Scouting News from the Internet

The myScouting app puts training, rosters and commissioner tools at your fingertips

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Scouters, now you can carry more of the tools you need to do your job everywhere Scouting takes you.

The myScouting app, the BSA’s official app to help leaders facilitate the Scouting program, has a refreshed look and all-new features.

The app is free and available now for Android devices (Android 4.4 KitKat or higher), as well as iPhones and iPads (iOS 9.0 or higher). Just search “myScouting” in your device’s app store.

When you open the app, you’ll log in with your myScouting username and password. The app will show you the tools available to you based on your Scouting position.

You’ll see your member ID, how many days remain until your Youth Protection training expires, links to resources and much more.

Other noteworthy features of the myScouting app include:

  • An organization roster so you can see all active adult members registered under your governance — down to the unit level. You can filter by Youth Protection trained status, position trained status and more. You can easily update this information, too, and even call or email directly from your device. And of course you can update your own contact info — address, phone number, email — right in the app as well.
  • A training center that lets you complete Youth Protection training and other online trainings right from your device. You can also view, save and send completed training certificates in the app.
  • Commissioner tools so commissioners can complete unit assessments, track roundtables, and view and track commissioner assignments.
  • Calendar and announcements pages so Key 3 members can share updates with members registered under their governance.
  • A resources page with links to the latest BSA material, such as the Guide to Advancement or Handbook for District Operations.

The new app supports both English and Spanish. There’s also a night-mode feature that darkens the screen — so you won’t keep your spouse awake when you’re working on Scouting late at night.

Behind the scenes

The app is the work of the BSA’s information delivery group. An array of volunteer beta testers offered their feedback on ways to improve the user experience.

Have some feedback to share? You can do so from within the app.

Troop’s incredible building for storing equipment honors departed Scoutmaster

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Jim Potjunas left an indelible mark on Troop 101 and the entire community of Warren, Ohio.

Potjunas was just 18 when he helped start the troop 42 years ago. Five years later, he became its Scoutmaster. He led the troop for 37 years, during which time he helped 148 young men become Eagle Scouts. Along the way, he mentored young men as they camped, hiked and performed service projects.

“In all my years in Scouting I have never known a better Scoutmaster than Jim Potjunas,” says Ned Gold, whose son, Gregory, became an Eagle Scout in Troop 101. “And hence the troop is the best I have ever seen.”

Potjunas died on Aug. 5, 2017, in a single-car accident. He was 60.

His legacy survives in the 148 Eagle Scouts and dozens of others progressing down the path toward Eagle. It also lives on in the Jim Potjunas Troop 101 Scout Center, which was completed about two months before Potjunas died.

The Scout center was designed, built and dedicated in honor of Potjunas. Now it stands in his memory.

Here’s the story of a special Scout building and the extraordinary man who inspired it.

More than a storage space

Gold is a 68-year Scouting veteran who serves on the executive board of the Great Trail Council, based in Akron, Ohio.

He said Troop 101’s chartered organization, the Blessed Sacrament Church, provides ample meeting space for the guys. But there’s nowhere to stow all the gear it takes to support Troop 101’s active program.

Active is probably underselling it. During Potjunas’ tenure, the troop went to summer camp every year — Camp Chickagami for the first 20 years and Camp Manatoc for the last 17. They took eight bike trips along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, 20 trips to Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada and hosted 39 spaghetti dinners to raise money to pay for it all.

The church agreed to allow the troop and its alumni association to build a troop building on the far corner of the church property. Through the generosity of Troop 101 alumni, the troop raised $225,000 to build the 2,500-square-foot building.

The building has it all: Two floors of storage space. A bay that can hold the troop trailer when it rains or snows. A cable-and-pulley system for hanging wet tents to dry. A meeting room with videoconferencing capabilities. And then there’s my favorite feature: The Troop 101 Eagle Scout wall, where framed portraits inspire future generations.

A dedicated Scoutmaster

Troop 101’s equipment building officially opened on May 28. Parents, Troop 101 alumni, church leaders and members of the community gathered to celebrate the special day.

The keynote speech came from the man himself: Jim Potjunas.

He said that when the troop started in more than four decades earlier, “I could never have imagined anything like this. Back in 1975 there were six kids and a handful of adults who just had a vision of what Scouting was supposed to be.”

Troop 101 grew and grew, eventually expanding to 70 active youth members. They outgrew four different equipment trailers, and eventually not even a trailer could store all the troop’s gear.

And so to continue its path forward, Troop 101 turned toward its past.

“The Alumni Association took up the challenge of creating this facility to store and maintain our equipment,” Potjunas said. “It only became possible through the generosity of all those families who had come through the program these past 40 years, coupled with many others who believe strongly in the Scouting program and what it has to offer.”

A troop is more than a building

Potjunas ended his remarks in May by saying that trailers, tents, canoes and buildings are great. Having them can make a troop’s program run more smoothly.

“I don’t think any of us ever dreamed we would come out of a basement to something as nice as this,” he said.

But those buildings are worthless if empty. The gear superfluous if it never leaves a stuff sack.

“For me personally, to justify all this these contributions made by so many, we need to reach out and find more of those youth who could benefit from this Scouting program,” he said. “We have the capacity, and we have the resources. Let’s now join together and see how many of the youth in Trumbull County that we can help through Scouting in the next 40 years.”

More photos of the Troop 101 building

All Sea Base sailing captains safe after Hurricane Irma; here’s what else we know

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All sailing captains who work with BSA’s Sea Base in Florida and in the U.S. Virgin Islands are safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma passed over the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.

That’s the latest bit of good news from Mike Johnson, general manager of the Florida Sea Base.

Johnson and his team are still unable to drive to the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key right near where Irma made landfall.

But based on photos he has seen, Johnson is “guardedly optimistic” about its status. Another good sign: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is using the Brinton Environmental Center as a staging area for relief efforts. This was part of an agreement with the Monroe County Emergency Management Department.

Scouters who are fans of Sea Base — which includes pretty much everyone who has been there or has sent a son or daughter there — have been sharing their comments, questions and warm thoughts after Irma hit.

Johnson previously shared news that the Sea Base staff had evacuated well before Irma arrived. He also shared that damage to the main Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla., was minimal, though significant cleanup will be needed.

Today he asked me to share these additional updates with readers:

How are the sailing captains?

All captains both in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been accounted for and are safe. This includes Mike and Kelly Lucivero who direct the USVI Sailing Program.

What about the sailboats?

Coral Reef boats departed the Sea Base dock by Sept. 1 as part of the Sea Base’s standard storm preparation for the fall.

The sailboats in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a smaller fleet, have been accounted for, but there are reports that some have sustained significant damage.

“Until the Sea Base is operational and can communicate with all captains, it is difficult to know the status of all and or specific sailing vessels,” Johnson says.

How are the U.S. Virgin Islands operations?

Based on news reports, St. Thomas was hit very hard by Irma.

Sea Base St. Thomas runs out of the Sapphire Marina and owns no buildings or other infrastructure. At this time Johnson doesn’t know the status of Sapphire Marina.

An aerial image taken after Hurricane Irma. How is the Brinton Environmental Center?

Irma came ashore only a few miles away from the center, and the property experienced very high winds and storm surge.

Based on aerial photos, Johnson says, “we will be guardedly optimistic that BEC has not sustained major damage.”

Still, he says, “it is important to note that while the photo shows roofs intact and boats in the marina at BEC, it is difficult to know the extent of damage.”

Of the five Newton diesel dive boats at Brinton, four were taken to yards in the Keys including Marathon as part of the maintenance plan as well and for safety.

The Newton that was tied up in the canal behind the Sea Base is fine.

When will volunteers be needed to help with cleanup?

This is the message that the Sea Base staff is sending to all who want to help with the cleanup efforts:

Thanks for your concern about the staff and Sea Base and willingness to help with clean up efforts, it is much appreciated. We can confirm that the Sea Base has sustained minor damage but will need significant cleanup. We do not yet know about the Brinton Environmental Center as the authorities are not letting people down past MM 73.

At this time the Sea Base does not have power or cell phone coverage, water pressure is minimal, there is concern over the sewer system backing up, all water must be boiled before drinking and fuel is scarce.

Until we have the basics of power, water and fuel are restored we are not bringing people to either property for clean up or cleanup and repair efforts. Once we are operational with those basics, we will communicate the plan and opportunity for you to help in the clean up effort.

What’s the latest on how this will affect Sea Base reservations?

Given that the main Sea Base has sustained minimal damage, Johnson is “hopeful that overall there will be minor disruption to programs.”

Much will depend on damage to Sea Base boats (dive boats and Dusky boats), damage to Coral Reef and USVI sailboats and availability of boats that can be chartered.

  • Fall 2017: Those with Fall 2017 adventures (including nine crews scheduled for October), will be given additional information by Sept. 20. If the program you signed up must be altered, those changes will be communicated. If you do not want to participate in a changed program, Sea Base will discuss refund options with you. If your program cannot be delivered at all, Sea Base will refund your fees.
  • Winter/Christmas 2017: Those with Winter 2017 adventures will be given additional information by Oct. 30. The same process as noted above will be followed regarding changed or cancelled programs.
  • Spring/Summer 2018: At this time, keep your plans for programs. If there are any changed programs, Sea Base will communicate those to you well in advance.
More updates as I get them

Thanks to Mike Johnson for getting these updates out to the Sea Base family. Even as busy as he is, Johnson has been reading your comments and wanted to answer as many of your questions as he can.

Sea Base after Hurricane Irma: ‘We’re very fortunate given the severity of the storm’

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The Florida Keys partially reopened Tuesday, giving Florida Sea Base staff their first look at the facilities after Hurricane Irma made landfall over the weekend.

We already knew that, thankfully, the Sea Base staff evacuated well before the storm hit. Now we know how the main Sea Base facilities fared.

The damage at the main Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla., is “minimal given the severity of the storm,” says general manager Mike Johnson. “There are many downed palm trees, palm fronds everywhere, downed fences, lots of trash from across the street that has washed into and through our fence, mud on everything, stains on buildings from wind-driven trash, and Sargasso weed all over.”

Damage at the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key right near where Irma made landfall, still is not known. The road is closed at mile marker 73 — nearly 50 miles up the keys from Summerland, meaning nobody is allowed down there.

“We can’t get down there,” Johnson says. “As soon as I have some information I will provide it. We’re expecting a lot of cleanup.”

Also still unknown: How Sea Base programs will be affected in 2017 and beyond. I’ll share those updates as soon as I have them.

Read on for more details on the current condition of the Sea Base.

The parade ground has lots of debris. Overview of status of Sea Base

After taking a first look around, here’s Johnson’s report:

Buildings with no damage visible: Thomas Building, scuba dorms, sailing dorms, Adams Building (administrative building), the scuba complex, ship’s store (couldn’t see the roof), T-dock (no visible damage)

Buildings with minimal to moderate damage: Annex (missing roof panels, some siding damage), commissary/ice house (fallen tree on the commissary, missing siding on both buildings), registration building (siding damage), galley (siding damage), maintenance shed (one of the roll up doors is heavily damaged)

Buildings with significant damage: The scuba chickee hut

Staff housing: The four staff houses sustained moderate to severe roof damage. The fence around the property is 50 percent destroyed.

Vehicles: “It doesn’t seem like the storm surge was high enough to have washed into the interiors,” Johnson says.

Fuel: Neither the gas nor the diesel tanks were damaged. There is still no power at the Sea Base, but the fuel will allow staff to run generators soon.

Boats: The Dusky boats at Sea Base are undamaged.

A tree down near the quarterdeck. It fell onto the commissary/ice house. Next steps

Once the Sea Base has power and water, Johnson will contact Philmont to get a crew that can help with cleanup. The teams at each of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases are one big family, and families help each other in times of need.

“There are easily weeks of chain sawing, power washing, basic repair, cleaning and organizing ahead of us,” Johnson says. 

As I mentioned on Monday, troops or crews with Sea Base reservations for fall or winter 2017 or spring or summer 2018 should not call or email Sea Base at this time. The base’s staff is extremely busy and has no power. Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.

As for those volunteering to help or send supplies, the time for that will come as well. I’ll share those needs and next steps as soon as I get them from Johnson and his team.

Sunset over the base on Sept. 12, 2017. The Thomas Building was mostly unscathed with lots of debris around it. Lots of fences are down around the base. View from the scuba dorms.

How Cub Scouts and others in the fourth grade can get into national parks free

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It’s settled. Fourth-graders are officially the coolest kids in school.

They’re the beneficiaries of a federal program that grants free access to national parks, lands and waters.

Thanks to the Department of the Interior’s Every Kid in a Park program, started in 2015, fourth-graders and their families can get free entry into these public lands for a full year.

The year of free access aligns with the school year — Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. The passes can be requested and printed online.

The three-step method

Step 1: Get the pass. Get and print fourth-grade passes to our national lands and waters.

Step 2: Plan a trip. With input from their parent or guardian, fourth-graders plan a fun place to visit. There may be an opportunity to complete Cub Scout adventures along the way.

Step 3: Hit the road. A full year to explore national parks, lands and waters seems like a long time, but it’ll be gone in a flash. Speaking of flashes: remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Things to know
  • Electronic copies of the pass aren’t accepted, so you’ll need to bring a printed copy with you.
  • Each pass has a unique code, so you can’t copy it and share it with friends.
  • The pass is accepted at Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation areas.
  • If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
  • If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle. Commercial vehicles can’t use a pass to get in.
  • If you arrive at a site on bicycle, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.
  • The pass doesn’t cover things like parking fees, camping, boats and special tours. Also, some sites are managed by private operators. They may not honor the pass. Check with the site ahead of time to find out. The pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas unless they say that they accept this pass.

At the OA Hackathon 2017, Arrowmen will shape how the OA uses technology

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This is what cheerful service looks like in the era of smartwatches, self-driving cars and Snapchat.

The OA Hackathon, held Oct. 6 to 8 at the Intel offices in Folsom, Calif., will give Arrowmen a hands-on opportunity to reimagine the way the Order of the Arrow uses technology.

Among the projects Arrowmen will tackle:

  • Developing an OA app
  • Revamping LodgeMaster, the OA’s online system for managing lodge membership
  • Experimenting with new technologies, such as NFC (near-field communication) and facial recognition
  • Anything else Arrowmen can design to propel the OA into the 21st Century
Who can participate?

Innovators of all ages — adults and youth — are welcome. The only requirement is that you’re an Arrowman, but those with intermediate to advanced programming skills will have the best experience because they’ll spend less time learning the ropes and more time working with Intel engineers.

Three leagues

Participants will join one of three leagues: Games, Communications and Delivery.

  • The Games League will hack away new technology-based activities that Arrowmen can use to have some fun on the go.
  • The Communications League will focus on developing tools to streamline communication internally and to all Arrowmen.
  • The Delivery League will explore new ways to deliver program to participants to make it easier for both staff and participants to understand what’s happening at events.
The basics: When, where, how much

When: Oct. 6 to 8. Participants should plan to arrive by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6, and depart no sooner than 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8.

Where: Intel offices in Folsom, Calif. Lodging is at the nearby Hampton Inn.

How much: Prices differ depending on bed setup. Prices are as follows:

  • $100, fold-out sofa
  • $125, double bed
  • $150, king bed

All prices include transportation from the Sacramento International Airport (SMF) to the Hackathon site. Participants are responsible for paying for their own flights to and from Sacramento.

Why you should participate
  • Enhance your coding experience
  • Interact with fellow Arrowmen from across the country to share experiences and expertise
  • Work with Intel Engineers and many other experts in the field of technology
  • Take part in changing the future of the Order of the Arrow
How to register

Go here.

For more, follow OA LodgeMaster (@OALodgemaster) on Facebook and Twitter and keep your eye out for posts using #HackOA.

Florida Sea Base staff safe after Hurricane Irma, but damage to base not yet known

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All Florida Sea Base staff is safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma leveled a direct hit on the Florida Keys, but damage to Sea Base facilities and vessels is not yet known.

Florida Sea Base has two facilities in the Keys: the main Sea Base, located in Islamorada, Fla., on the end of Lower Matecumbe Key, and the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key.


Sea Base staff began storm preparation as soon as Irma’s path became clear. Both properties were evacuated on Wednesday — three full days before the storm’s arrival.

Mike Johnson, general manager of the Florida Sea Base, shared an update with me by email. He said he has heard from countless Scouting families who were worried about the base’s staff.

“Thank you to everyone for their prayers and well wishes. The Sea Base staff and Sea Base Committee appreciate it,” he writes. “The good news is that all staff are safe and accounted for. At this point we simply don’t know the extent of damage the Florida Sea Base and the Brinton Environmental Center have sustained.

“As of today, roads into the Keys are impassable, and emergency management and law enforcement are not letting anyone back into the Keys. The Keys have no electricity, no cell service, the lower Keys have no water, upper Keys have water with minimal pressure, none of the hospitals are open, and there is debris from boats and buildings both on the road and in the water — both oceanside and bayside.”

Brinton Environmental Center may have been hardest hit

Johnson notes that Irma came ashore on Cudjoe Key, near the Brinton Environmental Center.

He shared an article from the Miami Herald, which had a reporter in the area, that leads him to believe “damage in the Lower Keys (including Brinton Environmental Center) will be significant.”

What to do if you have a Sea Base reservation in 2017 or 2018

Troops or crews with Sea Base reservations for fall or winter 2017 or spring or summer 2018 should not call or email Sea Base at this time. The base’s staff is extremely busy and doesn’t yet have all the answers.

“It will be many weeks before the base is operational, and we’re going to be focused on the most critical priorities first,” Johnson writes. “Once we know the extent of the damage, we will let crews know if their adventures will be impacted in any way.”

Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.

How to help with cleanup operations

Again, this one counts as “wait and see.”

“For anyone who wants to provide help — i.e., personally coming down to help with recovery efforts or wanting to send support — please wait until we know the damage, needs and next steps,” Johnson writes.

Final thoughts

Irma may have damaged the Florida Sea Base’s facilities, but the base’s mission has not changed.

“From its founding in 1980 by Sam Wampler, the Sea Base has been a unique and amazing place, providing incredible experiences for hundreds of thousands of Scouts,” Johnson writes “We’re fortunate to have great staff at the Sea Base to lead this effort forward as well as tremendous support from our National Service Center. Hurricane Irma will impact how we deliver program in the near future but we are committed to delivering the same exciting, quality program that the Sea Base has for 37 years.”

New York Eagle project honors the ‘man in the red bandanna,’ a 9/11 hero

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For Christopher Walsh, as for most of today’s Scouts, 9/11 is a history lesson. The 17-year-old Life Scout from Nyack, N.Y., was just 8 months old on that dark day.

But Christopher has always felt a particular connection to one of the day’s biggest heroes: Welles Crowther, also from Nyack.

“In elementary school, in middle school, all throughout my childhood, I’ve heard about Welles Crowther,” Christopher told The Journal News. “I play soccer, and I’d always hear about the man in the red bandanna. For our soccer team we had a red bandanna game last year.”

When the time came for Christopher to plan an Eagle Scout service project, he didn’t have to think long. He would build a memorial to the man who had died while saving strangers — strangers who knew only that they had been saved by a man in a red bandanna.

Going back into the smoke

Welles Remy Crowther was just 24 on Sept. 11, 2001. He was in the 104th floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit.

Crowther led a group through the smoke to safety. Instead of leaving the building with them, he turned around and went back up the stairs to find others he could save.

Crowther’s body was found on March 19, 2002 — six months after the towers fell. It’s believed he saved at least 18 people.

It will surprise few to learn that Crowther was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout in Troop 2 of Nyack, N.Y.

Honoring the man

The memorial at Nyack’s Memorial Park contains a piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center site.

The final touch will be a red bandanna Christopher received from Crowther’s parents. The bandanna will be dipped in a fiberglass resin and attached to the salvaged steel.

Before proceeding too far with planning, Christopher contacted Crowther’s parents. He wanted their permission to honor Crowther in this way.

“We said absolutely; it’s a beautiful idea,” Alison Crowther told The Journal News.

Crowther’s story becomes new book

A new, young-readers adaptation of Tom Rinaldi’s The Red Bandanna is available now. The book, by the award-winning ESPN reporter, introduces middle-grade readers to Crowther’s story.

You might consider the book as way to introduce young people to the tragedy of 9/11 in an accessible, age-appropriate way.

Air Force veteran, now a Scouting volunteer in St. Louis, was in the Pentagon on 9/11

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On Sept. 11, 2001, Elisa D’Antonio was at the Pentagon attending an Air Force training course.

A little before 9:30 a.m., someone wheeled a TV into the classroom, which was on the building’s south side. The TV flickered on to news coverage, where anchors were reporting that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

“They had just turned the tv on and were turning the volume up, and we caught a quick replay of New York,” D’Antonio said. “But, really, it hadn’t registered what was going on. The next thing you know, ka-boom, we heard it and felt it.”

American Airlines Flight 77 had crashed into the western side of the Pentagon. D’Antonio, 11 weeks pregnant at the time, could smell burning jet fuel. Police officers feared that another plane was on the way and were trying to get everyone out of danger as quickly as possible.

Sixteen years later, D’Antonio is the mom of an Eagle Scout and a volunteer who leads the Cub Scout Camping Committee for the Greater St. Louis Area Council. She recently recounted her harrowing experience to Christine Rasure, director of marketing and communications for the council. You can read Rasure’s full story here.

Dedicated to service

Ever since she was 12 or 13, D’Antonio wanted to be astronaut. Science and space fascinated her.

“I was overly serious in high school,” she told Rasure. “I was recruited by the service academies … but I wasn’t quite sure if that was what I wanted to do, so I never completed the application process.”

Rasure picks up the story from here:

At San Jose State, Elisa signed up for ROTC her second year. After the first couple of classes, she knew she had found her calling. Upon graduation, Elisa traveled to Del Rio, Texas, for pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base. After completing the yearlong program, she ended up flying a KC-135 — a 707 four-engine air refueling tanker.

Then, she flew a desk for four years, as she likes to say, before moving to D.C. for the Air Force Flight Standards Agency. When her husband retired from the Air Force, the family moved to Scott Air Force Base [25 miles east of downtown St. Louis] where Elisa finished out active duty.

Sept. 11, 2001

“When I went to work for the Air Force Flight Standards Agency, I got [to Washington, D.C.] at the very end of July in 2001,” D’Antonio told Rasure. “The agency, our bosses, were actually over in the Pentagon, so I had to go through the headquarters’ Air Force orientation class where they told you all the administrative stuff about working at the Pentagon.”

She was on the second day of that course when the plane hit the Pentagon.

“The fire alarms went off right away,” D’Antonio told Rasure. “There was no smoke or damage in the area I was in. As soon as the fire alarms went off, we evacuated the building. We were downwind of the explosion, and the smoke cloud and the fireball that came up from the explosion hadn’t even traveled over to where we were by the time we were out of the building. I came out of the building and I turned and looked to the right and the cloud of smoke was right there.

“We got out of the building and knew right away that it was an airplane that hit because we could smell the burning jet fuel. So we went across the parking lot and sat on the embankment next to the freeway.”

It wasn’t long before the police began evacuating the group again. There were reports that United Airlines Flight 93 was heading toward Washington, D.C.

D’Antonio and a friend walked to a nearby hotel, found pay phones and called their families. By 2 p.m., they made it back home safely. They’re the lucky ones; 189 people were killed at the Pentagon that day, including 64 on the plane and 125 on the ground.

Her Scouting chapter

D’Antonio was always destined to be a Scouter. Here’s another excerpt from Rasure’s story:

Before joining the Air Force, Elisa spent years working with youth first as a camp counselor for the YMCA, and then as a program director for parks and rec in college. These experiences served her well as she entered the world of Scouting.

Although she had no formal Scouting experience before her son Ryan, now an Eagle Scout, joined Cub Scouts, she dove right in as his Tiger den leader.

“At that time, I was still on active duty in the Air Force and wasn’t really looking to be a volunteer at that point, but no one else would step up to be the Tiger den leader, so I was the leader. At some point in second grade, we really didn’t have a functioning Cubmaster, so I kind of got roped into that too.”

In 2010, Elisa took over as the Cub camping chair for the former Lewis & Clark Council and spent time as the Cub Adventure Camp Director. She even served on national camp school staff. As if that wasn’t enough on her plate, she also led her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

As the council’s Cub Scout camping committee chair, she helps provide the direction for the volunteers who execute the program.

“We set the broad ideas, policies, themes for all Cub Scout camps. Things aren’t going to change overnight. Getting some good, quality survey feedback this summer will allow us to find out what the parents, leaders and kids want [in camping programs], and what they need.”

Boys’ Life offers special discount just in time for International Literacy Day

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Like tying a bowline or hitting a baseball, skills in reading can be improved with practice.

Experts at the National Education Association say that the more young people read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores. Also important, the experts say: offering diverse reading materials. That means in addition to books, young people should read magazines.

Hmm. A fun-filled magazine for young people, you say? I know just the thing.

Boost a young person’s reading skills by giving him a subscription to Boys’ Life magazine. And today, in honor of International Literacy Day, anyone can subscribe to Boys’ Life at half price: 12 issues for just $12 a year. That’s the Scout rate of $1 a month, and it’s available to anyone for a limited time.

Go here and enter the promo code NLD17 to subscribe at the special rate.

And remember: Today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders.

What the experts say about reading

According to the National Education Association:

  • As the number of types of reading materials in the home increases, a student’s reading proficiency increases, too. That means parents should make available magazines, newspapers and merit badge pamphlets in addition to books.
  • Students who read more at home are better readers and have higher math scores.
  • As students get older, they spend less time reading for fun. That makes it increasingly important to give them things they’ll enjoy reading, like Boys’ Life.
  • Reading a lot is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader. Young readers need to become practiced at recognizing letters and sounds, and the only way to get good at this is to practice. A lot.
  • The more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores.
What Boys’ Life does to promote literacy


  • Offers young people something to read that’s both enjoyable and age-appropriate.
  • Tailors content to their age group. (Fun fact: There are two versions of BL each month — one for Cub Scouts and another for Boy Scouts. Your reader gets the right one automatically.)
  • Shares suggestions about other books young readers might enjoy.
  • Gives Scouts ideas for future Scouting events, campouts and adventures.

Go here to subscribe. Don’t forget the promo code, NLD17, for the special International Literacy Day rate.

Here are the Eagle Scouts playing in the NFL in 2017

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Not all Eagle Scout go on to be Eagles like Donnie Jones, punter of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Others find careers as Raiders, Dolphins, Chiefs, Ravens, Broncos, Redskins, Texans and Saints.

A search of the NFL’s 2017 active rosters — 1,692 players in all — turns up at least 10 Eagle Scouts. These guys are living proof that great things start in Scouting.

Compiling this list, like winning a Super Bowl, was a team effort. BSA researcher Scott Olson created a spreadsheet of every player on NFL teams’ 53-man rosters. Then the National Eagle Scout Association’s Ryan Larson cross-referenced that list with his own spreadsheet of the 2.4 million-plus Eagle Scouts in history.

That spawned a list of Eagle Scout potentials for me to investigate. First, I eliminated the false positives. For example, there are several NFL players named Chris Jones and lots of Eagle Scouts with that name, but there are no Eagle Scouts named Chris Jones currently playing in the NFL.

After all that, we have confirmation that each of the NFL players below is an Eagle Scout.

Put another way: Scott threw a deep pass, and Ryan caught it for the game-winning touchdown. I was simply there on the sidelines to give them both a high five.

Two things to know:

  • Unlike my annually updated list of Eagle Scouts with Super Bowl ties, this list includes only Eagle Scouts on NFL rosters at the start of 2017 season. Others, including players on the practice squad or reserve rosters, weren’t included.
  • There’s a chance this list is incomplete, so let’s crowdsource it. If you know of an Eagle Scout on a current NFL team, leave a comment below.

OK, it’s game time. Here’s the list!

James Cowser, Oakland Raiders

Position: Defensive end

Date of birth: Sept. 13, 1990

Eagle earned: 1996

Council: Trapper Trails Council

College: Southern Utah University

More: Cowser was undrafted out of college, where the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder set the NCAA FCS record with 43.5 career sacks. Before that, he did his LDS mission trip in Hong Kong and is now fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

John Denney, Miami Dolphins

Position: Long snapper

Date of birth: Dec. 13, 1978

Eagle earned: 1996

Council: Denver Area Council

College: Brigham Young University

More: Denney, signed by the Dolphins in 2005, is the team’s longest-tenured player. He’s in his 13th NFL season with the Dolphins, joining a very short list of players who have had that kind of longevity with one team.

Jordan Devey, Kansas City Chiefs

Position: Guard

Date of birth: Jan. 11, 1988

Eagle earned: 2006

Council: Utah National Parks Council

College: University of Memphis

More: Devey, who won a Super Bowl with New England after the 2014 season, also played for the San Francisco 49ers before joining the Chiefs in 2016.

Donnie Jones, Philadelphia Eagles

Position: Punter

Date of birth: July 5, 1980

Eagle earned: 1998

Council: Istrouma Area

College: Louisiana State University

More: Last season, the 37-year-old had a 45.8-yard punting average and even boomed a 72-yarder.

Bronson Kaufusi, Baltimore Ravens

Position: Defensive end

Date of birth: July 6, 1991

Eagle earned: 2006

Council: Utah National Parks Council

College: Brigham Young University

More: In 2016, the Ravens drafted Kaufusi in the third round — pick No. 70 overall. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in training camp that year, but he’s fully healed and is eager to make his Ravens debut in 2017.

Matt Paradis, Denver Broncos

Position: Center

Date of birth: Oct. 12, 1989

Eagle earned: 2008

Council: Ore-Ida Council

College: Boise State University

More: For his Eagle Scout service project, Paradis renovated and enlarged a long-jump pit and shotput area. In the recent offseason, Paradis had surgery on both hips. He made a full recovery in time for the 2017 season.

Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins

Position: Offensive guard

Date of birth: Dec. 26, 1991

Eagle earned: 2009

Council: Mid-America Council

College: University of Iowa

More: Scherff, drafted fifth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, is the highest-drafted Eagle Scout on this list. After a strong 2016 season in which he started every game, Scherff was named to the Pro Bowl.

Daniel Sorensen, Kansas City Chiefs

Position: Defensive back

Date of birth: March 5, 1990

Eagle earned: 2008

Council: California Inland Empire Council

College: Brigham Young University

More: For his Eagle Scout service project, Sorensen planted 300 trees in his hometown of Grand Terrace, Calif. The trees are still there today — forever a reminder of the young man’s service. Sorensen has become an important part of the Chiefs defense and was rewarded with a four-year contract extension in 2017.

Xavier Su’A-Filo, Houston Texans

Position: Offensive guard

Date of birth: Jan. 1, 1991

Eagle earned: 2009

Council: Utah National Parks Council

College: UCLA

More: Of his Scouting past, Su’A-Filo said: “I think it says a lot about me and my dedication, my leadership and my worth ethic. That’s something that I’ll bring and that I get to bring in the locker room in that environment.”

Manti Te’o, New Orleans Saints

Position: Linebacker

Date of birth: Jan. 26, 1991

Eagle earned: 2008

Council: Aloha Council

College: University of Notre Dame

More: In 2012, Te’o told a crowd about a good deed he had performed for a woman in need. “I had a big smile on my face expecting my dad to tell me how proud he was,” Manti told the group. “But instead, he just simply said, ‘That’s what being a Scout is all about.'”

Any I missed?

I’m looking for more Eagle Scouts on current NFL rosters. If you have any you’d like me to check out, please leave a comment below.

Eagle Scout project teaches parents about the signs of drug addiction

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Corey Eisert-Wlodarczyk will never forget that day in March 2012 when his brother died of a heroin overdose.

Corey was just 11 years old when Collin died, and the memory lingers.

After the initial shock subsided, Corey began to speak at schools. He wanted to share his experience with other young people. If more people knew about Collin’s tragic death, Corey figured, lives could be saved.

But he wanted to do more than talk. Realizing that parents play an important role in recognizing and treating drug abuse, Corey had an idea. For his Eagle Scout service project, he would re-create a teenager’s bedroom.

At first glance, the room looks pretty normal. But, once educated, parents saw what was lurking just out of view: items associated with drug use and addiction.

“The education factor comes into play by taking parents through the bedroom so that they can learn the warning signs they should look for before it is too late,” Corey said.

Photo by Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News. Used with permission. Fake room, real impact

Corey and his volunteers built a fake bedroom using prefabricated pieces of drywall.

The room looked great, but it was nearly impossible to transport. Each time Corey wanted to take it somewhere new, setup would take hours.

So he planned version 2.0. This time, the entire bedroom would fit inside a trailer: awareness on wheels. Now Corey’s message goes anywhere accessible by pickup.

The Erie County (Pa.) Health Department gave Corey a $5,000 grant to complete the project. Thanks to the grant, orchestrated by Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, Corey bought and outfitted the trailer.

Lives saved

The project has traveled the region, educating parents at each stop along the way. Corey’s effort has gained local and national attention.

The impact hasn’t just been on families who visit the trailer. It has changed Corey, too.

“From this project I came in knowing several things. I knew how devastating a loss in the family could be and wanted to do my very best to prevent other families from having to deal with the same. I knew that America is currently in an epidemic of heroin use across the country and wanted to impact that cause,” he said. “I came out of my project having a greater understanding about myself, my family and how truly important it is to positively impact your community.”

Corey says the heroin epidemic is “one of the most serious and crippling issues in America today.”

But he’s optimistic that things can turn around.

“My deep belief is that the greatest weapon we have against it is education,” he said. “That is exactly what I hope to provide with my project.”

Eagle Scout project showcase

The Boys’ Life Eagle Scout project showcase includes even more terrific projects.

Exception to Second Class, First Class swimming requirements benefits Scouts who live far from water

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The BSA Executive Board has approved an exception to the Second Class and First Class swimming requirements, allowing Scouts who live prohibitively far from safe swimming areas to substitute other requirements.

In some geographically large or predominately rural councils, Scouts might live many miles from an indoor swimming pool or safe outdoor swimming area. This exception allows those Scouts to continue their advancement in a way that is practical but still challenging.

All the power lies with local councils here. The council Scout executive works with his or her council advancement committee to decide what constitutes “a reasonable traveling distance.” If the council determines a Scout lives too far from a swimming spot, the council then selects an “alternative requirement.” The requirement should provide a similar challenge and learning experience.

One note: This opportunity isn’t for Scouts who are unable to complete the swimming requirements because of an aversion to water. For guidance to help Scouts struggling with swimming, read this post. Be sure to scroll through the comments, where Scouters share their strategies for helping Scouts overcome their fears and learn this important life skill.

This change was officially announced in the September-October 2017 issue of Advancement News, which will be posted online soon.

Official wording of the new requirements

Effective Aug. 1, 2017, the following footnote will be added to Second Class requirements 5b and 5c and First Class requirements 6a and 6e:

Under certain exceptional conditions, where the climate keeps the outdoor water temperature below safe levels year-round, or where there are no suitably safe and accessible places (outdoors or indoors) within a reasonable traveling distance to swim at any time during the year, the council Scout executive and advancement committee may, on an individual Scout basis, authorize an alternative requirement. The local council may establish appropriate procedures for submitting and processing these types of requests. All the other requirements, none of which necessitate entry in the water or entry in a watercraft on the water, must be completed as written.

What this means — and what it doesn’t

This exception for alternative requirements is only for those limited locations where indoor swimming facilities or safe outside venues aren’t available within a reasonable travel distance.

This exception must not be used as a convenience to avoid the swimming requirements. It’s not for Scouts having difficulty learning to swim or meeting the swimming requirements.

FAQs about this change
  1. Who has authority to grant the alternative requirements?
    The council Scout executive and advancement committee is responsible for granting the alternative requirements. They must not delegate this authority to any other group or individual.
  2. What alternative requirements are acceptable?
    That decision is made by the council Scout executive and advancement committee. Local councils are best equipped to make this determination based on any unique characteristics they may face. However, any alternative should provide a similar challenge and learning experience.
  3. What is a reasonable travel distance?
    That is up to the local council to decide. Some geographically large or predominately rural councils face unique travel situations which larger urban or suburban councils do not. For example, councils in Alaska may have several locations where the exception is applicable but metropolitan councils may never have a situation come up where the footnote applies.
  4. Can the council grant alternatives for all or just some of the requirements?
    The council may only grant alternatives for the requirements that actually require the Scout to be in or on the water. Those include Second Class requirement 5b and 5c and First Class requirements 6a and 6e. Even if alternatives are approved for these requirements, the Scout still must complete all the other out-of-water requirements as written.
  5. Must the Scout complete the out-of-water requirements first?
    No, although it does make sense to complete Second Class requirement 5a and First Class requirement 6b before doing the other requirements.
  6. How does the Scout request alternative requirements?
    Each council may establish its own procedures similar to the procedures outlined in Guide to Advancement topic covering alternative rank requirements for members with disabilities. Typically, a unit leader will submit a written request to the council advancement committee explaining their situation and why alternative requirements are necessary.
  7. What does the council advancement committee do?
    The council advancement committee carefully reviews the request and provides a written response either approving, with the Scout executive’s concurrence, or denying the request. If approved, the unit must maintain the approval letter in their files.
  8. Can the council advancement committee and Scout executive grant blanket authority to certain units in remote locations?
    No, the council advancement committee and Scout executive must individually review every request. Sometimes conditions may improve and alternatives may no longer be warranted. However, a unit’s request may contain the names of one or more Scouts.
  9. Do these alternative requirements apply to Scouts who have an aversion to water or other difficulties completing the swimming requirements?
    No, the footnote and alternatives only apply to those limited situations where a safe swimming resource is not available or within a reasonable travel distance. If an appropriate resource is available, then the Scout must complete the requirements in the normal fashion. Alternative requirements are not available for any of the aquatic merit badges. Merit badge requirements must be completed as written.

September is Boy Scouts of America Month at Bass Pro Shops

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If you live in one of the 32 states with a Bass Pro Shops location, listen up.

September is the eighth annual Boy Scouts of America Month at Bass Pro Shops. The retailer of fishing, boating, camping and shooting supplies has a month of activities planned to support Scouting.

All month long, Bass Pro Shops will encourage people to join our movement, offer merit badge classes and allow shoppers to “Round Up for Boy Scouts.” That last effort encourages people to round their total to the nearest dollar, with the extra change going straight to Scouting — half to the BSA’s National Council and half to local councils.

To find your nearest Bass Pro Shops location, click here.

Earn a merit badge at Bass Pro

At nearly all of its U.S. locations*, Bass Pro Shops will help Scouts work toward the Fishing, Fish & Wildlife Management, and Rifle Shooting merit badges.

Classes are taught beginning at 6 p.m. local time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on this schedule:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 5 – Fishing MB
  • Wednesday, Sept. 6 – Rifle Shooting MB
  • Thursday, Sept. 7 – Fish and Wildlife Management MB
  • Tuesday, Sept. 12 – Rifle Shooting MB
  • Wednesday, Sept. 13 – Fish and Wildlife Management MB
  • Thursday, Sept. 14 – Fishing MB
  • Tuesday, Sept. 19 – Fish and Wildlife Management MB
  • Wednesday, Sept. 20 – Fishing MB
  • Thursday, Sept. 21 – Rifle Shooting MB
  • Tuesday, Sept. 26 – Fishing MB
  • Wednesday, Sept. 27 – Rifle Shooting MB
  • Thursday, Sept. 28 – Fish and Wildlife Management MB

Bass Pro Shops did share this word of advice: Class size is limited. You or your Scouts should call the nearest Bass Pro Shops and register for a merit badge class over the phone.

For more information, go to

*Merit badge classes and donations are available at all U.S. locations, except Islamorada, Fla.; Branson, Mo.; and the Outlet store in Springfield, Mo.

Eagle Scout Bowl 2017: BYU vs. LSU game will be a battle of Eagle Scout quarterbacks

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This is bigger than Cougars vs. Tigers. This is Eagle Scout vs. Eagle Scout.

When BYU and LSU square off this Saturday in New Orleans, each side will send an Eagle Scout out to take snaps, execute handoffs and hurl passes.

Officially, the game is called the 2017 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (moved to New Orleans from Houston because of Hurricane Harvey). Unofficially, I’m calling it the 2017 Eagle Scout Bowl.

This likely isn’t the first game in college football history featuring two Eagle Scout quarterbacks. But this is among the higher-profile instances. You’re talking about a nationally televised game between two prominent, consistently high-ranked teams. Check out the 2017 Eagle Scout Bowl at 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday, live on ESPN.

Meet the Eagle Scouts Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

BYU’s Tanner Mangum, a junior, became an Eagle Scout in 2008 as a member of Troop 106 of Eagle, Idaho, part of the Ore-Ida Council.

In 2015, Mangum rose to stardom as the orchestrator of two game-winning Hail Marys in back-to-back weeks.

Even more impressive: Mangum had just returned from his LDS mission trip only three months prior. He served in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile, where he and other missionaries performed earthquake and flood relief.

Photo by Chris Parent/LSU Photo

LSU’s Danny Etling, a senior, earned Scouting’s highest honor in 2012 as a member of Troop 17 of Terre Haute, Ind., part of the Crossroads of America Council.

Last year, Etling said Scouting was more than just an after-school activity with friends. The program, he said, made him a better football player and a better person.

Scouting “keeps you humble, keeps you working hard and going towards a goal. I still use the majority of the skills that I learned as a Boy Scout as far as being able to get guys organized, working towards a common goal based on leadership.”


BSA names pair of Eagle Scouts to serve as 2017-2018 NRA Youth Ambassadors

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At Scout camps across the country each year, hundreds of thousands of Scouts and Venturers participate in shooting sports activities — archery, rifle shooting, shotgun shooting, pistol shooting and more. Trained adult volunteers ensure they have safe and rewarding experience.

Shooting sports are one of the many ways Scouting teaches character to young people. And the NRA/BSA Brownell Youth Ambassador program is one of the many ways Scouting strengthens the shooting sports community.

The Boy Scouts of America this month named the 2017-2018 youth ambassadors: James Frasier Jr., a 16-year-old Eagle Scout from Queen Creek, Ariz.; and Kaleb Rulon, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Arcadia, Ind.

In January, James and Kaleb will travel to the National Shootings Sports Foundation’s annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas. They’ll attend meetings, visit and thank sponsors, and support the mission of the BSA.

They’ll also attend the NRA’s annual meeting — set for May in Dallas — to discuss ways to strengthen both groups.

During the rest of the year, they’ll offer insight on decisions regarding the BSA’s shooting sports program and write articles and blog posts for the NRA.

Meet James

James Frasier Jr. is a 16-year-old Eagle Scout from Queen Creek, Ariz. He is the vice president of administration for the Grand Canyon Council’s Venturing Officers Association.

He’s still in high school — with a 3.98 GPA, no less — but is already taking college courses.

James is a certified expert in shotgun shooting and competes on his school’s swimming, wrestling and baseball teams. He has participated in high-adventure treks at Philmont, Northern Tier and Sea Base — meaning he has qualified for and received the Triple Crown of High Adventure Award.

James wants to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and become an officer in the Navy.

As an NRA Youth Ambassador, James wants to promote the growth of shooting sports-focused Venturing crews and create a councilwide shooting competition.

“My goal is to help as many youth as possible to put down their phones, computers and videogames and go outside and see and experience the world,” he says.

Meet Kaleb

Kaleb Rulon is a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Arcadia, Ind.

For his Eagle project, Kaleb raised $7,000 to replace an aging memorial to war veterans.

“I built the monument to last a lifetime, and I hope to be able to take my grandchildren there some day to show them my project and share my love of Scouts, God and country,” he says.

Kaleb is skilled in a range of shooting disciplines, including shotgun, archery, muzzle-loader, pistol, rifle, and long-range rifle. He has won a number of state and national-level honors and competitions and has even given back by serving as an NRA Junior Shotgun Instructor.

In school, Kaleb is a member of the National Honor Society, the Business Professionals of America and is president of the local chapter of the National FFA Organization. After high school, he wants to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

“I love learning how things work and thinking about how to make them better, which is why engineering is my passion.”

As ambassador, Kaleb wants to help the BSA and the NRA work together to enhance the BSA’s programs for youth.

“I know that I am the best person to bridge the gap between the NRA and the BSA because of my ability to relate to both groups and make connections between them,” he says.

Become a future NRA Youth Ambassador

Find the application, and lots more info about the BSA’s shooting sports programs, at this link.

Learn more about the BSA’s shooting sports programs

Your best bet is the comprehensive, well-written Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Sports Manual.

Come back to Gilwell by joining the American Wood Badge Alumni group

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It’s time for Owls to unite as a parliament, Antelopes to join the herd and Bears to form a sloth. (Yes, I looked it up, and that’s what a group of bears is called. I couldn’t believe it either.)

It’s time to remember, reconnect and rekindle. It’s time to come back to Gilwell.

The American Wood Badge Alumni group unites BSA volunteers across the country who have completed that transformative training experience called Wood Badge.

Think of American Wood Badge Alumni as a group within a group. In this case, the larger group is Scouting Alumni & Friends (formerly called the Scouting Alumni Association).

How to join American Wood Badge Alumni

Joining is easy.

First, you become a member Scouting Alumni & Friends at the free (Hiker) or $35 (Pathfinder) level.

Then you go under “My Scouting Information” and select your Wood Badge critter.

Then … you’re done! But those small steps go a long way.

OK, I’ve joined. What next?

In short, American Wood Badge Alumni is about rekindling the fire for all Wood Badgers.

And I do mean all Wood Badgers. That includes those who just completed their ticket last week and those whose Wood Badge experience was on the “old course” — the one used before the 2002 introduction of Wood Badge for the 21st Century.

In long, American Wood Badge Alumni works through local councils to help them connect with Wood Badgers who might want to give back to Wood Badge or Scouting in general.

The association has these five areas of focus:

  1. Membership. Assist and promote new courses and the recruitment of Scouters to experience Wood Badge training. The association will assist in the promotion of all Wood Badge courses in the council, the area and the region.
  2. Communications. Promote Wood Badge, the association and the awarding of Wood Badge scholarships.
  3. Alumni Events. Network through Gilwell reunions and other council alumni events.
  4. Service. Gather Wood Badgers to promote, organize and support service projects within the council, at camp properties and within the community.
  5. Recruitment. The association will assist in identifying and recruiting Scouters who have experienced Wood Badge training and are well suited for additional roles and responsibilities.
The timing is right

I spoke with Rick Bragga, chairman of American Wood Badge Alumni. He said the timing is right to introduce this new Scouting alumni group.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the first official Wood Badge course in the U.S. In 1948, two official BSA Wood Badge courses were held, one at Schiff Scout Reservation in New Jersey and one at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Scouting legend William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt served as Scoutmaster at both nine-day courses.

In 2019, the world will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first ever Wood Badge course, held at Gilwell Park in England.

But beyond the history, Bragga says, Wood Badge is a shared experience that shouldn’t be confined to those six days and a reunion or two.

“You can’t think about Wood Badge without people thinking about singing a song, sitting around a fire and having a cracker barrel,” he says. “We’re looking at that whole concept of re-engaging, reconnecting, rekindling the fire.”

But what about the patch?

I know, I know. Bragga tells me a patch and other merchandise featuring that awesome American Wood Badge Alumni logo seen below “is in the works.”

Stay tuned!

How to help members of our Scouting family affected by Hurricane Harvey

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When disaster strikes, the Scouting community rallies to help those in need.

This was true when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in 2012, and tornadoes tore through Texas and Oklahoma in 2013.

This week, Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh shared ways that members of the BSA family can help those affected by historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Because the situation along the Texas coast is still developing, first responders aren’t requesting in-person volunteers at this time. So while your well-intentioned instincts might be to show up and offer support, it’s still too early for that.

Instead, the best way to help — for those willing and able — is by offering financial support.

How to offer help with food and shelter

To provide immediate support for food and shelter needs in the area, Surbaugh and the BSA encourage you to donate directly to the American Red Cross and/or Salvation Army:

  • American Red Cross: Donate online at, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Salvation Army: Donate online at; by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY; or via mail to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta GA 30301
How to help those affected within the BSA

You can give to a special BSA fund established to help those councils most affected by the flooding, including:

  • Sam Houston Area Council (based in Houston)
  • Three Rivers Council (Beaumont)
  • Bay Area Council (Galveston)
  • South Texas Council (Corpus Christi)
  • Alamo Area Council (San Antonio)
  • Capitol Area Council (Austin)

Donations can be designated for specific councils or shared among all affected councils. All donations will be used to help rebuild and restore BSA facilities and programs.

“We are working with the leadership teams of these local councils to make sure their staffs and families are safe,” Surbaugh said in a letter to BSA employees. “We are also getting input on property damage at council offices and camps. As the storms continue in the area, we will continuously evaluate the needs of our people and facilities.”

BSA camps adding healthier options at dining halls, trading posts

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At Bashore Scout Reservation in Pennsylvania, the campaign to keep Scouts physically strong starts at the dining hall.

Starting last year, Scouts who attend summer camp at Bashore are served meals with more whole grains, leaner proteins, and increased fruits and veggies. At the trading post, sugar-laden offerings have decreased, replaced by healthier alternatives like yogurt and applesauce. And each week, Scouts are given pedometers to track their steps as part of a campwide competition to see which troop is the most active.

What started at Bashore in 2016 expanded to six more camps in 2017. But this is only the beginning. Thanks to the generosity of two Scouting donors, this healthier-camps program is free and available to any BSA council willing to implement it.

It’s another way the BSA is doing its part to combat a widening problem in this country: childhood obesity. And what a problem it has become: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity. These children are more likely to be bullied, have chronic health problems and suffer from low self esteem.

Can one week at summer camp make a difference? According to the American Camp Association, the answer is yes.

“Memorable camp experiences change lives, and these changes carry over into the future,” the association writes in a post on its website. “Policies and systems can be encouraged within camps and across the camp community to prevent and reduce obesity. Identifying good ideas and best practices can facilitate the adoption of these practices now and for the future.”

Jeanne Arnold spoke about healthier camps at the BSA’s Top Hands conference in Dallas. (Photo by Roger Morgan) Leading the charge

Jeanne Arnold has spent her life uniting organizations behind the common goal of improving the lives of children and families. Arnold and her husband, Ed, are among Scouting’s most generous donors. Both are recipients of the Silver Buffalo Award, the BSA’s highest honor for adult volunteers.

Jeanne Arnold chairs the BSA’s Obesity Prevention Task Force. The BSA has empowered young people to keep themselves physically strong for more than 100 years, and the task force is the latest example of this effort.

“The work being done on the front line with the Boy Scouts of America shows the Boy Scouts as thought leaders,” she said.

What worked at Bashore

At Bashore, which is in Jeanne Arnold’s home council, a registered dietitian developed a new dining hall menu that decreased the amount of sugar, salt and fat without sacrificing kid-friendly taste.

“We got excellent comments back about the food being good and the Scouts wanting to come back,” she said.

In other words, you might say it’s Scout-tested, parent-approved food.

At the trading post, the new approach meant changes to both product placement and product cost. Healthier options became more visible and less expensive.

“These good-for-you foods were priced lower than candy, slushes and soda, which were still available for purchase,” Jeanne Arnold said. “They just weren’t the first thing you saw.”

The results: plate waste decreased at the dining hall, meaning Scouts ate every bit of those healthier meals. And trading post sales? They actually increased by an average of $6 per Scout.

Bashore’s Step-Up challenge was a hit, too. With the motivation to get more steps than fellow troops, Scouts moved more each day.

Average daily step counts increased as the week went on — from 14,251 on Monday to 17,550 on Thursday.

Beyond Bashore

For Summer 2017, the BSA’s push to make camps healthier expanded to seven council camps across the country. The program is available to any camp in any BSA local council.

Best part of this whole effort: it costs nothing to councils or Scouting families, thanks to the generosity of Ed and Jeanne Arnold. The Arnolds have put financial support behind this effort to improve menus and enhance education through nutritional science.

Many Scouts, though, don’t need convincing. They’re used to better-for-you food at home.

“Many of these kids are already eating healthier snacks at home because of their millennial moms,” Jeanne Arnold said. “Hopefully this will increase recruitment as parents know the health and safety of their kids is supported in Scouting.”

Healthier young people can be more active in Scouting and have more fun participating in this life-changing movement.

And while a Scout’s time spent at camp might be less than seven days, Jeanne Arnold says that’s enough to make a difference.

“Summer camp is only one week out of the year,” she said, “but through research it is well established that that immersive experience can change behaviors.”

How to accept credit cards for popcorn, pack dues and pretty much anything else

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Don’t let a cashless customer walk away that easily.

By adding a cheap credit card reader, your pack, troop or crew will be equipped to accept plastic for popcorn sales and other in-person, show-and-sell-type fundraisers. With a few taps, the money can be deposited into your unit’s bank account in a day or two.

Units that add these readers see an instant increase in sales. I’ve heard from packs and troops that have enjoyed a jump of 10 to 20 percent once they started taking credit cards.

There are downsides to these readers. First, there’s an up-front cost for the newer readers that accept chip cards. (I’ll tell you why a chip-enabled reader is a necessity later in the post.)

Then there’s the fee. The companies behind the readers charge a fee per swipe or chip read. The fee can be up to 2.75 percent. That’s not nothing, but sacrificing 82.5 cents on a $30 bag of caramel corn is better than missing out on the sale entirely.

What’s new in credit card readers?

I first blogged about accepting credit cards for popcorn sales in 2012. Five years later, the three readers I mentioned back then — from Square, PayPal and Intuit/QuickBooks — remain the three best options.

But many other aspects of credit card readers have changed.

For one, the companion apps that pair with the physical readers have improved greatly.

Now you can email receipts to customers with ease, accept tips and give access to multiple people. That means, for example, you could allow a parent to process sales but leave refund power to a handful of registered leaders.

What’s new in credit cards?

Credit card technology has changed, too. Credit and debit cards now come with built-in chips meant to make the card information harder to steal.

Having a card reader that can accept chips isn’t just a good idea; it could reduce your liability in fraud cases. As of Oct. 1 2015, sellers — not credit card issuers — are on the hook for fraudulent charges when the customer has a chip card but the seller swipes instead.

Also new: contactless payment options like Apple Pay and Android Pay that use near-field communication (NFC) to process payments.

What are the best options for card readers?

Most Scouters I’ve heard from use one of these three readers:

Name Square Chip Card Reader PayPal Here Chip Card Reader QuickBooks GoPayment EMV Card Reader Price for reader $29.00 $79.00 $30 EMV/chip reader Yes Yes Yes Contactless (Apple Pay, NFC) No (but available in $49 version) Yes No iOS compatible Yes Yes Yes Android compatible Yes Yes Yes Commission 2.75% 2.70% 2.40% + 25 cents per transaction Free version? Yes (lacks chip reader) Yes (lacks chip reader) No Website Here. Here. Here. Photo

Note: Many of these readers plug into your phone or tablet’s headphone jack. If you have a device like an iPhone 7 that lacks a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, you can use Apple’s $9 Lightning-to-headphone adapter. Or just use another device, like an iPad, older iPhone, or Android phone or tablet.

Accepting dues and other unit payments

Now that you have the card reader and account set up, why not use it to accept other unit-related payments? This could include dues, camp fees and more. It’s all about convenience for our Scouting families.

Once again, don’t forget about the processing fee. Some units, including the troop of which I’m a member, pass that fee along to the Scout or Scouter. For example, a troop whose yearly dues are $100 would charge $102.75 to those using credit cards.

What else should I consider when using these?
  • Read the fine print for additional fees. Some of these companies charge for things like manually keyed-in card numbers.
  • Remember that these readers work best when the phone is connected to the internet. Some units have used an old iPhone, set it up on a prepaid plan — $40 or so for 1 GB of data, which is plenty — and set up the phones so the only icons visible are the chip-reader app and the calculator app. “The extra sales more than made up for the expense of the cellular plan and the service charge for taking cards,” one leader said.
  • Use the built-in memo field within the app to categorize each transaction. This will help you know whether that random $75 was for popcorn sales or winter camp.
  • Units already using PayPal for things like rechartering fees or camps should probably go with the PayPal reader. It will work with your existing PayPal account.
  • Take time to add your product line into the sales system. This means each transaction is just a matter of tapping which product was being purchased and processing payment.


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