusty, burned metal award box. This indicates it survived a fire.
  • Two ID cards were stuck under the foam panel of the box. One is a veterans insurance card, and the other is a card for the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina.
  • The name on both cards: Kiyoshi E. Howard.
  • Mr. Howard’s occupation is listed as “Construction Worker II.”
  • No person with the name “Kiyoshi Howard” appears in the National Eagle Scout Association database. This could mean one of two things: One, the record was not properly recorded; or two, the Eagle medal belongs to a friend or family member of Mr. Howard.

Dwight Stanley says he searched the white pages and found a Kiyoshi Howard living in Philadelphia. According to the date of birth listed, this Mr. Howard would’ve been a Scout in the mid-1970s.

“I also looked on Facebook and found another Kiyoshi Howard who also lives in Philadelphia and have reached out to him through his work,” Dwight Stanley says. “I hope to hear from him or the elder Mr. Howard in the next few days.”

Can you help?

In the meantime, if you know who might own this Eagle medal, leave a comment below or email me at

I’ll update this post if — or when — the mystery is solved.

Eagle Scout and Olympic kayaking hopeful still makes time for Scouting

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You might think an Olympic kayaking hopeful spends every waking moment on the water, leaving no time for Scouting.

You might think that. But then you meet Augustus Cook.

The 16-year-old Eagle Scout from Troop 78 in Edmond, Okla., competes against some of the top paddlers in the world. He’ll travel to Poland next month for an international competition, and he dreams of making the 2024 or 2028 Olympics.

But even with that busy sports schedule, Gus finds time for Scouting. He earned Eagle at 14 and kept going. He puts in extra hours as a troop guide and den chief to mentor younger Scouts.

“If you really want something, you will either find the time or make the time for it,” he says. “You have to want it.”

Let’s meet Gus.

Moments in Scouting

I was somewhat surprised to learn that Gus’s favorite Scouting trip — so far — was on dry land. In 2015, Troop 78 took a 50-mile backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado. Gus also looks forward to his troop’s annual wilderness survival camp each December.

Neither outing involves kayaks.

And in the biggest twist of all, Gus has not earned the Kayaking merit badge. It’s hard to find a merit badge counselor for Kayaking MB in the Oklahoma City area — other than at summer camp, where he likes to focus on other pursuits.

When Gus turns 18, he wants to help reverse that trend. He plans to register as a volunteer so he can offer the Kayaking merit badge on the Oklahoma River and elsewhere. That would be quite a Good Turn.

“I love helping younger Scouts learn and achieve their goals,” he says, “It’s rewarding to me.”

Speaking of Good Turns, for his Eagle Scout service project, Gus led an effort to beautify a common area at his former middle school. He built six big planter boxes and filled them with soil and plants.

Moments in kayaking

When Gus was 10, he attended a two-week Riversport OKC kayak camp on the Oklahoma River. He’s been hooked ever since.

Gus has paddled his way into the Olympic Development Program for canoe/kayak.

He’s the 2018 National Champion in the under-18 division for one-man kayaking at the 1,000- and 500-meter distances. Because of his winning ways on the water, Gus gets to represent the United States at the Olympic Hopes Regatta next month in Poznań, Poland.

Good luck, Gus!

Extreme Makeovers, Round 22: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

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Note: This is the 22nd in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here.

To fully understand the impact Eagle Scout projects have on communities, you need to see to believe. That’s why I asked to see Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos — the same photos prospective Eagles are asked to include with their post-project report.

This week’s batch of 14 projects includes a remodeled youth activity room in a church basement, two large raccoon cages at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and several memorials to honor the men and women of our armed forces.

What’s great is that you can multiply each individual act of stupendous service by more than 50,000. That’s how many Eagle Scout projects get completed every single year.

TIP: Click or tap and drag the slider below each image to see the change.

Sean from New Jersey

Who: Sean, Troop 154, Somerset N.J.

What: Sean and his helpers installed a new gate, put in a new flower bed, cleaned up and applied mulch to a section of MacAfee Elementary school’s garden in Somerset, N.J.

Stuart from New York

Who: Stuart, Troop 4045, Warwick N.Y.

What: Stuart and his helpers replaced the handicap ramp at the Goshen United Methodist Church, bringing it up to ADA code and landscaping the surroundings to be less overgrown.

Jarod from Virginia

Who: Jarod, Troop 303, Virginia Beach, Va.

What: Jarod and his helpers built two large raccoon cages for Wildlife Response Inc., a nonprofit devoted to the care of orphaned, injured and displaced native wildlife.

Aaron from Texas

Who: Aaron, Troop 365, Round Rock, Texas

What: Aaron and his helpers planned and oversaw the building and installation of more than 100 feet of shelving for an offsite storage trailer that holds off season merchandise for the Round Rock Area Serving Center’s thrift store.

Garrett from Ohio

Who: Garrett, Troop 361, Tallmadge, Ohio

What: Garrett and his helpers built a picnic pavilion to be used by the members of his church. He included picnic tables, ceiling fans, electrical outlets and lights — all donated by local companies.

Camron from Nebraska

Who: Camron, Troop 136, Kearney, Neb.

What: Camron and his helpers designed and proposed to the village to build a new park sign that states the parks name and to make as a memorial to United States Armed Forces Veterans. The project was completed and then dedicated on Nov. 6, 2016, before Veterans Day.

Matt from New York

Who: Matt, Troop 156, Amherst, N.Y.

What: Matt and his helpers built a staircase out of landscape ties at Ellicott Island Dog Bark Park.

Daniel from New Jersey

Who: Daniel, Troop 47, Westwood, N.J.

What: Daniel and his helpers built a “Garden of Service” to honor all active-duty servicemen and servicewomen who dedicate their lives to serve and protect our country. Each tree represents a branch of the military. The garden was placed in the center of town at Veterans Park.

Matthew from Illinois

Who: Matthew, Troop 4315, Macomb, Ill.

What: Matthew and his helpers finished the youth activity room in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Logan from Maryland

Who: Logan, Troop 870, Pasadena, Md.

What: Living on a tributary off the Chesapeake Bay his entire life, Logan wanted his project to focus on preserving the land. Logan and his helpers added fences around two trees that were planted 65 years ago during the establishment of Maryland’s Sandy Point State Park, located at the western end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The fencing now protects these historic trees from foot traffic, and the surrounding pollinating plants boost the bumblebee and bird population in the park.

Micah from Pennsylvania

Who: Micah, Troop 662, Valley View, Pa.

What: Micah and his helpers installed an inclusive playground at his local elementary school for its life skills class.

Jeremiah from New Jersey

Who: Jeremiah, Troop 1, North Caldwell, N.J.

What: Jeremiah and his helpers completed, refurbished and expanded the long-neglected veterans memorial in North Caldwell.

Matthew from Pennsylvania

Who: Matthew, Troop 21, Dickson City, Pa.

What: Matthew and his helpers built a veterans memorial at the Visitation of Blessed Virgin Mary Cemetery in Dickson City.

Joshua from Florida

Who: Joshua, Troop 323, Melbourne, Fla.

What: Joshua and his helpers build a deck on the back of his church’s youth house.

Like these? See more here. Have before-and-after Eagle photos I can use in future posts? Go here to learn how to send them to me.

These two Scouts refuse to let hearing loss slow them down

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“To help other people at all times.” Those words in the Scout Oath mean something, and these two Scouts are living them every day.

Julio “James” Hernandez and John D. Cobb use hearing aids, but neither young man lets his hearing loss slow him down.

Their remarkable volunteer efforts recently gained the attention of Oticon, the global hearing aid company. The company has chosen John D. and James as two of three student finalists for the 2018 Oticon Focus on People Awards. Oticon says the awards honor “people who are helping to change perceptions of what it means to have a hearing loss.”

Two out of the three finalists are Scouts? That’s cause for celebration right there.

Also cool: You get to help select the winners for these awards. Simply click here to read about each finalist and, if you’d like, cast your vote for John D. or James. But don’t delay; voting ends Aug. 24.

Keep reading to learn about James, an Eagle Scout from Atlanta, and John D., a Life Scout from Knoxville, Tenn.

More about John D. Cobb

John D. has been deaf since birth and uses hearing aids.

He and his best friend started RefugeeLikeMe, a nonprofit that aims to humanize refugees by sharing their stories and raising funds for resettlement agencies.

“The story’s not, ‘There’s a refugee crisis, and here’s how many refugees there are, and 5 million people have fled Syria,'” John D. told the Knoxville News Sentinel. Instead, he says, the story is how refugees are people “just like me, with favorite books, foods and bedtime stories, who honor their parents and work hard to survive.”

John D. is a Life Scout in Troop 46, chartered to Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville. He’s been through National Youth Leadership Training and has served on NYLT staff.

Right now he’s working on his Eagle Scout service project, where he will lead volunteers in the construction of a ferro-cement water tank at his school, Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville, Tenn.

In addition to Scouting and school, John D. is on his school’s debate team. That’s actually how he first became interested in the plight of refugees. When the topic of refugees was selected for debate, John D. started to dig beyond the faceless facts and figures. He wanted to learn more about the people.

Through recorded interviews and educational commentary, RefugeeLikeMe will introduce others to the refugees in their community and beyond.

Go John D.!

More about Julio “James” Hernandez

James is a 16-year-old Eagle Scout who has given hundreds of hours of service to his community.

He earned a bronze President’s Volunteer Service Award and is president of the junior class for the Young Men’s Service League.

In January, James raised $1,000 to help build houses for needy families in Guatemala.

Even while juggling Scouting, school and service, James works 10 to 15 hours a week at a fast food restaurant.

When customers learn about his hearing loss, they sometimes ask if they need to speak up or use sign language.

No, he assures them. He hears just fine with hearing aids, thank you.

He’s serving up food and an enlightening lesson about living with hearing loss.

Go James!

When he needed surgery, Scouting helped ease his mind

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Last December, Mike Landis (right) started experiencing numbness in his face and down his left arm. Concerned, he saw his doctor, who referred him to a specialist in Salem, Va. After an MRI, the specialist urged Landis to have surgery immediately. He had a ruptured disc in his neck that was pressing on a nerve.

“This would have caused me to lose the use of my arm and hand at some point if not operated on,” Landis says.

Less than a week before his surgery, the specialist called Landis, informing him that he was being called out of town on an emergency and was referring him to Dr. Gregory Riebel, an orthopedic surgeon at another clinic in town.

“I was getting extremely nervous about this now with all the last-minute changes happening and if I would get the care that I needed,” Landis says.

Those worries quickly melted away after talking with Dr. Riebel — a fellow Eagle Scout.

Power of a common bond

Dr. Riebel keeps Scouting plaques up around his office. He earned the Eagle Scout Award in 1977 in Ballston, N.Y., and served as an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 289 in Roanoke, Va., where his son earned Eagle a few years ago.

He often wears an Eagle pin on his cap when traveling around town. It has sparked a few conversations with others, giving him the opportunity to share what Scouting is all about with those who are curious as well as connecting him with strangers who are involved in Scouts.

“No use hiding your candle under a hat,” Dr. Rieble says.

When Landis discovered his surgeon is also an Eagle Scout, the needed procedure didn’t sound so intimidating.

“That was the turning point for me; it was like a weight was lifted and I knew that everything was going to be fine with me and the surgery,” says Landis, who earned his Eagle in 1969 in Covington, Va. “My heart relaxed, and I was at peace with it all.”

That peace stemmed from Landis knowing what it takes to earn the Eagle Scout Award and the character of those who become one.

“As we all know, that the trail to Eagle is not easy and you can’t get there by barely sliding though,” he says. “There is an honor and code that goes with being an Eagle and doing the best you can do all the time. This is why I felt comfortable with him doing my surgery.”

The surgery went well, and now with an artificial disc, Landis has had no pain or problems since the procedure.

“I attribute this to God, and him working through two Eagle Scouts to solve a common problem that brought us together,” Landis says.

Top 5 merit badges Scouts could earn while completing assignments for school

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Here’s a word problem to ponder: How can one homework assignment count twice?

Easy. By getting credit for that work at school and in Scouts.

Turns out several merit badge requirements align perfectly with schoolwork. And there’s no BSA rule against going for double credit. (Same goes for service projects done at school. The Guide to Advancement says that “counting service hours for school or elsewhere in the community and also for advancement is not considered double counting since the hours are counted only once for advancement purposes.”)

Makes that 10-page essay seem a little more palatable, huh?

Now that school is back in session, let’s look at the top 5 merit badge Scouts can earn while completing homework, group projects or other school assignments.


When taking a test, you’re supposed to answer the easy questions first. I’m going to apply that same theory to this list of school-related merit badges.

The Scholarship merit badge, where Scouts must show an improvement in their grades and demonstrate good leadership skills at school, is the most obvious inclusion here.

But here’s another fact about test-taking: Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one.


Scouts who find and read six books from a variety of genres have completed the most time-consuming step for the Reading merit badge.

To find those books, the Scout must work with a merit badge counselor or a librarian — perhaps a school librarian .

My favorite requirement for the Reading MB is the four service hours needed for requirement 4. Scouts could complete that by volunteering at their school library or reading to children.


Allow me to paraphrase William Shakespeare: All the world’s a stage, and the Scouts who are part of the cast or crew of a school musical or play should work concurrently on the Theater merit badge.

That’s pretty much what he meant.

While Scouts design sets or costumes, memorize lines, or install stage lighting for a school production, they can check off one requirement after another.

That is, assuming they take the effort to do so. After all, as Shakespeare actually wrote, “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”


Choose a sample program and then modify the code or add a function or subroutine to it. Then debug and demonstrate the modified program to your counselor.

That merit badge requirement might sound like gibberish to those of us who grew up in the days of dial-up. But today’s teens? They’re nodding their heads in understanding.

That’s why more and more schools offer classes in computer programming, where students learn skills that employers crave.

It’s also why the BSA in 2013 released the Programming merit badge, giving Scouts a STEM-focused introduction to a skill that is both fun and practical.


Athletics merit badge challenges Scouts to improve their performance in activities like running, weightlifting or basketball.

They must show improvement over a three-month period, tracking their progress and using math skills to see how much they’ve improved.

This merit badge could easily be completed in a season of school sports or semester of PE class.

That is, assuming schools still have PE class.

For extra credit, read this note about merit badge requirements

The Guide to Advancement states that a merit badge counselor can consider any work toward requirements completed prior to the initial discussion with the unit leader.

Here’s the exact reference, Section

Typically after the unit leader signs the blue card, the Scout contacts the merit badge counselor and sets an appointment. Even though Scouts may benefit from reviewing requirements with a counselor before pursuing them, a boy may begin working on a merit badge at any time after he is registered. It is the counselor’s decision whether to accept work or activities completed prior to the issuing of the signed blue card. Common sense should prevail, however. For example, nights already camped as a Boy Scout, or coins or stamps already collected, would count toward their respective badges.

In other words, it’s possible to complete merit badge requirements even before getting a blue card from a unit leader and finding a merit badge counselor.

Still, a Scout’s best bet is to find a counselor before working on a merit badge. This just eliminates any potential snags down the road.

After all, once a badge is started there’s no time limit for completing it — other than the Scout’s 18th birthday.

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.

‘Scouting brought him back to us!’ say parents of boy with anxiety, autism

Bryan On Scouting -

Rodger and Annette Jones tried several tactics to help their son deal with his anxiety, attention deficit disorder and high-functioning autism.

It worked for a while, but things took a troubling turn in the fourth grade. That’s when Jasper starting taking standardized tests at school. Though he has an IQ of 129, the test environment caused him to have emotional meltdowns and suicidal expressions.

Rodger and Annette read every book and article they could find and developed an array of treatment options.

They used exercise, fidget spinners and therapy. They signed him up for karate. They found medication that helped smooth things out.

And then they signed Jasper up for Cub Scouts. This simple step changed things for the better.

“Scouting brought him back to us!” Annette tells me.

Jasper has not let his special needs slow him down, and that’s why Annette was eager to share his story with the Scouting world.

“I believe his story can help many others,” she says. “Many still hide and are ashamed of their disabilities. They let it define them; they need to let it guide them in a positive way.”

A safe haven for all

Jasper’s story underlines one of my favorite things about the Scouting movement: the fact that there’s room for everyone in the BSA, especially young people with special needs.

“The Scouting program is structured in such a way that a youth who has a disability can achieve — and be accommodated where appropriate,” says Tony Mei, a Scouter from Novato, Calif., whom I interviewed for a Scouting magazine article last year.

Cool thing is, the Scout with special needs isn’t the only one who benefits.

“It is a two-way street when youth with disabilities are included in the unit,” Mei says. “Often the benefit is even greater for the other Scouts because it gives them a first-hand appreciation of what the Scout with a disability can do.”

Jasper’s story

Jasper has come a long way since those meltdowns in fourth grade.

Counseling is helping him better communicate with his peers. His favorite subject is science, where he learned to build a working radio. And in Scouts, his focus is on earning the program’s top honor — and then some.

“I’m after the rank of Eagle and the STEM Nova Award, which will help me towards becoming an aero-engineer,” he told the Madison County Carrier last month.

Not many 11-year-olds dream of becoming aerospace engineers. But then, Jasper isn’t like many 11-year-olds.

Earlier this summer, he gave up a week of his vacation to volunteer at a Cub Scout day camp.

“There he counseled a Cub with the same disabilities, making that child’s camp make such a difference in his life,” Annette says. “The parents and babysitter said [the Cub Scout] was better every night coming home from camp.”

After that, Jasper went to summer camp at Wallwood Scout Reservation in Florida. He took merit badge classes and was awarded a gold pencil for being the Scout that stood out the most.

Jasper’s action-packed summer continued with trips to see family in New Jersey, take apart and reassemble electronics with his great uncle in Ohio, visit the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, and learn robotics at a summer camp at the University of Florida.

Jasper has always been a remarkable young man. Scouting simply helps him shine.


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