Scouting News from the Internet

Meet your 2017 Silver Buffalo Award class

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Some have names you know: Robert Baden-Powell, Charles Lindbergh, Hank Aaron.

Others are Scouters whose names are less universally known but whose impact on Scouting has been just as transformative.

Their common bond: the Silver Buffalo Award — the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor for adult volunteers. It has been presented since 1926 for devoted service to Scouting on a national level. (It’s one of three members of the Silver family, joined by the Silver Beaver for council-level service and the Silver Antelope for regional-level service.)

Tonight, 12 Scouters — 10 men and two women — join the list of Silver Buffalo Award honorees — a list that includes six Medal of Honor recipients, three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and 14 presidents of the United States.

Kent Clayburn, chairman of the BSA National Court of Honor, will announce the awards tonight at the BSA’s annual meeting in Florida. He will be joined on stage by BSA President Randall Stephenson, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh and National Commissioner Charles Dahlquist.

2017 Silver Buffalo class, at a glance

These men and women will receive the red-and-white Silver Buffalo Award medals tonight. They’ll also receive a red-and-white square knot, which represents the award, for wear on their uniforms.

  • David Biegler — Circle Ten Council (Dallas, Texas)
  • Nelson R. Block — Sam Houston Area Council (Houston, Texas)*
  • L. H. (Larry) Chase — Atlanta Area Council (Marietta, Ga.)
  • Lucia Cronin — Bay-Lakes Council (River Hills, Wis.)
  • Robert G. Dealaman — Baden Powell Council (Endwell, N.Y.)
  • Eric L. Hiser — Grand Canyon Council (Phoenix, Ariz.)*
  • Kenneth P. King — Three Fires Council (St. Charles, Ill.)*
  • Carol McCarthy — Buckskin Council (Fayetteville, W.Va.)
  • Daniel G. Ownby — Sam Houston Area Council (Houston, Texas)*
  • Aubrey B. Patterson — Yocona Area Council (Tupelo, Miss.)
  • Mark D. Rose — Gulf Ridge Council (Lutz, Fla.)*
  • David L. Steward — Greater St. Louis Area Council (St. Louis, Mo.)

*The asterisk indicates the Silver Buffalo recipient is an Eagle Scout.

For a closer look at each of these 12 impressive Scouters, read on.

David Biegler

Dallas, Texas

David Biegler has made his professional mark in the outdoors through oil and gas ventures and in ranching, but he says his proudest moment came at an inner-city school during a flag-lowering ceremony.

Biegler said he watched as new Cub Scouts recited the Pledge of Allegiance before lowering the American flag and was later told by the principal about the positive impact Scouting was having on his school and the lives of the boys who participated.

In his three decades of Scouting, Biegler has distinguished himself at the council, area, regional and national levels.


  • He has served in several council and area positions as well as president of the Southern Region, and at the national level on the Chief Scout Executive Selection Committee.
  • He is a recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award and the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards.
  • His commitment to serving the region’s youth extends to his involvement in Children’s Health System and the Dallas-based Education Is Freedom organization.
  • He and his wife, Diane Knape, have six children and five grandchildren.
Nelson R. Block

Houston, Texas

Much of Distinguished Eagle Scout Nelson Block’s work has been in Scouting history.

He has interpreted our history, culture and social impact to our members and the public, and he has published modern editions of books by Lord Baden-Powell, E. Urner Goodman and William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.

In 2002, the Chief Scout of the United Kingdom recognized his efforts for Scouting history by naming him the Founder Gilwell Fellow.


  • He co-chaired the 2008 Johns Hopkins University program “Scouting: A Centennial History Symposium,” gathering 30 historians from 10 countries.
  • He is a shareholder with the Winstead law firm in Houston. He has represented his local council for 28 years, pro bono.
  • In addition to their three sons and daughters-in-law, Block and his wife, Linda, a den leader herself for 10 years, have five grandchildren.
L. H. (Larry) Chase

Marietta, Ga.

For Larry Chase, a key word is “support” — as in instructional and leadership support for the adult leaders of packs, troops, and crews and for commissioners who enable them to fulfill their own responsibilities.

Chase, who has amassed 32 years as a Scouter, has focused on the needs of leadership and instruction at nearly every level of Scouting.

“If I must pick one achievement, it would be development and delivery of the Council Commissioner Conference and online training based upon it,” he said.

The conference has been offered nine times at Philmont Training Center and Sea Base and has served more than 150 volunteers and professionals from more than 100 councils.


  • Currently the National Commissioner Service Team’s Recruitment and Retention chairman, Chase has served on the Philmont Training Center and Sea Base faculty on nine occasions.
  • He is a four-time National Jamboree staff member and has been tapped to serve as a staff member for the 2017 National Jamboree and 2019 World Jamboree.
  • He is a board member of the Atlanta Area Council and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Scoutmaster Award of Merit, the Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award and the Distinguished Commissioner Service Award.
  • Now retired, he and his wife, Mae, have three sons — all of whom attained the Eagle Scout rank — and eight grandchildren.
Lucia Cronin

River Hills, Wis.

Lucia Cronin, a former Girl Scout turned vice president in investment banking, has applied her professional interests to her Scouting pursuits.

A member of the Wells Fargo Asset Management’s diversity and community support committees, she has compiled a 22-year record of service at the unit, council, regional and national levels.


  • Cronin wrote the original Cub Scout den meeting plans and the Year A/Year B Manual for Scoutreach and multi-age Cub Scout dens.
  • She has served the Central Region as a member of its executive committee, as membership vice president, and as a member of its strategic planning committee.
  • Her local experience includes serving on the executive boards of both the Bay-Lakes Council and Three Harbors Council. She is a recipient of the Silver Antelope, Silver Beaver and Bronze Pelican awards, as well as the St. George Medal.
  • Cronin, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University, has three sons, all of whom are Eagle Scouts.
Robert G. Dealaman

Endwell, N.Y.

Robert Dealaman, a former assistant Scoutmaster and Exploring Advisor with the Baden-Powell Council, has served in several capacities throughout his Scouting career — including the national Boy Scout Training Committee, the Philmont Leadership Challenge and 21st Century Wood Badge task forces.

Most recently, Dealaman worked with a national Outdoor Programs team to evaluate facilities of 26 properties across upstate New York and Vermont.


  • Dealaman currently serves on the National Camp Accreditation Program Support Committee and the Philmont Training Center Task Force and is regional chair of the NCAP assessment.
  • A participant in 14 National Jamborees and two World Jamborees, he is a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and has been recognized with the Silver Antelope, Silver Beaver and International Scouter awards.
  • He retired from Link Flight Simulation as a facilities manager.
Eric L. Hiser

Phoenix, Ariz.

Camping, where interaction with the environment converges with the engagement of other Scouts, is one of those opportunities “where Scouting happens, where youth learn to make ethical and moral decisions and when to lead and when to share leadership to achieve their goals.”

To that end, Eric Hiser, the standards chair for the National Camp Accreditation Program Support Committee and member of the national Outdoor Programs Support Committee, has served Scouting for 35 years.


  • He has chaired the Outdoor Ethics and Camp Standards task forces and served on the Camping, Strategic Impact Exchange and Boy Scout Handbook task forces.
  • An Eagle Scout with six palms, he has received the Silver Antelope and Silver Beaver awards among many other awards, including the Distinguished Service to Conservation and the Doctorate of Commissioner Science awards.
  • He is a partner with the Jorden Hiser & Joy law firm.
  • He and his wife, Anne Stone, have one daughter.
Kenneth P. King

St. Charles, Ill.

Dr. Ken King’s professional education background has enabled him to help develop content and contribute to the teaching infrastructure across multiple Scouting programs.

An education professor at Roosevelt University in Illinois, King has assisted with revisions of handbooks, guides and educational materials that contribute to and promote the success of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Venturing.


  • He is a contributor to content for Cub Scouting and Venturing conferences at the Philmont Training Center, for Venturers at Sea Base, and for the National Camping School program.
  • He led the development of materials for both the Lion pilot program and content for the Handbook for Venturers. Additionally, King, an Eagle Scout, has developed outreach materials that educate school board members, elementary, middle and high school teachers and principals on the value of the Scouting experience.
  • Among his many honors, King has been recognized with the Silver Antelope and Silver Beaver.
  • King and his wife, Tina, have two sons, one of whom is an Eagle Scout.
Carol McCarthy

Fayetteville, W.Va.

As a recipient of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the Navy’s highest civilian award, Carol McCarthy was recognized for her service in training military spouses throughout her husband’s 38-year Navy career.

As an advocate for Scouting, she has continued to apply her management and training expertise from the unit level to the World Jamboree. Now the training chair for the Buckskin Council in counties spanning West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, her involvement began in the 1980s when she trained leaders and served in every Cub Scout pack position.


  • She has served as headquarters manager and administrator for the BSA contingent at two World Jamborees.
  • She has received the Silver Beaver Award, District Award of Merit and the Distinguished Commissioner Service Award, among other honors.
  • She is a professional graphic artist and calligrapher.
  • McCarthy and her husband, Dan, have three sons, all of whom are Eagle Scouts, and one grandchild. Dan McCarthy also is a Silver Buffalo Award recipient.
Daniel G. Ownby

Houston, Texas

One of Dan Ownby’s earliest experiences as a Scout was meeting Scouts from the Netherlands at a Cub Scout day camp in Tulsa, Okla. Now he is completing his second and final three-year term as a vice chair of the World Scout Committee that oversees more than 50 million Scouts in 164 countries.

He is the youngest BSA member ever elected to the world governing body. The 28-year Scouter served as the chair of the 2009 Philmont International Representatives Conference. He was deputy camp chief at the 2015 World Jamboree in Japan and is slated to serve as the BSA contingent leader for the 2019 World Jamboree.


  • Ownby is a board member for the Sam Houston Area Council and current International Commissioner and chair of the International Committee. He is a board member for the Sam Houston Area Council.
  • He counts becoming an Eagle Scout as the Scouting achievement of which he is most proud. He’s also a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and has been recognized with numerous awards, including five international Scouting awards from Guatemala (twice), Japan, Venezuela and Korea.
  • He is president of West Shore Pipeline. He and his wife, Allison, live in Houston,
Aubrey B. Patterson

Tupelo, Miss.

Retired banker Aubrey Patterson says the achievement in Scouting that makes him most proud is the economic and social leadership being provided the state of Mississippi by the young people who have been mentored by the Yocona Area Council.

“In three decades of work, we’ve helped develop two generations of new leaders for North Mississippi,” said Patterson, who also was a co-founder of the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi. “Much of our progress as a region, economically and socially, can be directly attributed to the character of these young men.”


  • Patterson, chairman emeritus of BancorpSouth Inc., has been a member of the BSA’s National Executive Board and has served as the treasurer, president and chair of the Yocona Area Council.
  • In his 34 years of Scouting, he has been recognized with the Silver Antelope and Silver Beaver awards, and the Yocona Area Council Distinguished Citizen Award, just to name a few.
  • An Air Force veteran, Patterson served as a trustee and member of the executive committee of the Presbyterian Church USA Foundation and as a trustee of Columbia Theological Seminary.
  • He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and a member of its alumni hall of fame. He and his wife, Ruby Kathryn, have three children and eight grandchildren.
Mark D. Rose

Lutz, Fla.

Mark Rose, whose professional career has centered around designing and building world-class roller coasters, theme park rides and animal habitats, has focused on developing programs and maintaining properties for Scouting from the council to the national levels.

He served on the three-member committee that evaluated 84 sites throughout 26 states over a two-year period to find a permanent home for the national jamboree, which is now located at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.


  • A Distinguished Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, Rose has received several Scouting awards, including the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards. He is a member of the Second Century Society.
  • Outside of Scouting, Rose mentors and gives lectures to hundreds of aspiring engineers who have an interest in theme parks and roller coasters.
  • He is part of the senior management team that won the 2016 Liseberg Applause Award for Best Theme Park in the World (Busch Gardens, Tampa, Fla.).
  • He and his wife, Fifi, have three children.
David L. Steward

St. Louis, Mo.

Dave Steward gives credit to the role models from his youth, including his parents, his minister, and his Boy Scout leader, for instilling in him discipline, a sense of teamwork, and a positive attitude that have enabled him to succeed as an entrepreneur while keeping his business interests rooted within an ethical framework.

Steward, whose World Wide Technology is the second-largest privately held company in the St. Louis area and the largest African-American-owned technology company in the country, is the board chairman for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, an executive committee member of the Central Region and a vice president and executive board member of the National Council.

He landed a position with the BSA in 1973 following his college graduation and after borrowing $300 and hitchhiking to St. Louis. He used his later experience in marketing and freight sales for the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. to found a pair of companies revolving around the auditing of railroad freight transactions. The eventual incorporation of data system technology into the process led to his creating World Wide Technology, a leading systems integrator and provider of supply chain solutions with more than 4,000 employees throughout the world.

His humble beginnings led him to create a corporate culture of serving others, calling on himself and his employees to be servants to each other, customers, vendors and the community.


  • Steward is a graduate of Central Missouri State University.
  • He and his wife, Thelma, a registered nurse, have two children and two grandchildren.

Cambodian refugee who fled ‘killing fields’ leads refugee unit in America

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Saborn Va was sitting in his Salt Lake City church a year ago when a group of church leaders asked for volunteers to help lead a Scout unit made up entirely of refugees.

Many of these boys had lost a parent to violence in their native country. Most of them had lost their way in the world. All of them needed the structure, direction and discipline that Scouting provides.

Va had only a brief experience in Scouting as a teen. Nonetheless, he knew right away that he was being called by a higher power.

Va was born in Cambodia near the “killing fields,” a group of sites where more than a million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge, the brutal communist regime that was in power there in the late 1970s. In 1980, the village where he lived with his mother was invaded by hostile fighters. Va’s mom, pregnant at the time, grabbed him and ran.

When the shooting became too intense, Va’s mother pushed him to the ground and lay on top of him until the fighting stopped.

The family survived, thankfully, but Va himself became a refugee, living in Florida and then California before settling in Salt Lake City.

Va, now 37, told his story to hundreds of attendees at the BSA’s annual meeting Thursday morning in Orlando.

“The sunset of our lives became a sunrise,” he said of his family’s move to the United States. “This country has given me everything.”

The Burmese Scouting patch, banned in the 1940s, has been resurrected. Spreading Scouting

Now, decades after his family fled their native country, he leads a group of 30 refugees as a Varsity team coach in the Great Salt Lake Council. The Scouts come from all over, though most are Karenni or Karen people from Myanmar and Thailand.

Very few of the boys knew each other before they joined Scouting. Now, they’ve all become close friends. It’s not a huge exaggeration to say that the structure, direction, discipline — and even love — provided by Scouting has saved their lives.

“We go camping once a month,” Saborn says. “As long as we’re outdoors, and as long as they’re together, they absolutely love it. Whether we go fishing or if they’re just playing in the woods or even if they’re just sitting in a tent. They love it.”

The Great Salt Lake Council’s Utah Refugee Scout Program is chaired by Michael Nebeker, an Eagle Scout who in his day job raises funds for Operation Smile, a global network of doctors who donate thousands of hours of service to provide surgical care for children with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

Nebeker joined Va at the annual meeting and gave a tearful, emotional testimony about the program.

“These refugees need Scouting more than ever before,” he said. “They need Scouting, and we need them.”

6 ways to help young people remember the true meaning of Memorial Day

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Somewhere along the way, we forgot what Memorial Day is all about.

The last Monday in May is still the day where we honor men and women who died in service to our country.

But now it’s being crowded out by trips to the lake, family cookouts and mattress sales. It is, perhaps, best known as the unofficial start of summer.

I’m all for family kickball tournaments and discounted appliances. But let’s enjoy those while also honoring Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And let’s do more than just reshare a patriotic photo on Facebook.

This isn’t meant as a lecture but as a suggestion to parents that they remind young people about the significance of Memorial Day.

This isn’t a new sentiment, either. Just look at what Scouting magazine wrote in our May 1928 issue:

Memorial Day is welcomed not as a chance to play baseball on the corner lot, or to gape at the parade as the band goes by, but as an opportunity for the Scouts to attain a realization that they are the trustees of the traditions of American ideals of service to which this day is dedicated.

For more than 100 years, Scouts have done their “duty to country” — as phrased in our Scout Oath. Here are six ways to keep that patriotic pledge going for another 100 years.

1. Visit a memorial cemetery

Most communities have within driving distance a cemetery where soldiers are interred.

Take your Scouts, in uniform if possible, to the cemetery to clean the grounds and decorate graves with flowers or wreaths.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a listing of state and national veterans cemeteries. The VA also provides a nationwide gravesite locator.

You can learn more about volunteering with the National Cemetery Administration here.

2. Read World War II-era yearbooks

“See you next year!” As World War II began, that oft-used yearbook inscription, scrawled above a classmate’s signature, took on a new meaning.

Teenagers, usually focused on prom or grades or sports, had to face the realities of a global war.

Encourage your school-age kids to flip through dozens of World War II-era yearbooks at this site, created by the National WWII Museum.

The site includes discussion questions inspired by the yearbook pages. For example, in the 1942 volume from Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, one student ponders “Should we hate our enemies?”

Talk through discussion questions with your teen. 

3. Learn about a soldier who died in action

A young person reads in a textbook that more than 400,000 Americans died in World War II and more than 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War.

But for many of us, adults included, that number is very abstract. The best way to understand the magnitude of this service and sacrifice is learning about a single soldier who died.

This could be an ancestor or family member. Or you could search for a Medal of Honor recipient at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.

The citation for each Medal of Honor recipient includes a narrative explaining how the person died. You might encourage your son or daughter to find a Medal of Honor recipient with the same first or last name, furthering their connection to the past.

4. Visit a VA hospital or veteran

Take treats, books or fresh flowers to a veterans hospital or home of a veteran.

Pretty much any veteran would enjoy a visit from a smiling young person. The young person will benefit from the interaction, as well.

Assuming the veteran is comfortable talking about his or her service, encourage your young people to ask questions and have a conversation.

Find a VA location near you here.

5. Make a patriotic craft project

With kids, telling is rarely as effective as doing.

This site has tons of patriotic craft ideas, many using items already in your pantry.

These craft projects could be done as a family or with your Cub Scout den or pack. Make a flag from drinking straws, a patriotic jar candle, or a red, white and blue wind sock.

6. Watch a military movie or show

Many war movies are inappropriate for children. Saving Private RyanBlack Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty are smart, powerful dramas that remind us about the harsh realities of war. But they aren’t recommended for young people under age 17.

However, there are some military-themed shows and movies recommended for younger audiences by Common Sense Media, my go-to site for determining a movie’s appropriateness.

  • Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front: 2006 Disney Channel movie about an American girl who learns about sacrifice during World War II.
  • Max: 2015 movie about a brave military dog who saves the day.
  • America: The Story of Us: 2010 History channel series that aired in 12 parts. There are episodes about the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II.
  • Patton: 1971 Best Picture winner about World War II Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

2017 Eagle Project of the Year: He built sensory rooms for kids with autism

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Ever since he was in Cub Scouts, Blake Deaton knew he wanted his Eagle Scout service project to help students with special needs.

Students like his twin brother, Shane, who is autistic and legally blind.

So when he became a Life Scout, Blake approached Savanna Hersh, Shane’s special-needs teacher. He asked Hersh (seen with Blake in the photo above) what Shane’s classroom needed most.

“And, I said, ‘an iPad?'” Hersh remembers telling Blake. “You know, we could always use some more technology. And it was, ‘No. Think bigger.'”

So Blake and Hersh determined that the school could really use a sensory room specially designed for children with autism. A sensory room includes special lighting, padded floors and educational toys.

That “think bigger” approach to helping others earned Blake a writeup on and, announced this week, the 2017 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

The Eagle Scout is a member of Troop 130 in Morehead City, N.C.

Above and beyond

When Blake settled on the plan to build the sensory room at Morehead Middle School, Hersh was “cautiously thrilled.”

Cautiously, she says, because “to set up and fully equip a sensory room is well over $10,000.”

Blake was undeterred.

“Sure, raising $10,000 can be a difficult task,” he says. “However, if it’s for a worthy cause, and you have a plan, the task gets easier.”

Blake sold T-shirts and held a one-day fundraiser where members of the community could pay to ride in an airplane.

He called his project  “Wings for Autism,” because “I’ve always believed that those with special needs are God’s special angels,” Blake says.

In the end, Blake raised $30,000 — enough to build not one but two sensory rooms. The People magazine story brought publicity that led to donations and lots of volunteers willing to help Blake reach his goal.

“I can’t get over it,” Hersh says. “The fact that he raised enough money not only for one sensory room but for two sensory rooms. That means these students have this resource to carry them on through the years. For that, I, myself, and, I know the families surrounding who this room affects — we definitely appreciate it. So thank you, Blake.”

Watch the videos

Find two videos below. The first was made to celebrate Blake’s winning the 2017 Eagle Scout Project of the Year Award.

The second was his submission video for the award.

Congrats, Blake! Great job.

This Eagle Scout received NESA’s largest scholarship in 2017

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Eagle Scout Alex Sims is all about helping other people.

He participates in Scouting for Food drives. He volunteers to clean up his school and his community.  And each month, he and some buddies head to the library to teach science to younger students.

But the service project closest to Alex’s heart is the not-for-profit organization he started to honor his late twin brother, Christopher.

Christopher committed suicide in 2014 when he was just 14 years old. Christopher’s Angels is a program to help combat bullying and teen suicide.

In recognition of Alex’s selflessness and service — plus his academic success and future college plans — the National Eagle Scout Association awarded him the 2017 NESA STEM scholarship.

At $50,000 ($12,500 a year for four years), it is NESA’s largest scholarship. It is awarded each year to an applicant who plans to major in a science, technology, engineering or math field.

More about Alex

Alexander Sims is a member of Troop 722 out of Richmond, Va.

He earned 119 merit badges — many with a direct connection to STEM fields. He was the first Scout in the Heart of Virginia Council to earn the Dr. Bernard Harris Supernova Award. And now he’s hard at work on the Thomas Edison Supernova Award.

In college, he’ll study chemical or mechanical engineering “because I find molecules and chemistry really interesting,” he says.

He’s also a member of his school’s robotics team.

Service before self

“Scouting has taught me the importance of service to the community,” Alex says.

In addition to a significant amount of service hours with Troop 722, Alex spends a ton of time working with Christopher’s Angels.

The mission of Christopher’s Angels is simple: On the 22nd of each month, “Angels” perform a random good deed or friendly act. This could be as simple as saying hello to a stranger or joining someone who is eating alone in the lunchroom.

“The idea is that these good deeds, however small, add up to make a difference in the community,” Alex says.

Growing Scouting

Another way Alex gives back is by helping bring young people into the BSA.

“I want to see more kids enjoy all the benefits that I’ve received,” he says. “In fact, one of the patches I’m most proud about is the recruiter patch.”

That explains how Alex (with some assistance from his leaders), helped his troop go from 20 to more than 60 Scouts.

In August, Alex is off to college, where his STEM-heavy courseload will keep him busy.

“But as I grow older, I want to stay involved in Scouting,” he says. “Because it’s changed my life, and I want to see it change others.”

Watch the video

The Philmont Hymn: The enchanting tale behind Philmont’s official song

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Philmont is a land of starlit skies, aspen-covered hills and wind in whisp’ring pines.

That’s how John Westfall, who wrote “The Philmont Hymn,” described the Scouting paradise in New Mexico.

Westfall was a teenager in 1945 when he wrote the song. He had just finished a Philmont trip, and the beauty of this hiking high-adventure base inspired him.

Seven decades later, everyone who visits Philmont learns Westfall’s tune. It’s sung in those meditative moments as the campfire fades and Scouts reflect on the day that was.

Back in civilization, those who have conquered Philmont find themselves humming “The Philmont Hymn” for weeks and months later. It is the official song of Philmont Scout Ranch.

This is the story of how Westfall wrote “The Philmont Hymn.”

A Jamboree dream

John Benton Westfall was born on Sept. 7, 1927, in Kansas City, Mo.

In 1945, Westfall was a member of the Explorer post in Independence, Kan. — part of what was then the BSA’s SeKan Council and is now the Quivira Council.

Westfall and some of his fellow Explorers wanted to attend the World Scout Jamboree in 1947 in France. There was just one problem: He’d have to come up with the $200 registration fee in less than a year. (That’s more than $2,700 in 2017 dollars.)

In his job working the soda fountain at Utter’s Drug Store, Westfall made just 20 cents an hour ($2.72 an hour in 2017 dollars). Westfall’s parents didn’t have the means to pay, either.

With the Jamboree no longer an option, Westfall’s post shifted its focus from Europe to New Mexico.

This “Plan B” turned into the summer of a lifetime.

To Philmont by train

For Westfall, the summer of 1945 was packed with Scouting fun.

In the first part of the summer, he and some buddies worked at Camp Cauble in Benedict, Kan. Westfall, 17 at the time, was in charge of the nature area. He taught bird study, zoology and more.

When summer camp season ended, Westfall and his Explorer post hopped on the train for Philmont.

They took a train from Independence to Newton, Kan. There they boarded the Santa Fe Chief train, which took them to Raton, N.M.

(These days, the Amtrak Southwest Chief follows that same route, with Scouts still disembarking for Philmont at the station in Raton.)

In Raton, Westfall and his post were taken by bus to Philmont.

‘Purple mountains rise’

These young men from Kansas — where what qualifies for a mountain is just 4,039 feet high — were awestruck. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, part of the Rockies, loomed before them at more than 13,000 feet.

Someone pointed out the Tooth of Time, and the Explorers immediately said “let’s hike that.”

During his time at Philmont, Westfall camped, hiked and rode horses. He visited the same spots frequented by many of today’s Philmont participants — places like Abreu, Fish Camp, Cimarroncito and Rayado.

Through it all, Philmont’s natural beauty formed an indelible impression.

The guys were on a hike to Cypher’s Mine when Westfall dug out a scrap of paper and jotted down a poem.

That night, he read it to a friend. The friend liked it but thought it needed some music. Westfall put the piece of paper into his pocket and forgot about it …

Finding a rhythm

… until he was on the train headed home.

It was from his seat on the Santa Fe Chief that Westfall added a tune to his words.

“The rhythm in ‘The Philmont Hymn’ is not really the clip-clop of the heels of the horses, but rather it is the click-clack of the train wheels as they passed over the breaks in the rails,” Westfall later said.

Wesftall named his song “Silver on the Sage” — the tune’s first four words.

Silver on the sage,
Starlit skies above,
Aspen covered hills,
Country that I love.

Philmont here’s to thee,
Scouting paradise,
Out in God’s country, tonight

Wind in whispering pines,
Eagles soaring high,
Purple mountains rise,
Against an azure sky.

Philmont here’s to thee,
Scouting paradise,
Out in God’s country tonight.

A song in hibernation

Westfall didn’t think much about Philmont — or his song — over the next two years. He enrolled at what is now Pittsburg State University, where he would earn a degree in psychology.

In the spring of 1947, when he began thinking about a summer job, his thoughts returned to Philmont.

He applied for a summer position but was rejected in a devastatingly stark form letter.

“The job you applied for has been filled by a Scout who has more experience in the area of interest listed,” it read.

Westfall was confused. He wasn’t asked to list any experience on his application, so how could that be?

Undeterred, Westfall took a train to Tulsa, Okla., and marched straight to the office of the man who wrote the letter.

He presented himself, unannounced, to Jim Fitch, who worked for Phillips Properties and managed the Philmont staff.

‘You have a job’

Fitch liked Westfall’s persistence. How could he not?

“Young man, you are the first to question that letter,” Fitch told him. “If you want on the Philmont staff that badly, show up on June 9, and you have a job.”

Westfall arrived at Philmont at 7:30 p.m. June 5, 1947.

After a staff meeting, Westfall told Clarence Dunn, who directed the ranger staff, about “Silver on the Sage.”

Dunn asked him to sing it at the staff breakfast the next morning. It was a hit.

Westfall was the lone staffer working at the backcountry camp called Cimarron Bench (now called Visto Grande). He got a tent, some cooking supplies, tools and a burro named Henry.

Around the campfire

For the Philmont crews that stopped at Westfall’s camp, the evening campfire was the highlight of the day.

They sat in a circle as Westfall listened to stories of their treks. He told his own stories, too, like the time a mountain lion entered Cimarron Bench camp, ate some scraps of food and then screamed. Westfall, watching from his tent, was too scared to even move.

As the campfire faded each night, Westfall taught the hikers “Silver on the Sage.”

The Scouts and Explorers loved it, singing and humming it the rest of the trip. The song’s legendary status grew and grew as more Scouts learned it.

An ode to Philmont

Westfall’s song continued to spread and eventually was renamed “The Philmont Hymn,” the ranch’s official song.

The song’s success is about more than its simple elegance. It became popular because of its origin story. Because it was written by a young man who fell in love with Philmont.

After graduating college, Westfall spent 11 years as a Scouting professional in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.

He then worked for Phillips Petroleum until he retired in 1985. He continued to serve on his local Scout council’s board and was a member of the Philmont Staff Association.

Westfall died May 8, 2009, in Bartlesville, Okla. He was 81.

His song — and the touching story behind it — live on every time a young person ventures “out in God’s country.”

Philmont Hymn sheet music

Top photo by Skyler Ballard/PhilNews

My source for the above was the 1988 book High Adventure Among the Magic Mountains: Philmont, the First 50 Years, by Minor S. Huffman.

Thanks to Nettie Francis and Matt Rendahl for the story idea.

Why you should designate 1 responsible person to be a water watcher

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If everybody’s in charge of watching kids in the water, that usually means nobody is watching.

By selecting a single, responsible adult to be in charge of supervision, you could prevent drownings and save lives.

Designate a water watcher — at both Scouting and non-Scouting events — whenever you’re in, on or around water.

Why not use the team approach? Same reason that, in an emergency, you don’t say “someone call 911!” You point to a specific person and say, “you, call 911!”

Assigning one person to the task means it’ll get done.

The reminder comes from Water Safety USA, a roundtable of nonprofit and governmental organizations committed to preventing drownings. The BSA is one of 13 founding members of Water Safety USA. Others include the American Red Cross, the National Park Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the USA Swimming Foundation and the YMCA.

Each year, Water Safety USA selects one simple, vital message to be its focus. For 2017, it’s this: “Designate a water watcher — supervision could save a life.”

What does a water watcher do?

In addition to the obvious — constant, attentive supervision — a water watcher should:

  • Emphasize prevention first by encouraging safe activities and stopping any unsafe or risky behaviors.
  • Provide “touch supervision” — being close enough to reach the child at all times — for children who are non-swimmers or who lack water competency skills.
  • Pay constant attention — undistracted and not involved in any other activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.
  • Ensure that multiple barriers of drowning prevention are in place, including:
    • Everyone learning how to swim.
    • Fencing to prevent unintended access to pools or bodies of water.
    • People on site who know how to rescue someone and initiate CPR.
    • Access to a phone to call 911.
Who makes a good water watcher?

Someone who:

  • is 16 years old or older (adults preferred).
  • is alert and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • has the skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and rescue someone in distress OR can immediately alert a capable adult nearby.
  • knows CPR or can alert someone nearby who knows CPR.
  • has a working phone to dial 911.
  • has a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue.
What about lifeguards?

They’re literal lifesavers, but you still need a water watcher even if one or more lifeguards is present.

Drowning can happen — often quickly and quietly — even in the presence of lifeguards.

For more information

Visit Water Safety USA and the BSA Aquatics page.

4 ways the BSA is strengthening its relationships with schools

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In many cities and towns, the mission to grow Scouting begins at schools.

That’s where lots of young people first learn about the Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops of which their classmates are members.

The alignment is natural and robust. Scouting and schools emphasize civics, preparedness and service to the community.

Ready to strengthen the relationship between Scouting and schools in your area? The BSA has several resources to help.

Here’s a look at four of these tools — some new, some revised to meet modern needs.

1. Adopt-A-School

The BSA’s Adopt-A-School program often is the first step in connecting Scout units with schools.

Units make a minimum one-year commitment to partner with school administrations and offer the volunteer services that most effectively meet the school’s needs.

Here’s what this often looks like: In exchange for meeting space and other support from the school, Scout units complete at least four service projects to beautify the school inside and out.

The school and surrounding community benefit greatly, and units get service hours that count toward Journey to Excellence progress. It is the very definition of “win-win.”

Learn more: At the Adopt-A-School site.

2. Outstanding Educator Award

The Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award is a new BSA award with real potential to result in membership growth.

It’s named after the professor of education at Columbia University who became the BSA’s second Chief Scout Executive, succeeding James E. West.

The Outstanding Educator Award — also referred to as the Fretwell Award — is presented to teachers, educational support staff and school administrators who instill Scouting values in their students. It recognizes a person’s work for students in his or her professional role — not for what the person does directly for Scouting.

The award can be presented at the district, council, area, regional and national levels. There’s no minimum or maximum number of awards that can be presented per school year. That said, a good guideline is one award per year per school.

Learn more: In this implementation guidebook (PDF).

3. Report to the School District

Each year, the BSA sends a group of impressive young men and women to Washington, D.C., to present the Report to the Nation. The report, mandated in the BSA’s 1916 charter, is basically a Scouting good-news tour. The delegates meet with several key officials to tell them about the accomplishments of Scouts from the previous year.

Many BSA councils also organize a Report to the State trip. Same idea, different scale.

Report to the School District follows this pattern. Scouts meet with district leaders to tell them how Scouting supports the community. This is a great way to promote Scouting and renew relationships with schools.

It’s an opportunity to highlight and share the ways Scouting affects the local school district.

Learn more: In this Report to the School District Guide (PDF).

4. School Access Training Module

The phrase “school access” means something different in almost every school district.

It may be:

  • The ability to send home a message with prospective Cub Scouts.
  • The opportunity for a BSA representative to talk to a group of prospective Cub Scouts at school.
  • The use of a school facility.

A 50-minute training module tells volunteers what they should know about schools to optimize access, what the law says about school access, three examples of responding to school access challenges, and proven practices for building relationships with school personnel.

The module can be done as a stand-alone session or as a part of a “day of training” course.

Learn more: In this training module (PDF).

Traveling out of state? Know the laws about cellphone use behind the wheel

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Texting while driving is more than simply unsafe.

In 46 states and the District of Columbia, it’s against the law. That includes all four states that are home to BSA high-adventure bases: Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico and West Virginia.

Talking on a handheld cellphone while driving is banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia — home to the Summit Bechtel Reserve and the 2017 National Jamboree — is on that list, too.

This reminder comes as many Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships prepare to hit the road for summer Scouting adventures.

Bottom line: Before you go, learn the laws.

Texting while driving laws

Click the map to be taken to a state-by-state table.

If your trip takes you into one of the 46 states with a texting ban, a violation could cost you between $20 and $300 for a first offense.

Driving to the 2017 Jamboree? The list includes West Virginia and all five states that surround it.

Plus, the BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting has, for some time, forbidden Scout leaders from texting while driving.

Drivers must refrain from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Text messaging while driving is prohibited. Hands-free units are acceptable but must be used sparingly while driving.

That means even if you drive through Montana, Arizona, Texas or Missouri — the four states without full bans on texting while driving — you still should keep that phone stowed.

Handheld cellphone use laws

Click the map to be taken to a state-by-state table.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have bans on handheld cellphone use while driving.

Once again, the BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting:

Drivers must refrain from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Text messaging while driving is prohibited. Hands-free units are acceptable but must be used sparingly while driving.

Let’s say you’re driving from Indiana or Michigan to the Jamboree. The moment you cross from Ohio into West Virginia, you’re susceptible to fines if caught using a handheld device while driving.

Free driver improvement training for Scouters

I previously told you about The Hartford Driver Improvement Program, a free online training for Scout leaders who drive.

Go here to take the course.

Everyone who drives Scouts should take this free online training course

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Accidents are quite rare in Scouting.

But when one does occur, it probably didn’t happen while camping. It likely didn’t involve backpacking, canoeing or climbing, either.

The majority of Scouting accidents happen on the way to or from Scouting activities. They happen on the road.

As a Scout leader responsible for driving Scouts or Venturers to Scouting activities, you should do all you can to be a safe driver. That means requiring seat belt use, never texting while driving and obeying local traffic laws.

The latest step in that preparation: The Hartford Driver Improvement Program, which can be found on the BSA Learn Center. The course is free, requires no advance registration and can be completed online in about 35 minutes.

Once you finish, you’ll get a completion certificate, and your official BSA training record will be updated.

Why should I take this training?

Because you care about the safety of Scouts. And if you’re like me, it’s been a few years since driver’s ed. A quick refresher is a good idea.

You’ll learn how to drive defensively, recognize hazards and prevent collisions.

I’ll spare you any further lecture but will mention these sobering stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: In 2015 in the U.S., there were 35,092 deaths and 2,443,000 injuries on the road.

How do I take this training?

To complete The Hartford Driver Improvement Program, do the following:

  1. Log in to
  2. Click the red BSA Learn Center box on the right.
  3. Scroll to the heading “Expanded Learning.”
  4. Click the box marked “Program Safety.”
  5. Look for “Program Safety” again and click “+Add Plan.”
  6. Click the “Program Safety” link, then click the “Drive Safely” link.
  7. Begin the training.
What other resources are available?

For essential, easy-to-use advice to help keep Scouts safe, go to the Scouting Safely site.

Here are 49 photos of Venturers making and trying to paddle cardboard boats

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Ever get that sinking feeling? Like you’re coming apart at the seams? Like the walls around you are caving in?

I’ve got just the thing.

Here are 49 photos sure to brighten your day. They come from a cardboard boat race I covered in 2014 at Winterfest, the massive annual event for Explorers and Venturers in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The weekend blends competition, camaraderie and fun.

One of the events — building and racing cardboard boats — is serious work. But it can get seriously silly, seriously fast.

Exhibit A: The Venturing crew that, instead of building a boat, turned one of their Venturers into the boat. Whoa.

The photos are the work of the BSA’s W. Garth Dowling and Michael Roytek.


Read the stories

For the Scouting magazine story about Winterfest, click here or read the November-December 2014 issue.

For the Boys’ Life story, check out the December 2014 issue.

You can read both stories in our apps — just search “Scouting magazine” or “Boys’ Life” in your device’s app store.

Scouting Alumni & Friends: Behind the Scouting Alumni Association’s new name, logo

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The Scouting Alumni Association has changed its name to Scouting Alumni & Friends, a reminder that the group is open to anyone who wants to help further Scouting’s mission — even those who were never in Scouting as young people.

The Scouting Alumni & Friends name and logo are being officially unveiled at the BSA’s annual meeting next week in Florida, but Bryan on Scouting readers get a sneak peek today.

Here’s the logo. Below it, I’ve explained how different parts of the logo represent the mission of Scouting Alumni & Friends.

  • The acorn: An established icon of the Scouting Alumni & Friends awards program (like the National Alumnus of the Year award), the acorn suggests a seed from which much can grow. It is a call to alumni and friends to spread the word about Scouting.
  • The letter A: This stands for alumni, and it’s meant to look like a varsity letter. As a Scouting alumni or friend, you’re part of a team, too.
  • True Blue: The color of the central image is rendered in “True Blue,” which signifies the loyalty of Scouting Alumni & Friends toward the Boy Scouts of America.
What does Scouting Alumni & Friends do?

Scouting Alumni & Friends is Scouting’s alumni network, and it helps individuals reconnect with Scouting and the specific Scouting organizations that are important to them.

The group provides a way for Scouting alumni to reconnect with their Boy Scout troop, Sea Scout ship, Explorer post, Venturing crew, summer camp staff, Wood Badge troop, Alpha Phi Omega chapter, Order of the Arrow lodge and more.

It also helps Scouting friends connect to the program in new and interesting ways.

Scouting Alumni & Friends provides best practices for alumni groups, powerful tools like its alumni database, and training courses at the council level and the Philmont Training Center.

Scouting Alumni & Friends also offers awards programs such as the Alumni Award and knot, special recognitions for years of service, and the Regional Alumnus of the Year and National Alumnus of the Year awards.

Who can become a member?

There’s only one requirement: You have to be a fan of Scouting.

Anyone who has been positively impacted by Scouting is welcome to join.

Why become a member?

In addition to supporting local Scouting, members get a number of alumni-only discounts, perks and services.

There are two membership levels:

  • Hiker (free): Includes a quarterly e-magazine, a bi-monthly newsletter and some BSA ringtones.
  • Pathfinder ($35 a year): Includes Hiker perks, plus a Scouting magazine subscription, an affiliation card, a lapel pin, a luggage tag, a window cling, discounts at major retailers and more.

Learn more and join today at the Scouting Alumni & Friends site.

Stay connected

You can follow Scouting Alumni & Friends on their social media channels to keep up with the latest news: FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Coming soon

In the coming weeks, Scouting Alumni & Friends will be asked to “post your colors” to share your enthusiasm for Scouting. Stay tuned.

Thanks to James Delorey, vice chairman of Scouting Alumni & Friends, for the info.

Multitasking camping gear: 5 items that can serve more than one purpose

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Why buy separate gear items when things already in your backpack or trunk can pull double (or triple) duty?

A Scout is thrifty, after all.

So here, courtesy of our friends at Thermacell, you’ll find a list of 5 camping items that can serve purposes beyond the obvious.

Keep reading for ways to get additional uses out of your hiking poles, sleeping bag, neckerchief and more.

1. Hiking poles

When you arrive at your campsite (or return from a day hike), don’t just prop your hiking stick against a tree.

Put it to work. Whether it’s a wooden staff or a high-tech trekking pole, it can be quite the workhorse in camp. If you hike with two? Even better.

  • Pair two hiking poles with a tarp to form a breezy makeshift tent.
  • Make a clothes-drying rack, dishwashing station, chair or any number of camp gadgets. (Find several examples here.)
  • Use it to fish in a pond or stream.
  • Use it to gauge the depth of a stream before crossing.
  • Use it in a water rescue (the first step in “reach, throw, row, go”).
  • With certain metallic hiking poles, screw off the top to reveal a camera attachment and use as a monopod.
  • See which Scout can go the lowest in an impromptu game of limbo.
2. Bandana or neckerchief

A bandana is a wearable multitool that’s way more than just a fashion accessory.

Everyone knows you can wear a bandana for protection from sun, wind and cold. It’s also a great way to tie back long hair.

But this wondercloth has other functions:

  • Dip it in a cold lake or river and place on your neck to cool yourself on a hot day.
  • Use it as a sling for a broken arm.
  • Wrap it around your hand to make a hot mitt for cooking.
  • Perform camp cleanup tasks, like wiping condensation off your tent. It’s far more sustainable than paper towels.
  • Clean glasses and sunglasses.
  • Hang a bear bag or clothesline by tying a rock inside the bandana and throwing it over a branch.
3. Sleeping bag

Poor sleeping bag. For its entire life, it’s either crammed into a stuff sack or zipped inside a tent.

Let that sleeping bag free by extending its life beyond its intended purpose.

  • Fully unzip it and use it as a blanket when stargazing, hanging out at camp or relaxing by the fire. (Please check the bag’s flammability warnings first.)
  • Hang it over some tree branches to create shade during the day. (Sorry, tarp. You’ve been replaced.)
  • Use it as padding when traveling to or from camp to prevent items from rolling around in your car’s trunk or SUV’s storage area.
  • Spread it out over grass or dirt as a picnic blanket. (Just get rid of all those crumbs before taking it back in the tent.)
4. Flying disc

It’s the ultimate (see what I did there?) piece of sporting equipment, but the flying disc has practical uses beyond tossing it around among friends.

Whether yours is a Frisbee-brand disc or any other brand, try these additional uses:

  • Use it as a small cutting board — the rounded edges keep the food from rolling away.
  • Make it your plate or shallow bowl — one less thing you have to pack in your backpack.
  • Bail water from your canoe or kayak.
  • Fan embers as you’re trying to start a fire.
  • Sit on it when the ground’s wet or snowy.
  • Add a big X in fluorescent or reflective duct tape to use it as a signaling device in an emergency.
5. Isobutane gas canister


You already know your isobutane gas canister powers your ultralight backpacking stove.

But now you can give that canister a new life’s purpose by pairing it with the Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller. One four-ounce canister gives you a 15-by-15-foot zone of protection for up to 90 hours and weighs just 114 grams — that’s 35 grams lighter than a regulation baseball.

The best part? Directions of use can be summarized in just five words: “Turn it on … mosquitoes gone.”

BONUS: Our friends at Thermacell are offering a Scouts-only discount on the Backpacker Mosquito Repeller, which normally retails for $39.99. Redeem yours today by going to and typing the code SCOUTSBP at checkout for 20 percent off now through June 8, 2017.

Scouts Then and Now, Chapter 13

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Welcome to Scouts Then and Now, a Bryan on Scouting blog series. The premise is simple. I share two photos of the same Scout or Venturer: once in his or her early Scouting years (Cub Scout, younger Boy Scout, younger Venturer) and again in his or her later Scouting years (Life Scout, Eagle Scout, older Venturer).

Find Chapter 13 below. And click here to learn how to submit your photos.

Ryan from Louisiana

Michael from Missouri

Jim and Sam from Alabama

Jacob from Georgia

Duncan from North Carolina

Dave, Alex, Blake, Phillip and Matthew from Virginia

Connor from Louisiana

Cody from Washington

Bryce, Kyle and AJ from Oregon

Bryce from Oregon

Send in your photos and see more

Click here to send in your photos. Click here to see more in this series.

What to expect at the 2017 National Jamboree stadium shows

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Jamboree shows are a big reason these quadrennial events are so epic.

Tens of thousands of Scouts and Scouters gather to laugh, get inspired and rock out to some great music. Shows are a visual reminder that, as Scouts, we’re part of something bigger than our own troops and councils.

The stadium shows at the 2017 National Jamboree will be some of the best yet, and the entertainment acts scheduled to perform are sure to thrill Scouts and Venturers.

While the Jamboree Shows Team won’t spoil the surprise about who will perform, they did give me some insight into how these acts were chosen. Scouts will like knowing they didn’t poll a bunch of Scoutmasters.

I also have some news on what you’re supposed to wear to Saturday night’s opening show. Hint: It’s time to show off your city or state pride.

Who’s performing at the 2017 Jamboree?

At past National Jamborees, big-name bands like The Beach Boys, Switchfoot and 3 Doors Down have rocked out.

To select 2017’s performers, the Jamboree Shows Team asked Jamboree participants whom they wanted to see as part of the AT&T Stadium Experience.

The team chose Jamboree performers based on the Scouts’ recommendations.

When are the shows?

There are three big shows at the AT&T Summit Stadium:

  • 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 22: Celebration of Scouting Show, which is open to visitors
  • 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 24: Fellowship & Service Show
  • 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. Thursday, July 27: Farewell Show

Jamboree participants and staffers won’t want to miss a single one. But the Saturday night opening show could be the best show in Jamboree history.

What should we wear to the opening show?

The opening show will be a Scout’s first taste of how awesome the Jamboree will be.

This year, Scouts and Scout leaders are asked to showcase their local pride by wearing hats, shirts or other accessories specific to their council or area.

Please ask your youth leaders to brainstorm some ideas of “flair apparel” items that represent something unique in your council or city. Texans might wear cowboy hats, while Scouts from Green Bay could don cheeseheads.

Other than ensuring that your flair is Scout-appropriate and not prohibitively expensive for your Scouts, there are no rules. So be creative.

The most attention-grabbing accessories will be sure to inspire the show’s camera operators to get shots of your group on the big screens, live, in front of tens of thousands of Scouts and Scouters.

What other entertainment can we expect?

One of the most exciting and engaging new events for Scouts happening at the 2017 Jamboree will be the Base Camp Bashes.

Beginning around 8 p.m. on nonshow nights, these 90-minute pop-up experiences will be a combination of a concert, dance party and variety show, aimed at getting everyone fired up.

Base Camp Bashes bring the stage and talent right to you in your base camps. After dinner, Scouts won’t have to travel far to have one of their most memorable nights at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

In all, the Stadium Experience Team is responsible for 28 different shows in 19 locations over 10 days.

Learn more about the Jamboree

For details about the Jamboree, including how to join the fun as a visitor, go to the official site.

There’s a new Patrol Leader Handbook and Senior Patrol Leader Handbook

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The leadership lessons learned in Scouting aren’t taught in schools, but you can find them in a book.

That is, provided that book is the Patrol Leader Handbook or Senior Patrol Leader Handbook.

These essential guides for Boy Scout leaders have been updated for 2017. They include ready-to-use tips to help Boy Scouts become effective leaders at troop meetings and on the trail.

Pick up a copy at your local Scout Shop or at

Judge these books by their covers, and you’ll see designs that’ve been freshened to match the 13th edition of the Boy Scout Handbookreleased in 2016.

But what’s inside really counts.

Top: The newest versions, released in 2017. Bottom: The previous versions, released in 2002.

What’s better about these books?

It’s more than just a fresh design.

In 2016, a task force of volunteers led by Bob Elliott gathered to review the Senior Patrol Leader Handbook and the Patrol Leader Handbook. 

Among their findings:

  • The handbooks needed more information to help new leaders learn how to lead.
  • Not every Scout can participate in the BSA’s youth leadership training programs, including the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) and National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), so concepts from those courses should be included in the new handbooks.

The new editions help patrol leaders and senior patrol leaders lead more skillfully. That means better leadership and more fun.

What’s new in the latest editions:

  • Key concepts from ILST and NYLT are included.
  • Various styles of leadership are defined and contrasted. This includes controlling, doing it all yourself, intimidation, wanting everyone to like you and servant leadership. The handbooks give examples of when and how those styles may (or may not) work in the Scouting environment.
  • A focus on servant leadership as the preferred method of leadership in Scouting. Servant leadership, put simply, is a choice to give more than the leader receives.
  • A discussion of the stages of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing
  • A discussion on the Leading EDGE and how a youth leader’s approach must be adjusted as their troop or patrol progresses (or regresses) from one stage to the next.
  • An expanded section on commonly encountered scenarios that challenge the leadership of senior patrol leaders and patrol leaders.
  • The inclusion of the new Scout Planning Worksheet, a resource to teach all Scouts essential planning skills.
Where can I buy them?

The books are $11.99, and you can buy them at your Scout Shop or at

Where can I find high-res images of the covers?

Use these in promoting these new handbooks in your troop, district or council.

Against all odds, Eagle Scout attends friend’s wedding, troop’s 100th birthday on the same afternoon

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Never tell Bryan Zschiesche the odds.

Two once-in-a-lifetime events were scheduled for the same Saturday afternoon this month. The likelihood he could attend both? Exceedingly slim.

His Boy Scout troop was celebrating its 100th anniversary in Longview, Texas, with the party set to end around 2:30 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m. that same day, Bryan’s friend and coworker was getting married in Elgin, Texas. The 250-mile drive from Longview to Elgin would take four-and-a-half hours.

There wasn’t time to drive from the celebration to the wedding. Commercial flight schedules were incompatible. Chartering a plane? Way too expensive. And Bryan didn’t have any friends with a helicopter or teleportation device.

Many might have given up, but not Bryan. This Eagle Scout learned in Troop 201 to attempt what others might not.

Bryan’s story is an inspiring tale of determination, endurance and the soaring kindness of a stranger.

Four days to go: The invitation

Left: A special sign honors Troop 201’s 100th anniversary. Right: Troop 201 memorabilia hangs around the fireplace inside the Scout Hut.

News of the troop’s 100th anniversary event reached Bryan late.

On Tuesday, just four days before the celebration, Bryan got an email from fellow Troop 201 Eagle Scout Jake Jenkins, who sent him the invitation and program.

Bryan told him about the wedding scheduled for the same afternoon.

“I decided there was no way to be both places at once,” Bryan says. “I let it go at that point, but something kept tugging at me.”

Three days to go: Second thoughts

The next day, Bryan told some friends about his double-booked Saturday.

“Both of them encouraged me to figure out a way to be there,” Bryan says. “My only hope was to find a pilot who would be willing to volunteer his plane and his time to help me pull it off. No small favor!”

Two days to go: The Facebook request

Bryan and his father, Herb, outside of the Troop 201 Scout Hut in Longview, Texas.

On Thursday night, Bryan made up his mind. He was going to give it a shot.

Bryan remembered what his dad, Herb, had taught him in Cub Scouting: Ask for help when you need it.

“The worst thing anyone can tell you when you ask them for help is say ‘no,'” Bryan remembers his dad saying.

So Bryan did exactly what we all would do when looking for help from our network of friends. He posted something on Facebook.

“Are any of my friends a pilot willing to help me in my effort to attend my troop’s 100th anniversary?” he wrote. “Alternatively, do you have someone in your network who might be willing to help? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a truly special event in the history of our troop and Scouting as a whole. I would forever be in your debt.”

The post went up at 10:06 p.m. Thursday. The Troop 201 celebration was less than 38 hours away.

One day to go: A hero lands

Bryan and Chad Sims, the pilot who made it possible for him to attend the anniversary celebration.

The response was overwhelming. Bryan received several messages of suggestions and encouragement. Fellow Eagle Scouts wished him well.

But nobody had access to a plane. That is, until Bryan heard from Chad Sims of Marshall, Texas.

“I spoke with Chad and learned that he had a 1975 Beechcraft Bonanza which he had been flying since the mid-1990s,” Bryan says. “After checking that the weather was OK, he volunteered to help me out. I couldn’t believe it.”

The day of, Part 1: Troop 201’s celebration

Bryan poses for a group photo with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (blue shirt and sportcoat) and other Troop 201 alumni.

Chad picked up Bryan near Bryan’s home in Katy, Texas. They flew to the airport in Longview, where Bryan had arranged for his mom and dad to pick them up.

Herb had reshuffled his plans, too, so that he could attend the Troop 201 event with his son.

“This allowed my dad to join me for the celebration, which made the event all the more special,” Bryan says. “I had lunch with friends and Scoutmasters I hadn’t seen in 20 or more years.”

Among the special guests: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a member of Troop 201 as a boy.

“I am proud to be a Boy Scout,” Abbott told the crowd. “But, more importantly to the Boy Scouts here, I’m proud you are Boy Scouts. I’m counting on you to keep America the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”

Troop 201 alumni opened a time capsule the troop had buried in 1967. They stepped inside their historic Scout Hut, which “still retained the same distinct aroma that it did all those years ago,” Bryan says.

By 2:30 p.m., three hours into the event, it was time for Bryan and Chad to head back to the airport.

The day of, Part 2: A friend’s wedding

Bryan and his wife, Cele, at the wedding in Elgin, Texas.

Bryan and Chad landed at Austin Executive Airport at 4:30 p.m., where Bryan’s wife, Cele, was waiting.

She was dressed for the wedding — “and looked stunning, I might add,” Bryan says — but Bryan needed to change. He slipped into the airport bathroom to put on a new shirt and brush his teeth.

They made it to the wedding minutes before 5:30 p.m.

Bryan’s reflection on that special day and the events that preceded it is quite touching:

“That day will go down as one of the best days of my life,” he says. “Against all odds, I was able to celebrate my troop’s historic 100th anniversary with the Scoutmasters and fellow Scouts who helped me become the man I am today.

“I got to share that with my dad, who was always involved in my Scouting experience and who taught me the lessons of persistent determination it required to get there.

“And I made a new friend in Chad Sims, one of the most genuinely good men I have ever met. Flying with him was not just a means to get where I needed to go. It gave me a chance to get to know a truly great man, and it added more than I can express to this experience.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever again have an adventure quite like it. It was one of my life’s greatest highlights.”

Bryan and his mode of transportation for the day. You can follow Bryan on Twitter here.

A big hand for these 8 recipients of the 2017 National Venturing Leadership Award

Bryan On Scouting -

Venturers, with their green uniform shirts, stand out in a world of tan-shirted Scouts.

And the eight Venturers who will receive the 2017 National Venturing Leadership Award stand out in the world of Venturing.

The 2017 National Venturing Leadership Award recognizes great work done in 2016. You can see a list of past recipients here.

Venturers, unofficially known as Greenshirts, gain skills and knowledge in the areas of high adventure, sports, arts, hobbies and more. They’re at least 14 years old — or 13 and finished with the eighth grade — but not yet 21.

Presented at the council, area, regional and national levels, the Venturing Leadership Award recognizes people who serve Venturing in ways that recruit and retain young men and young women.

What kind of Greenshirts receive this award? Individuals like these eight, who will receive the 2017 National Venturing Leadership Award at this month’s BSA annual meeting.

Christopher Mausshardt

Council: Greater St. Louis Area

Recent position: 2016-2017 Central Region Venturing President

Why he received the award: “Chris has served admirably as the Central Region Venturing President. Managing his school, family and life commitments, Chris has continued to lead the Central Region’s Venturing program and impacted thousands of Venturers within and beyond his region. He always has a great attitude, a ‘can-do’ spirit, and very visibly lives and breathes the Scout Oath and Law.”

Michelle Merritt

Council: Spirit of Adventure (based in Woburn, Mass.)

Recent position: 2016-2017 National Venturing Vice President

Why she received the award: “Michelle has worked hard to support all four BSA regions. She visited the Southern Region, helping them with the Council Standards of Venturing Excellence forms, and helping then manage their national contact sheet. She provided great leadership abilities and service last summer at the Philmont Training Center, where she staffed one of the many great courses offered there. Michelle has also done wonderful things for communications nationally through social media and beyond.”

What’s next: Michelle is the 2017-2018 National Venturing President

Erik Saderholm

Council: Baltimore Area

Recent position: 2016-2017 Northeast Region Venturing President

Why he received the award: “Erik has provided exemplary leadership to the youth and adults of the Northeast Region throughout his tenure as the Northeast Region Venturing President, with notable accomplishments including the planning, production and success of NERV-Cast, a monthly podcast watched across the country by members of the Venturing community.”

Katie Schneider

Council: Great Southwest (based in Albuquerque, N.M.)

Recent position: 2016-2017 Western Region Venturing President

Why she received the award: “She was able to unite her region. She traveled around the region talking to youth and adults about the importance of Venturing. This allowed the Venturing door to be opened in councils for the first time.”

Cathie Seebauer

Council: Prairieland (based in Champaign, Ill.)

Recent position: 2016-2017 Central Region Vice President of Administration

Why she received the award: “Cathie has worked tirelessly on a number of projects for the National Venturing Committee, including the most notable: Cathie, along with National Venturing President Pratik Vaidya and others, worked to launch Venturing’s own custom website during this past term. Not only does this increase the program’s visibility, but also it expands Venturing’s ability to reach directly to its members.”

What’s next: Cathie is the 2017-2018 National Venturing Vice President

Nate Steele

Council: Muskingum Valley Council (based in Zanesville, Ohio)

Recent position: National Venturing Committee Member

Why he received the award: “Nate’s critical thinking has served Venturing well. He has developed and tested a Venturing value proposition, helping Venturing lay the groundwork for growth.”

Russ Hunsaker

Council: Great Salt Lake

Recent position: National Relationships Chairman

Why he received the award: “Russ has shown intense dedication to the youth of Venturing. He led the National 4.1.1 Task Force, which extensively studied each of the programs to suggest changes that should happen. His first thought has always been how the BSA can transform more lives through our programs. He has opened doors for Venturing to be directly represented at the table with outside partners. This will allowing Venturing to have a greater audience for membership growth.”

Andrew Miller

Council: Garden State (based in Westampton, N.J.)

Recent position: National Venturing Committee Strategic Planning and Pilots Chairman

Why he received the award: “Andrew is a huge proponent of youth involvement and has found ways to implement the ideas developed by Venturing youth. With his experience in Scouting, he serves as a great resource and guides young people through the thought process. That helps them grow as individuals.”

With documentary, Eagle Scout on a mission to save the mountain caribou

Bryan On Scouting -

Scouting inspired Marcus Reynerson to become an naturalist, conservationist and environmental educator.

And now Reynerson wants to use those talents to save a species. Reynerson and his colleagues are trying to prevent the extinction of the mountain caribou of the Pacific Northwest.

The 1997 Eagle Scout is the pride of Troop 115 from Louisville, Ky. These days, he lives in Seattle and is part of the team behind Last Stand: The Vanishing Caribou Rainforest. The 25-minute documentary premieres this summer.

“I was fortunate to have a troop that emphasized time outdoors as critical to healthy growth as a person,” Reynerson says. “My years working in the conservation department at Philmont were pivotal in helping me see that this was a passion of mine. My four years there crystalized this as my life’s work.”

About Last Stand

Through visually stunning imagery and dire prognostications, Last Stand takes you into the shrinking world of the mountain caribou. The word “mountain” refers to their migration to high alpine peaks each winter.

Washington state’s only remaining herd — which roams the Selkirk Mountains along the Washington-Canada border — has dwindled to just 14.

Finding and photographing them wasn’t easy, and that’s part of what attracted Reynerson to the project.

“When photographer and author David Moskowitz asked me to join him in his efforts to document one of the most elusive large mammals on the continent, I was excited,” Reynerson says.

Reynerson is an associate producer on the film. He worked behind the camera to gather images and footage. He also investigated the culture of the people who live in mountain caribou country.

The documentary will explore “the critical human choices that will ultimately decide the fate of this stunning ecosystem,” according to the film’s description.

Here’s a trailer:

Scouts Then and Now, Chapter 12

Bryan On Scouting -

Welcome to Scouts Then and Now, a Bryan on Scouting blog series. The premise is simple. I share two photos of the same Scout or Venturer: once in his or her early Scouting years (Cub Scout, younger Boy Scout, younger Venturer) and again in his or her later Scouting years (Life Scout, Eagle Scout, older Venturer).

Find Chapter 12 below. And click here to learn how to submit your photos.

Jake from Oregon

Matthew from California

Tyler from Florida

Sven from Virginia

David and Noah from New Jersey

Jeffrey, Hayden and Hunter from Michigan

Elijah from Minnesota

Jake from Illinois

Ryan and Sean from California

Jonathan (with Ben) from Colorado


Send in your photos and see more

Click here to send in your photos. Click here to see more in this series.


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