Bryan On Scouting

Help! This mom wants ideas for what to do with her son’s ‘mini stockpile’ of patches

Like any active Scout, Logan Garfield has amassed quite a collection of Scouting patches.

There are patches he earned for selling popcorn, patches he received for attending camporees and patches he acquired at summer camp.

Patches, patches and more patches.

The collection has grown so large that Logan’s mom, Sarah, calls it “a mini stockpile.”

In fact, when I asked Sarah to send me a photo of the patches, she confesses that “we couldn’t find them all!”

For each one pictured, there are two or three more tucked in drawers or stuffed in backpacks.

“I’m just not sure what to do with with them, so I would love some ideas,” she says. “I’m sure a lot of other parents would love to see this covered.”

Temporary patches, permanent memories

Sarah is asking about the patches that Logan, a Star Scout in Troop 16 of Arkport, N.Y., wore in the “temporary patch position” on the right pocket.

The only problem with temporary patches is a Scout can wear just one at a time. When one goes on, another must come off.

Hello, mini stockpile.

So what should happen to all those temporary patches? Some have trade value; all have sentimental value.

Though they’re called temporary patches, these are permanent keepsakes. They are manifestations of Scouting memories. They link you to a moment in time like no photo or video can.

They deserve better than a drawer or plastic baggie.

Show us your ideas!

So let’s hear it. Have you found a creative way to showcase, display or reuse your Scout’s patch collection?

Show us your vests and blankets, and if you have a particularly unique presentation, we definitely want to see it!

Please share your ideas in the comments section below. Bonus points if you include a photo. (To add one, just click the comment box and then select the image icon.)

From knots to explosives awareness, Scouters in NATO guide Afghan Scouts

Every third Friday of the month, a group of Scouts — boys and girls — gather to learn skills, like first aid, knot-tying and explosives awareness. Yes, they learn what to do if they come across a bomb.

Scouting prepares youth for life, and unfortunately, in war-torn Afghanistan, part of that life includes knowing what to do around landmines. Still, Scouters who are stationed in Kabul as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) support mission are devoted to imparting the lessons of Scouting to Scouts in the country’s capital.

NATO service members from America, Great Britain, Norway, Australia and the Netherlands host meetings at the military base. They held a camporee earlier this year. Some members were Scouts in their countries; some are Scouters or are parents of Scouts, and some have no prior affiliation to Scouting and just enjoy helping.

“All of us volunteers really love this time with the kids and feel this is so important for these kids that live in an uncertain scary time for them,” U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Sarah Deal says.

Mission is the same

Outside of lessons in explosives awareness, Scouting in Afghanistan doesn’t differ much from Scouting in the States. Scouts camp, sing songs, lead service projects, play games, learn Leave No Trace principles and make crafts, a favorite of which are paracord bracelets, Deal says. Recently, the Scouts that meet at the base started a STEM program with solar experiments.

“The Scouts have special programs with learning about computers, solar power, and the like — with the leadership skills they are learning from the Scouts program, they have the opportunity to make a real change in their communities and country,” U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mitch Altman says.

Scouting in Afghanistan can be traced back to 1931, and reached its zenith in the 60s and 70s with 36,000 male and female members. The movement dwindled though as the country plunged into civil unrest and war. Under the Taliban rule, traditional Scouting was banned.

Over the last decade, the program has been reborn thanks to national charities and donors. Volunteers, like those at the NATO base, have helped support the movement, which includes 1,800 registered youth in almost half of the country’s provinces. About 40 percent of those Scouts are girls.

The volunteers’ mission is the same as it is with any Scouting leader: to instill values of leadership, service and good citizenship. At the NATO base, it usually takes two or three weeks of preparation for a monthly event, which invites troops from around the city and orphanages. That includes planning the activities, requesting security entrance for the Scouts and ensuring the food and handouts will be culturally and religiously appropriate.

“They stay up late preparing; they get up early to coordinate for the Scouts’ travel, and they give up most of their very coveted free time to spend time with the Scouts,” Altman says. “This type of servant leadership is a staple of the military services and an important trait for the Scouts to observe, learn and exemplify.”

Making memories

Adam Howland, an Eagle Scout and Major in the U.S. Air Force, has worked with the Scouts in Afghanistan since his first deployment to the country in 2015. One of his favorite memories came that year. Scout leaders had worked to send three Scouts from three different troops to the World Jamboree in Japan. When the Scouts returned, they thanked their leaders by presenting them each with patches from the jamboree.  

Another Scout leader favorite is a regular event held at the NATO base: multinational presentations. Since the base has personnel from all over the world, there are chances for Scouters to share what Scouting is like in their home countries with the Afghan Scouts.

“The Scouts are very enthusiastic about learning about other places and feel empowered by realizing they’re part of a broader movement of Scouts,” Altman says.

That movement comes together in moments like a service project that partnered Afghan Scouts with an American Scout troop. The U.S. troop shipped over materials to make memorial boxes for fallen service members, and the Afghan Scouts assembled and presented them to the chaplaincy, Howland says.

Afghanistan is not a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement since it doesn’t have a National Scout Organization yet, although it’s working toward being a full member. To see what Scouts are doing around the world, visit the World Scouting site.

Female Webelos proves boys, girls have more in common than you might think

Brianna Brady’s bedroom has pink walls, a flower-print valance and a basket full of Barbies.

“And you want to be a Boy Scout?” the host asks. “How come?”

“Because you get to do stuff with your family,” the 10-year-old replies.

It’s really that simple.

As a Webelos Scout, Brianna gets to enjoy the things she loves with the people she loves.

Now that the Cub Scout program has opened its doors to girls, we’re seeing more and more stories like Brianna’s.

We’re hearing about moms, dads, daughters and sons who are joining Scouting as a family. While dens remain single-gender (made up of all boys or all girls), many Cub Scout packs are choosing to include both boys and girls. This means the entire family can enjoy pack meetings and campouts together.

Brianna’s story gains national attention

By joining Pack 150 of the Patriots’ Path Council in New Jersey, Brianna can experience the program that shaped her dad’s life. Bob Brady is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow — the highest honor in Scouting’s national honor society.

“As a longtime Scout that gained so much from the program, I’m glad that not only our sons, but now our daughters can take advantage,” Bob Brady wrote on Facebook. “In the end, wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone lived by the Scout Oath and Law?”

You can watch Brianna’s story in the latest episode of “More In Common,” a weekly series from ABC that showcases Americans from different backgrounds who come together in unexpected ways. The show airs exclusively on Facebook Watch, the social media site’s platform for original videos.

The episode about Brianna and Pack 150 was filmed during a pack activity held at Camp Somers in Stanhope, N.J. (Side note: This camp looks really cool, and I must visit immediately.)

As of this writing, more than a half-million people have watched the video, which I’ve included at the end of this post.

Boys and girls

The show is called “More In Common,” so what traits do boys and girls share?

“I think [what] boys and girls have in common is they’re both Scouts,” one boy says.

“That’s the new thing boys and girls have in common,” the host adds. “They can all be Scouts.”

You see, the values Cub Scouts memorize in the Scout Oath and Scout Law aren’t gendered. Every young person should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

While each of the Scout Law’s 12 points is vital to a young person’s development, Brianna places extra emphasis on No. 6: kind.

“Because if you’re not kind to somebody, then they’re not going to want to be your friend,” she says.

That’s the whole point of this “More in Common” series. To illustrate that, especially in these divided times, we could all use a little more kindness.

Watch this

Here’s the video, embedded below.

Before you watch, I did want to clarify one thing. While the video mentions that Brianna is among the first girls to be a Boy Scout, that’s not exactly right.

She’s a Webelos in the Cub Scout program, which is for boys and girls in kindergarten through fifth grades. Beginning in February 2019, Brianna (and other boys and girls) can join Scouts BSA — the new name for the program for youth ages 11 to 17.

Extreme Makeovers, Round 21: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

Note: This is the 21st in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here.

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

This week’s batch of 14 projects includes new shelving for an Illinois food bank, an outdoor physical fitness training center in California and a helipad for a North Carolina fire department.

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

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

Eugene from Illinois

Who: Eugene, Troop 398, Hanover Park, Ill.

What: Eugene and his helpers built three identical shelving units for the Northern Illinois Food Bank’s West Suburban Center in Geneva, Ill. Each shelving unit has top and bottom shelves that are fixed, plus middle shelves that are adjustable. These shelves store snacks and supplies that benefit the hundreds of volunteers that visit the Food Bank’s West Suburban Center in Geneva during the 11 volunteer shifts each week.

Patrick from New Hampshire

Who: Patrick, Troop 86, Concord, N.H.

What: Patrick and his helpers dug up the existing, faded old path at a retirement home and replaced it with crushed stone. They pruned apple trees, cleared downed branches from various types of trees, cleaned a giant planter, planted more than 150 flower bulbs and installed a beautiful bench near the refurbished flower garden. This pathway is used not only by the residents of the retirement home where it’s located but by members of the community as well.

Kenny from Connecticut

Who: Kenny, Troop 1, Milford, Ct.

What: Kenny and his helpers rebuilt a wigwam (a traditional American Indian home) at the local conservation center, which will be used as an outdoor classroom for elementary school students.

Quinn from Illinois

Who: Quinn, Troop 42, Homer, Ill.

What: Quinn and his helpers renovated a picnic area at his church.

Jordan from New York

Who: Jordan, Troop 267, Fredonia N.Y.

What: Jordan and his helpers built a roof over an outside information display at the Dunkirk Lighthouse, ensuring the brochures don’t get ruined by the weather.

Alan from New York

Who: Alan, Troop 483, Hampton Bays, N.Y.

What: Alan and his helpers took the hole left in the parking lot after the kindergarten building was removed and turned it into a grassy meditation garden with benches, solar lighting and chess tables at Our Lady of the Hamptons School in Southampton, N.Y.

Cole from Indiana

Who: Cole, Troop 350, Advance, Ind.

What: Cole read an editorial about an abandoned/vandalized cemetery with more than 235 people buried there. He raised $3,000 and spent three months cleaning, repairing and rebuilding headstones with the help of more than 30 volunteers.

Phil from Minnesota

Who: Phil, Troop 458, Eagan, Minn.

What: Phil and his helpers cleared the dead trees from the woods (which were wood-chipped and used on the paths) and then built an outdoor classroom at his school, Trinity Lone Oak Lutheran School. A path was also built (not shown).

Triston from California

Who: Triston, Crew 318, Murrieta, Calif.

What: Triston and his helpers built an outdoor physical fitness training center for his high school’s Marine Corps JROTC program along with a Killed in Action memorial to honor two Murrieta Valley alumni who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting in the U.S. Army.

Jonathan from Colorado

Who: Jonathan, Troop 999, Arvada, Colo.

What: Jonathan and his helpers designed and landscaped the flag pole area at the middle school he attended and taught flag folding and etiquette to the students so they can conduct proper flag ceremonies.

Dylan from Nebraska

Who: Dylan, Troop 109, Fremont, Neb.

What: Dylan and his helpers designed, planned and planted a Rosary Garden outside his high school, Archbishop Bergan Catholic School in Fremont.

John from Kansas

Who: John, Troop 52, Lawrence, Kan.

What: John and his helpers renovated the porch of the main house for Lawrence Family Promise, a local charity. They installed two oversize gates in front of the stairs and the ramp, and replaced the weeds with flowers. His project improved the appearance so it is safer for children to play and more welcoming. Lawrence Family Promise is a local charity which houses and aides entire homeless families so they can get on their feet again.

Grayden from Wisconsin

Who: Grayden, Troop 147, Luck, Wis.

What: Grayden and his helpers upgraded an existing trailhead by adding bicycle features, a Fit-It Station and a log bike rack. They added a kiosk bench, regraveled the parking lot and added a path from the parking lot to the Gandy Dancer Trail. The trailhead had an existing Eagle Scout project on it as a rest stop for snowmobilers — the grey building on the left in the photos. It is named Two Eagles Trailhead because of the two Eagle Scout projects.

Michael from North Carolina

Who: Michael, Troop 25, Trinity, N.C.

What: Michael and his helpers raised more than $32,000 and designed and oversaw the complete construction of a helipad for Guil-Rand Fire Department.

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

Eagle Scout business leader recalls the time when Neil Armstrong drove him to his council’s Eagle dinner

Dave Alexander and his parents were standing on their front lawn watching Neil Armstrong drive away.

They thought to themselves: Did that just happen?

The year was 1959 — 10 years before the Eagle Scout landed on the moon and became a household name.

For Alexander, who was 14 at the time, the meeting with Armstrong took on more and more significance as time passed. On July 20, 1969, the impact of this encounter reached beyond the exosphere.

“Think about that,” Alexander told me by phone last month. “Neil Armstrong coming to your home.”

But that’s not to say the Armstrong-Alexander meeting wasn’t impactful on that California night. I mean, what 14-year-old wouldn’t get a thrill at meeting someone who piloted the X-15 rocket plane, an aircraft that could reach the edge of outer space at speeds approaching 4,000 mph?

Alexander made quite a name for himself in the 59 years since his Armstrong encounter. He founded Phoenix-based Caljet of America LLC, which receives petroleum products, blends fuel and loads tanker trucks for delivery to retail stations and commercial fueling facilities. The Eagle Scout is an accomplished triathlete, a skilled magician and a philanthropist whose generosity has helped the Summit Bechtel Reserve flourish.

But it’s safe to say Alexander’s passion for Scouting was launched into orbit when the Eagle Scout met the other Eagle Scout.

Neil Armstrong is seen next to the X-15 ship after a research flight in 1960. Pilot and co-pilot

In 1959, Alexander was Armstrong’s guest — or was it the other way around? — at the Long Beach Area Council’s annual Century Club event.

The event honored that year’s Eagle Scouts and gave the youngsters a chance to hear from an inspirational speaker.

Each local businessman who donated $100 to the council was linked up with an Eagle Scout for the evening. The businessman picked the Scout up, drove him to the event, talked with him the during dinner, and then drove him home.

“I was called and asked if the keynote speaker, an X-15 pilot, could be my host,” Alexander says. “I was thrilled and said, ‘of course.'”

It was a fitting pairing. Alexander and Armstrong each gave speeches that night. Though Armstrong’s remarks were the draw, Alexander commanded the audience’s attention, too.

This is something his classmates at Lindbergh Junior High School could’ve predicted. Just read what Armstrong’s teacher wrote about him on Nov. 10, 1959:

“He has tremendous poise before an audience,” she wrote. “In all my teaching years — some 38 — David would stand at the top.”

Alexander remembers sitting at the head table next to Armstrong and chatting with him throughout the night.

“He even autographed my program,” Alexander says. “After the event and a long line of Scouts and other guests seeking autographs, he took me home. After saying goodnight to my parents and me, he drove off into the darkness.”

Dave Alexander stands with his statue and Scouts at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. ‘Statues and monuments’

In 1960, Alexander wrote a 200-word essay on why he believed he should be selected to represent the BSA during the annual Report to the Nation trip to Washington, D.C. (This was back when Scouts applied, via their council, for the honor. Today, delegates are nominated by their local council.)

Though Alexander was not selected, his essay — written during the BSA’s 50th anniversary year — is enlightening.

He writes about his Scouting journey, which began as a Cub Scout in Pack 69 and continued into Troop 113, where he became an Eagle Scout.

“I have attained Scouting’s highest rank, much pleasure and much knowledge that will help me in later life,” he wrote.

He goes on about his new passion for collecting coins, which was inspired by his father’s “numismatic interest.” But my favorite part of Alexander’s essay was the final paragraph, which included these prescient words:

“Now this is the 50th anniversary of Scouting in the United States — 50 wonderful years of fun and camping and study,” he writes. “Statues and monuments will be raised in honor of those who started the whole thing. But ahead lies 50 more years of Scouting.”

Could Alexander have known nearly six decades ago that he would be one of those Scouting pioneers immortalized in a statue? That a statue of him would be raised to honor his commitment to this movement?

Dave Alexander stands with his statue, created by artist Jamie Lester (right). ‘An action figure’

An 8-foot bronze statue of Alexander was unveiled in June at Dave Alexander Low Gear — a mountain biking venue at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

Though the statue is stationary, it’s hardly static. It depicts Alexander zooming along on a bicycle as he races in a triathlon. Alexander once completed 30 triathlons in 30 weeks in a row and has worked to promote the sport around the world.

When he was asked what kind of statue might best symbolize him, Alexander knew he didn’t want to be shown wearing a suit and tie.

“I want the kids to relate to me,” he told the artist. “I want to be an action figure.”

As the BSA charges on into its second century, many of Scouting’s activities have evolved. The world-class mountain biking trails at the Summit Bechtel Reserve that bear Alexander’s name are a perfect example.

But the “fun and camping and study” that he wrote about haven’t changed.

That’s still why young people get hooked on Scouting. That’s still why parents choose Scouting for their sons and daughters as a way to strengthen their character and build a better tomorrow.

And that’s still why we need people like Alexander to help us get there.

Baltimore Scout brilliantly compares his Scouting journey to building a campfire

Luke S. was a Webelos Scout when he tried to build his first campfire. He diligently followed each step he had learned.

The process was frustrating at first. Luke says he struck that flint “50 times until my hands were numb.”

But Luke had learned in Cub Scouting to try his best. He learned to keep going, even if things get tough. Eventually, he conjured a spark that ignited a flame. That flame yielded delicious s’mores and welcome warmth on a chilly September evening.

The fire also sparked within Luke a Scouting spirit that still burns today.

Luke is now 14 years old, a Life Scout and the senior patrol leader of Troop 874 of the Baltimore Area Council. He recently wrote a few words about his Scouting experience so far.

“Little did I know this fire would be my guiding light to where I am today,” he writes.

Here’s Luke’s essay, which his mom, Jennifer passed along to me.

Luke continues to practice his fire-building techniques to this day as a member of Troop 874. The Fire Within

By Luke S.

It was the fire that started everything. It was a chilly September evening, and I was determined to build my first campfire. I put a plan together and followed all the steps that my grandpa, dad and leaders thoughtfully taught and demonstrated to me so many times before.

I gathered the kindling, tinder and log fuel and placed them in piles. Next, I carefully pulled apart a natural fiber rope that I found earlier that day and made it look like a bird nest. Then, I arranged logs around where the bird nest fire starter would eventually be placed. I set the logs in the fire ring with a point in the center, forming a tepee structure. The tepee structure would provide the fuel to catch a small flame from the nest.

When I was satisfied with my nest and tepee structures, I finally tried my new flint and steel to make a spark to ignite the nest. I tried and tried until I got a spark. I must have struck that flint 50 times until my hands were numb and my knees were cramping from kneeling. Just as I was about to give up, a small, yet bright ember appeared in the center of the bird nest.

I carefully put toothpick-sized twigs on top of the embers as they charred the surrounding fibers. Eventually, the fire grew within the nest and I placed it into the base of the tepee. The flames licked the sides and bottom of the larger pieces of wood and eventually caught the whole tepee of wood on fire.

The fire roared with orange flames three feet high. I felt so proud because I was able to build and light a fire to provide for my camp. We used that fire to roast marshmallows and provide light for the evening entertainment. Little did I know this fire would be my guiding light to where I am today.

I realized that with proper planning, patience, organization and perseverance, I could tackle and succeed at challenges that come my way.

Working hard to build and successfully light that fire gave me confidence and made me feel really proud and accomplished. I knew that night I wanted to be a Boy Scout and would set a goal to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

I use the principles of the Scout Law, such as being reverent, trustworthy and loyal as a path to build my character and help me achieve my goals.

Scouting has opened up many opportunities for me to gain leadership roles, experience exciting outdoor adventures, build lasting friendships and volunteer in new areas.

The same lessons I learned building my first fire on that cold, dark night gave me the building blocks to pave the way for me to be successful in Scouts, school and other areas of my life.

Tell your fire-building story

Do you remember building your first campfire? Please enlighten us by sharing your story in the comments.

Could spending time outside help you live longer? A new study has the answer

Going camping or hiking with Scouts or Venturers isn’t merely a fun, fulfilling way to spend a weekend. It may also help you feel better, sleep more soundly and live longer.

A massive study published last month by the University of East Anglia in England concludes that exposure to the outdoors reduces your risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death and high blood pressure. Time spent in nature also increases sleep duration and decreases stress levels.

Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, the study’s lead author, looked at 143 studies involving more than 290 million people from 20 countries, including the United States. The researchers wanted to determine whether nature nurtures your health in positive ways.

The definitive answer: yes.

“Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term well-being hasn’t been fully understood,” Twohig-Bennett says.

How they did it

The researchers looked at the health of people who spend little time outdoors and compared that to the health of people who spend lots of time in nature. Scouts and Scout leaders, though not mentioned by name in the study, fall in the latter group.

The group that spent more time outside had “diverse and significant health benefits,” according to the study.

OK, but why? What causes this positive relationship? That part isn’t yet known, though the study’s authors have some theories.

It could be that people who spend more time outside are more active and social. We know that’s good for your health. It may also be that they have “exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas,” which would help their immune system.

Whatever the cause, study co-author Andy Jones says nature is effective, though often overlooked, medicine.

“We often reach for medication when we’re unwell, but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease,” he says.

What you can do

Your role in this is simple. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and introduce the joys of nature to as many young people as you can.

You can feel good about the time you spend outside, knowing it’s good for you and good for your Scouts and Venturers.

As Twohig-Bennett says: “We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves.”

Read the full study for yourself here.

Eagle Scout attempting to break record with solo flight around the world

The Aviation merit badge opened up a whole new world to Mason Andrews.

“I remember thinking that it was like driving a car, but with endless opportunities for how far, how fast and in what directions I could go,” Andrews says.

The Eagle Scout will see how far he can go in a single-engine aircraft as he attempts to break a Guinness World Record for the youngest person to fly solo around the world. The adventure, which began July 22, will take him across 22 countries in about 40 days, traveling more than 26,000 miles.

The record holder resides in Australia — Lachlan Smart, who finished the feat in 2016 when he was 18 years, 7 months old. Andrews turned 18 in April, so when completed, he could break the record by 4 months.

Andrews’ attempt is more than the record though. He has a mission.

MedCamps mission

Andrews has been serving for the last couple of years at MedCamps of Louisiana, a summer camp for children with autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome and other conditions. Campers get to go horseback riding, swimming, zip lining and more, completely free of charge.

He began volunteering at MedCamps after hearing about it from a family friend whose son camps there. He decided his personal endeavor of flying around the world could help others if he made it more than about the record.

“MedCamps is something that’s very important to me,” Andrews says. “Doing something like this, with a lot of attention and a lot of outreach possible, I thought it was a great thing to tie together.”

Record-breaking flight

Andrews’ love for flying took off when he first went paragliding a few years ago. He started taking flying lessons and realized he could turn his passion into a career, thanks to the Aviation merit badge.

“I had no idea that aviation was a career field that a non-military person could get into until I earned that badge,” he says.

He’s studying professional aviation at Louisiana Tech University, flying a Cessna 172, an aircraft similar to the Piper Saratoga he flew for the merit badge.

His flight plan began at Monroe Regional Airport in Monroe, La, as he headed to New York. His itinerary includes stops in Canada, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Japan. Then, he’ll make his longest flight across the Pacific to Alaska. Some stretches have involved about an hour in the air while others have taken more than eight hours.

“Scouting has already helped me in giving me the perseverance to have an incredible idea and stick with it to make it happen,” Andrews says. “As a Scout, I know that being prepared is key to accomplishing my goal, but I also know that there will be times in my trip that I’ll be under more pressure than ever before in my life. In those times, the skills and instincts that Eagle Scouts have perfected will be what I’ll rely on to achieve my goal, and I trust those skills and instincts with my whole self.”

Scouting helped lead Andrews to a career in aviation, just as it has many Scouts. In the Exploring program, Explorers learn about aviation career paths, from pilots to air traffic controllers. If your Scout is interested, they can check out Aviation Exploring.

Extreme Makeovers, Round 20: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

Note: This is the 20th in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here.

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

This week’s batch of 12 projects includes a sand volleyball court, an agility course for search and rescue dogs, and 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children born without fingers. I’ve also included the first-ever Eagle before-and-after submission from a BSA troop in France. Très bon!

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

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

Maverik from Nebraska

Who: Maverik, Troop 69, Lincoln, Neb.

What: Maverik and his helpers built a God’s Ten Commandments/Eight Beatitudes monument, including the concrete slab and landscaping.

Tyler from South Dakota

Who: Tyler, Troop 48, Sioux Falls, S.D.

What: Tyler and his helpers renovated this area in front of a women’s and children’s shelter. They installed a flag pole and ground light, planted new plants, installed a brick patio with stepping stones, and built two benches, giving residents a comfortable place to relax and wait for transportation.

Carter from South Dakota

Who: Carter, Troop 48, Sioux Falls, S.D.

What: Carter and his helpers planted 24 Ponderosa Pine trees in this park along the city bike trail. These trees improve aesthetics of the area and integrate with a new disc golf course in the nearby woods. After planting was complete, they installed tree watering bags and followed up by transporting water to each tree for one month.

Chris from Connecticut

Who: Chris, Troop 2, Portland, Conn.

What: Chris and his helpers designed and built a sand volleyball court for a local park in Connecticut.

Mason from Virginia

Who: Mason, Troop 236, Roanoke, Va.

What: Mason and his helpers designed and built a new information kiosk along the McAfee’s Knob fire road and trail that leads to the Appalachian Trail

Tyler from Arkansas

Who: Tyler, Troop 214, Russellville, Ark.

What: Tyler and his helpers built an arbor and bench in his high school’s outdoor wetlands classroom.

Edward from France

Who: Edward, Troop 112, Paris, France

What: Edward and his helpers moved and cleaned 15,000 books in the children’s section of the American Library in Paris. After moving the bookshelves, the carpet was ripped up and replaced with a wooden floor. A total of 280 hours were spent.

Shawn from Utah

Who: Shawn, Troop 411, Sandy, Utah

What: Shawn and his helpers refurbished the Alta High School football Snack Shack, including a mural painting of the school’s mascot logo.

Lukas from Colorado

Who: Lukas, Troop 538, Durango, Colo.

What: Lukas and his helpers designed and built an agility training course for the La Plata County Search and Rescue K9 Team.

Kevin from Illinois

Who: Kevin, Troop 13, South Elgin, Ill.

What: Kevin and his helpers built a playground at a local park.

Corban from Massachusetts

Who: Corban, Troop 55, Billerica, Mass.

What: Corban and his helpers installed a pavilion in Manning State Forest. It is for general use as well as is the base for a summer camp run by the town’s recreation department. It’s used by the camp, for other recreation department activities and often frequented by picnickers as well.

Evan from California

Who: Evan, Troop 774, Encinitas, Calif.

What: Evan and his helpers assembled 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children born without fingers. He spent the summer printing the parts out on his family’s 3D printer (following a pattern he found on the internet). He then led three “assembly events” involving his troop, church and robotics team. With the help of the volunteers, Evan was able to assemble 40 hands, which are being given away for free to children who need them.

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

These calendars, notebooks and poster-size charts will help you plan your Scouting year

What does your pack, troop or crew have planned for its 2018-2019 Scouting year? If the answer is “nothing yet,” don’t fret.

Boys’ Life magazine has you covered with calendars, notebooks and poster-size charts to help packs, troops and crews Be Prepared.

These program-planning materials, brought to you by the premier magazine for kids and teens, will help you make your unit’s year a success. Order as many as you need, and then get to work planning your next year of Scouting.

If your council doesn’t provide these materials, you can order them directly from BL. Prices are impressively affordable, ranging from $1 for poster-size planning charts to $2 for calendars and program notebooks.

What’s available?
  • Pack Program Planning Chart ($1): Poster-size chart for pack leaders to plan their Scouting year. Includes spaces to write in den meetings, Adventure Loop activities, pack event dates, monthly meetings and more.
  • Troop Program Planning Chart ($1): Poster-size chart for troop leaders to plan their Scouting year. Includes space for youth leaders to write in each month’s program, troop campouts, district or council events, service projects, courts of honor, trainings, and more.
  • Crew Program Planning Chart ($1): Poster-size chart for crew leaders to plan their Scouting year. Includes space for youth leaders to write in meeting dates, Venturing Officers’ Association meetings, crew trips, district or council events, service projects, trainings, and more.
  • Cub Scout Leader Program Notebook ($2): Pocket-size notebook for Cubmasters and den leaders. Features fillable pages to plan den and pack meetings.
  • Boy Scout Leader Program Notebook ($2): Pocket-size notebook for Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters. Features fillable pages to plan troop meetings and monthly outings.
  • Unit Commissioner Program Notebook ($2): Pocket-size notebook for unit commissioners and district commissioners. Features fillable pages to track unit visits and more.
  • Council Planning Calendar ($2): Fill-in-the-box calendar running from September 2018 to December 2019.
  • Venturing Program Planning Calendar ($2): Fill-in-the-box calendar for crews.

To order, go here.

Plan B, for brilliant: 7 stories of displaced Philmont crews that pivoted to alternate adventures

Ronnie Meeks got the call nine days before he and his Scouts were scheduled to begin driving to Philmont from North Carolina.

It was bad news: Because of the extremely dry conditions and ongoing fire risk, Philmont’s backcountry would be closed for the rest of the summer.

Their trek was canceled.

As a veteran of two Philmont treks myself, I know their disappointment must have been deep. I can’t imagine going through months of training and anticipation only to be told I wasn’t going to Philmont after all.

I’m told at least one of the adult leaders in Troop 3 cried. Hard to blame them.

Those Scouts and leaders pored over every detail of their packing lists. They studied the day-by-day itinerary, imagining what it would be like to conquer those legendary trails. They hiked around their neighborhoods with full backpacks to simulate the rigors of Philmont.

Some of these guys had been planning and training for two years. Meeks, who always regretted missing out on Philmont as a Scout, was looking forward to his first visit.

At this point in the story, you’d forgive the guys of Troop 3 if they wanted to call it quits. You’d understand if this group of teenagers said, “this just wasn’t our year” and stayed home.

But that’s not really the Scouting way. Scouting teaches you to deal with setbacks and overcome them. The guys of Troop 3 saw their canceled Philmont trek not as a dead end but as a detour.

Life gave them some pretty sour citrus, and, as Meeks told me, “it was time to make some lemonade.”

Troop 3’s Plan B included a difficult, scenic hike through North Carolina. Finding a Plan B

After the letdown let up, Meeks and his Scouts decided to formulate a Plan B. Knowing they had all the necessary gear and were in “Philmont shape,” they chose a difficult stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina.

“It is possible to plan a trek in a short period of time,” Meeks says. “The trek we took cannot be done by everyone, but it’s is just an example of what is possible.”

Their story is representative of a nationwide trend. All across the country, Scouts and Scout leaders who weren’t able to go on their Philmont treks didn’t stay home. They acted quickly to plan other adventures.

Some hiked at state or national parks. Others went to local council camps. Many pivoted to another of the BSA’s three national high-adventure bases, enjoying one-of-a-kind experiences at the Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier or Summit Bechtel Reserve.

We know Philmont will bounce back after its closure for the summer of 2018. And we know these Scouts will get another shot at Philmont down the road — either as Scouts or leaders. Until then, these Scouts did what Scouts do: they made the most of a difficult situation.

The Troop 3 Scouts conquer one of nearly two dozen river crossings on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Making a plan — and fast

Meeks, his fellow adults and the Scouts had just one requirement for their replacement trip. Because of the crew members’ other summer plans and work schedules, the trip dates would need to match those of the original trek.

But with less than two weeks before the departure date, they had to act fast.

Over a stretch of five days, the group met face-to-face and communicated through group texts and conference calls. They narrowed it down to three ideas: hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, taking a trip to Colorado or backpacking a segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

They picked Segment 4 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. They found a guide who could design an itinerary, figure out resupply points and identify sources of potable water. The guide, Curt Teague of Hikemore Adventures, shuttled the Scouts to the starting point and met the group every couple of days to resupply their food and check on their status.

“He really was able to answer any questions we had and tailor our trip,” Meeks says. “He helped lay to rest any uncertainty.”

The group hiked more than 60 miles over 10 days. They endured 20 water crossings. They tried rock climbing, whitewater rafting and fishing. They completed a service project.

“At the end of it all, we could not have been more pleased,” Meeks says. “Everything went well.”

The Scouts of Troop 56 of the Tecumseh Council switched from a Philmont trek to a trek at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. From Philmont to the Summit

Greg Repasy and the Scouts of Troop 56 of the Tecumseh Council in Ohio had been planning for Philmont for two years as well.

They learned their trek was called off just five days before they were to begin the train trip west.

After the shock subsided, the Scouts “got together and decided on a Plan B,” Repasy says.

Actually, they came up with seven Plan B’s. (Or would that be Plans B through H?) After looking at all the options, they selected a New River Trek at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Instead of hiking, they paddled 50 miles in inflatable kayaks called “duckies.” They got to test their mettle against one of the world’s natural wonders in a true backcountry experience.

“Listening to the river, watching the fireflies and just being tired from paddling made for great sleeping,” Repasy says. “The weather couldn’t be better: hot but not too humid, short rainstorms and few bugs to worry about.”

They enjoyed paddling, camping and fishing, and they built lifelong bonds through stories they’ll repeat to their grandkids some day.

Five other stories of crews being flexible

Tim Schneider’s crew diverted to the Rocky Mountain High Adventure Base in Colorado.

“Seeing our group’s faces as they summited their first 14er was priceless,” he writes on Facebook. “The West is full of places like this. Organize your own adventure in the Sierras, the Rockies, the Sawtooths — and get out there. Your youth will thank you for it and remember it for the rest of their lives.”

Susan Hollowell’s crew from Ohio created its own Colorado adventure.

They spent five days in the Lost Creek Wilderness followed by five days hiking the Four Pass Loop around the beautiful Maroon Bells.

“Ours boys made their own trip and had a blast,” she writes on Facebook.

Shawn Carroll’s crew from Virginia took a trek out of Camp Buffalo Bill in Wyoming.

“We reached out and rapidly planned a trek in Yellowstone National Park and Shoshone National Forest with absolutely tremendous support from the staff at the Yellowstone High Adventure Outpost working out of Camp Buffalo Bill in the Central Wyoming Council,” he writes in an email to me. “The camp staff absolutely bent over backwards to save the high adventure summer plans for quite a few troops — definitely ours.”

Darin Jensen’s crew from Minnesota hiked at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

“What a great alternate we were able to put together,” he writes on Facebook. “It was definitely a challenge, and we definitely were up for it.”

The troop in Cimarron, N.M., with Philmont basically in its back yard, had a trek canceled this summer.

The Scouts chose to take a canoeing trek at Northern Tier instead.

Share your ‘Plan B’ trip

Was your Philmont trek called off? Share the story of your Plan B trip and how you and your Scouts pulled it together so quickly.

I welcome your comments below.

Four epic reasons Scouts should be pumped for the new movie ‘Alpha’

“An epic tale of adventure in the outdoors.”

That describes the countless hiking, kayaking and climbing trips Scouts are taking all summer long.

It’s also a fitting tagline for Alpha, the new movie from Sony Pictures that’s howling into theaters Aug. 17.

Alpha, rated PG-13, tells the story of a young man in the last Ice Age who gets separated from his tribe and must learn to survive alone. He makes an unlikely ally, a wolf who was abandoned by his pack, and the two embark on a stunning story of survival.

I’m in, based on that description alone. Here are four more great reasons Scouts and Scout leaders should get pumped for Alpha.

1. Alpha tells a story you probably don’t know.

How did dogs go from wild animals to loyal companions? That’s one of the themes Alpha will explore in the visually striking adventure.

As the movie’s trailer puts it, you’ll get the incredible story of “how mankind discovered man’s best friend.”

My advice: See it on the biggest screen possible.

2. Scouts can earn an Alpha patch.

Scouts 13 or older can watch the Alpha movie trailer and then write a short essay about how they’d use their Scout skills in an epic adventure with Alpha.

Keep it simple — just describe the situation, the merit badge and the skill or skills that would apply.

Or Scouts can get creative by picking one or two scenes from the Alpha trailer and writing their own short Scouting adventure. One to two paragraphs max. Remember, Scouts must include the specific merit badge and Scouting skills they would use to survive.

Word of warning: These exclusive Alpha movie patches are first-come, first-served.

Click here to enter now. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. CDT on Aug. 17. Entrants must be 13 years or older and get parent/guardian permission to enter the giveaway and win the prize.

3. Troops and crews can win a hometown screening of Alpha.

What about a screening for your entire troop or crew?

Here’s how Scouts can enter to win a private screening of Alpha for up to 100 Scouts:

  1. Watch the Alpha movie trailer.
  2. Pick the skill or skills and merit badge or badges that you would use in a wilderness survival situation.
  3. Show your Alpha! Take photos or videos demonstrating these skills and share them on social media using #ALPHAScoutContest and #ALPHAMovieContest.

Remember: Entrants must use the hashtags #ALPHAScoutContest and #ALPHAMovieContest for a chance to win.

This portion of the contest ends at 11:59 p.m. CDT on Aug. 3. So hurry!

Entrants must be 13 years or older and get parent/guardian permission to enter the giveaway and win the prize.

4. Scout groups can use an exclusive discount to save at AMC theaters.

Alpha is hooking Scouts and Venturers up with a discounted movie ticket offer at local AMC theaters.

Groups of 15 or more are eligible to receive $7 tickets; just click here to get started and learn more.

Students have until Oct. 31, 2018, to apply for these NESA Eagle Scout scholarships

Becoming an Eagle Scout is its own reward.

Earning a college scholarship because you’re an Eagle Scout? That’s like a reward on top of a reward.

The National Eagle Scout Association will award nearly $700,000 in scholarships to more than 150 Eagle Scouts based on their academic performance, Scouting background, college plans and financial need.

The window for the latest round of National Eagle Scout Association scholarships opens today — Aug. 1, 2018. It will close for good on Oct. 31, 2018.

Scholarship recipients will be notified by mail on July 15, 2019, and money will be disbursed to these deserving Eagle Scouts in fall 2019.

These scholarships reward the best of the best, and they are extremely competitive. About 3 percent of the expected 5,000 applicants will receive a scholarship.

If you’re an Eagle Scout between your senior year of high school and junior year of college, you’ll want to apply and give yourself a chance at earning some cash for college.

Read on for more details, and be sure to consult this list of FAQs if you still have questions.

How much does NESA award?

For the current window — 2018-2019 — NESA plans to award at least 150 scholarships with amounts ranging from $2,500 to $50,000 per recipient.

What are the requirements?

You must be a National Eagle Scout Association member to receive a scholarship. However, Eagle Scouts can apply for a NESA scholarship before registering to become members of NESA.

Academic scholarship applicants must apply during their senior year in high school unless the Eagle Scout board of review was held after Oct. 31, 2018. In those cases, the applicant must apply during the Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2019, scholarship cycle, even if he is already attending college.

Academic scholarship applicants must have a minimum 1800 SAT (or 1290 if taken after March 2016), or 28 ACT score to apply. A “super score” may be used to meet this requirement.

Eagle Scouts may apply for NESA merit scholarships beginning in their senior year of high school and may continue applying every year until their junior year in college.

Applicants may receive a NESA scholarship one time only.

In the past, NESA scholarships were available only to Scouts attending four-year universities. Now Scouts attending vocational trade schools and other approved programs may apply. NESA scholarships are not payable to any of the U.S. military academies.

How does an Eagle Scout apply?

All NESA scholarship applications must be submitted online. Paper copies from previous years are out of date and will not be accepted.

Applications must be submitted using the instructions found here.

In depth: Academic scholarships
  • Academic scholarships are based on school and Scouting participation, academic performance and financial need.
  • Applicants must apply during their senior year in high school unless the Eagle Scout board of review is held after Oct. 31, 2018. In those cases, the applicant must apply between Aug. 1, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2019, even if he is already attending college.
  • Eagle Scouts may apply for an academic scholarship one time only and must apply during the time frame defined above.
  • All academic scholarship applicants must have a minimum 1800 SAT (or 1290 if taken after March 2016), or 28 ACT score to apply. A “super score” may be used to meet this requirement.
  • All applicants must be members of the National Eagle Scout Association to receive a scholarship.
  • Types of academic scholarships:
    • Cooke scholarships ($2,500 to $48,000): Awarded based on school and Scouting participation, academic performance, and financial need. Applicants must meet the minimum SAT or ACT score to apply.
    • NESA STEM scholarship ($50,000): Awarded to one applicant annually who has chosen to pursue a career in a STEM-related field. Applicants for the STEM scholarship who are not selected will automatically be considered for a Cooke scholarship worth $2,500 to $48,000 each.
In depth: Merit scholarships
  • Merit scholarships are awarded based on school and Scouting participation and community service.
  • Eagle Scouts may apply for the NESA merit scholarships beginning in their senior year of high school and may continue applying every year up through their junior year in college.
  • Applicants may win a NESA scholarship one time only. Previous NESA scholarship winners are not eligible to apply again.
  • Types of merit scholarships:
    • Hall/McElwain scholarships ($5,000): Awarded based on school and Scouting participation and community service.
    • Robert and Rebecca Palmer scholarships ($2,500): Awarded based on school and Scouting participation and community service.
    • Michael S. Malone/Windrush Publishing Journalism scholarship ($2,500): Awarded to one Scout who plans to pursue a degree in journalism.
Learn more

NESA has posted this list of helpful FAQs. Good luck!

Other scholarships for Eagle Scouts

Be sure to consider these scholarships:

Cub Scout pack sings ‘around the world’

A simple act like singing a song can unite people, even if they’re on opposite sides of the globe.

Tiger Cub Scout Jahnav Bhatnagar and his dad Anuj found that out when they organized a Skype call between their pack in Phoenix, Arizona, and a home for girls in India. Anuj’s parents, Joti and Sheela, started an institute called Sheela Bal Bhavan in 1992 to help destitute and abandoned girls in Jaipur, a city of more than 3 million people in northern India. Anuj’s family visits every few years; Jahnav though was a little bummed leading up to this most recent visit.

“It started with my son not wanting to miss the pack meeting,” Anuj says. “I suggested we Skype in, initially as a joke, but then it took off.”

Cubmaster Kirk Stauff offered to handle the call at the meeting, installing a large screen for the Scouts of Pack 6 to see and interact. Jahnav suggested the children not only greet each other, but sing a song together.

“It sounds daunting at first, but an event like this can fall into place so easily and have a long-lasting impact,” Anuj says.

‘Song across the world’

When Scouts met for the evening pack meeting, it was 7:30 a.m. in Jaipur, India. After morning prayers, Jahnav rallied the girls together, so the two groups could connect via the video chat app on a laptop. The Scouts in Arizona sang a song; the girls in India sang two — one in English and one in Hindi. The pack taught the girls how to sing “Boom Chicka Boom,” which the two groups then sang together.

“Since India is halfway across the world from Arizona, this was truly a song sung across the world,” Anuj says.

The call prompted discussions afterwards, including how Scouting is a global movement; two of the children at Sheela Bal Bhavan are Scouts. Jahnav later led the kids at Sheela Bal Bhavan in some games and shared what life was like in Arizona.

“In Arizona, the Cub Scouts were saying that they were surprised how much like them the children in India were,” Anuj says. “On the India side, the children mentioned wishing the Cub Scouts could come and see them. They were also amazed that Scouting was an activity in the U.S. because they know it in India.”

Messengers of Peace

Organizing the Skype call qualified Anuj, Jahnav and Kirk to receive Messengers of Peace patches, which can be sewn on the uniform around the World Crest.

The special recognition symbolizes Scouts and Scouters’ efforts to make world peace a reality. This can be achieved in a myriad of ways; you don’t have to undertake a massive endeavor. The worldwide initiative, launched in 2011, defines peace through multiple avenues:

  • The personal dimension: harmony, justice and equality.
  • The community dimension: peace as opposed to hostility or violent conflict.
  • Relationships between humankind and its environment: security, social and economic welfare, and relationship with the environment.

Some project ideas include donating to a charity, volunteering at a recycling center and creating a prayer garden. And yes, Hornaday Award and Eagle Scout projects also count.

Just submit it through the Journey to Excellence site. You’re also encouraged to share your project on the Messengers of Peace site or at with the subject line of “Messengers of Peace.” That way, you can help inspire Scouts around the world with ideas on how they can positively impact their communities, too.

Extreme Makeovers, Round 19: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

Note: This is the 19th in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here.

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

This week’s batch of 12 projects includes an outdoor bird classroom, a butterfly garden and a gazebo honoring military veterans.

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

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

Connor from Colorado

Who: Connor, Troop 69, Denver, Colo.

What: Connor and his helpers built and installed “Chickadee Landing,” an outdoor classroom where children interact with live birds and learn about bird ecology at an outdoor education camp that serves regional schools.

Josh from Indiana

Who: Josh, Troop 4012, New Albany, Ind.

What: Josh and his helpers constructed about 60 feet of boardwalk and two 20-foot bridges to span a large ravine and a marshy area along a hiking trail behind Christian Academy of Indiana, which leads to an adjacent community park.

Albert from New Jersey

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

What: Albert and his helpers replaced the sign for the Franklin Township South Bound Brook Little League, restoring the area where it resides and putting together two picnic tables for the field.

Ryan from California

Who: Ryan, Troop 72, San Bruno, Calif.

What: Ryan and his helpers completed a healing garden at a local church for the victims of the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.

Marcelo from California

Who: Marcelo, Troop 2000, Riverside, Calif.

What: Marcelo and his helpers created a butterfly garden at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center, a science museum.

Daniel from Texas

Who: Daniel, Troop 204, New Waverly, Texas

What: Daniel and his helpers built a masonry fire pit and five benches for a Christian camp that ministers to inner-city children.

Zein from Florida

Who: Zein, Troop 836, South Florida Council

What: Zein and his helpers rehabilitated and replaced the aging sign at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

Brandon from Missouri

Who: Brandon, Troop 423, Park Hills, Mo.

What: Brandon and his helpers built a gazebo honoring military veterans.

Joey from California

Who: Joey, Troop 237, Folsom, Calif.

What: Joey and his helpers built an outdoor “patio” platform and installed seating in a shaded area to the side of a school/church play yard. They also mitigated erosion and renovated landscaping and infrastructure in the immediate area.

Kade from Kansas

Who: Kade, Troop 101, Hays, Kan.

What: Kade and his helpers built the “Monarch Corral” — a safe after-school waiting area that students use when waiting for their rides home after school at Thomas More Prep Junior High.

Hayden from Missouri

Who: Hayden, Troop 725, St. Louis, Mo.

What: Hayden and his helpers demolished an old shelving unit and constructed new ones that are waterproof at the Jefferson Barracks veterans center.

Caleb from California

Who: Caleb, Troop 26, Foresthill, Calif.

What: Caleb and his helpers renovated a picnic area for a church, including building a new fence and installing lights.

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

‘You have to live near the coast’ and four other Sea Scouting myths, dispelled

You’ll find Sea Scouts all over this great land — even in places many miles from the actual sea.

The belief that Sea Scouts must live near the coast is just one of the myths out there about Sea Scouting, the BSA’s program for young men and women ages 14 to 20.

To dispel that and other myths, I talked to T.W. Cook. As the Sea Scout Commodore for the Southern Region, Cook is the top Sea Scouting volunteer for the territory stretching from Texas to Florida.

Five myths about Sea Scouting

Myth: You have to live near the coast to be a Sea Scout.

Fact: There are ships all over the country, even in the desert and in the mountains. All you need is a river or lake that’ll float a boat! Take this year’s national flagship as an example. It’s one of the most successful ships in the country, and it’s located in Palestine, Texas, which is more than 200 miles inland.

Myth: Sea Scouts requires the use of sailboats.

Fact: Any kind of boat is fair game! Paddlecraft ships are the fastest-growing part of Sea Scouts — kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. Some ships focus on one kind of boating, while others mix it up and try sailing, powerboats and paddleboards. Ships don’t need to own boats at all. Many councils and other community organizations have paddlecraft and small sailboats that Sea Scouts can use.

Myth: Sea Scout ships must be chartered to a yacht club.

Fact: More than 75 percent of ships are chartered to traditional BSA chartered organizations, such as places of worship or VFW posts. You just need an organization that appreciates and supports Scouting values.

Myth: Sea Scouting is primarily for young people interested in joining the Navy or the Coast Guard.

Fact: Yes, the skills young people learn in Sea Scouting can prepare them for a maritime career, if that’s their interest. And many Sea Scouts have found their calling on the water. But really, Sea Scouts is for anyone who loves to have fun on the water.

Myth: Sea Scouts only do boating-related activities.

Fact: While that’s the focus, Sea Scouts can do any Scouting activities. Sea Scouts have hiked Philmont, participated in shooting sports (there’s a special Sea Scout Marksmanship Award that’s challenging and very popular), gone rock climbing and more. Some of the most fun is when Sea Scouts combine Scout outdoor skills with boating — like taking a weeklong kayak camping trip down a river, or a small-boat cruise up the Texas coast doing primitive camping on islands.

Why it’s time for your pack, troop or crew to ditch disposable water bottles for good

Are you and your Scouts committed to leaving this Earth a little better than you found it?

Start by making a pledge to stop using disposable water bottles for good.

Your pack, troop and crew will keep dozens of plastic bottles out of landfills each month. You’ll reduce your eco-footprint and protect the ocean. And you’ll save a ton of money by choosing to drink from a reusable bottle.

To support these efforts, CamelBak, the BSA’s official hydration partner, launched a #DitchDisposable campaign in 2010. Their goal — to keep plastic bottles out of landfills and waterways— is already working. Through their efforts, they’ve eliminated more than 10 million bottles and counting.

CamelBak says that the average American could save about $25 and 18 bottles from the landfill by taking its pledge to go disposable-free for 30 days. By then, you’ll have turned this practice into a habitat-friendly habit.

Take the pledge to go reusable today. Once you do, be sure to share your efforts on Twitter or Instagram using the #DitchDisposable hashtag.

Five reasons to #DitchDisposible
  1. Americans use more plastic bottles than any other country — amounting to billions of water bottles every year.
  2. Less than a quarter of those plastic bottles end up in the recycling bin. The rest go to the landfill.
  3. It takes a lot of oil to make a plastic bottle. Imagine filling up your bottle a quarter of the way with oil. That’s about how much was used.
  4. In most places, water from a tap or faucet is just as healthy — in some cases healthier — than bottled water.
  5. One recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.
Hydration picks

Want water bottle recommendations? Find a Scouting-themed selection from CamelBak at or your local Scout Shop.

I like the CamelBak Chute for day-to-day use. And when I go running in this Texas heat, I don’t leave the house without my Quick Grip Chill.

Scout leaders, let’s shine some light on flashlight etiquette

Your eyes are beginning to adjust to the growing darkness. The trail in front of you is becoming clearer and clearer.

And then, like a firework on July 5th, something unexpectedly bright fills the sky. You’re momentarily blinded.

Whenever someone switches on one of those super-bright flashlights or headlamps, that person ruins the night vision for everyone else. At best this is annoying; at worst, it could mess with your circadian rhythm and affect your sleep.

Scenarios like this one play out every weekend as packs, troops and crews go camping. It’s time to clarify that while flashlights are an important Scouting tool, you don’t need baseball-stadium lighting to camp in the dark.

This happened one too many times to a Scouter in Tennessee who emailed me recently. The Scouter, Alex Johnston from Pack 348 of the Sequoyah Council, called this “a topic I notice needs some discussion in our local Scouting community.”

“It seems that many Scouters think the idea is to turn nighttime into daylight,” Johnston writes. “Instead, the dimmest light that allows us to accomplish the necessary task is best, so we don’t rob those in and around our campsite of their night vision.”

Ways to be a better flashlight user
  • Hide the light source (bulb or filament) from view to reduce the harshness and impact on night vision. You could bounce the light off the ceiling of your tent, pop-up or pavilion.
  • Equip younger Scouts with LED glowstick necklaces instead of bright headlamps. They’re cheap and easier to track and identify in the dark.
  • When walking down paths or looking for gear in bags, all you really need is a zipper pull-style pinch LED light. “I buy these in quantity as Scout handouts as they’re a compact way to achieve your essentials,” Johnston tells me.
  • Lights with red bulbs won’t disturb others or ruin night vision. They can be found as an option in flashlights, headlamps, or even those zipper pull lights. “Plus, they’re a great way to start up a conversation on night vision, why it’s important and how to improve it,” Johnston writes. “Scouts love hearing how pilots and soldiers use red light and might even be temporarily enticed into being ‘stealthy’ right before bed.”
  • Don’t drive through campsites at night. If you camp in your car, disable internal and external lighting that is usually automatically activated when a door opens.
  • Be aware of where your flashlight is pointed at all times. If you point it at someone’s tent when you walk by at night, reflective fabrics cause the whole tent to light up. This disturbs the sleep of the tent’s occupants.
Your bright ideas, please

How do you practice and promote flashlight etiquette? Share a comment below.

Scouts rescue riders trapped under motorcycle in South Dakota

When the worst happens, Scouts are at their best.

While hiking in the Black Hills of South Dakota last month, Scouts from Troop 93 of Lake Zurich, Ill., heard a startling sound.

The date was June 27. The place: the Sunday Gulch Trail in Custer State Park.

The Scouts and leaders were enjoying the strenuous, lightly trafficked trail when they heard the commotion and rushed to the scene. They found a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and two riders who had slid off the road at a switchback on Highway 87 near the city of Custer.

First response

After checking the scene for safety — always the first step in first aid — the Scouts remained calm and worked together to lift the bike off the riders, who were unconscious at the time.

The Scouts used their T-shirts to protect the riders from the hot metal of the muffler. Next, Scouts Seanan and Liam called for help using two-way radios while some of the adult leaders helped winch the motorcycle up the hill using their Jeep.

All of the Scouts, including Jacob, Seanan, Liam, Matthew, Mark, Noah and CJ, provided care until EMTs arrived on the scene.

Both riders regained consciousness before being loaded into an ambulance, according to an article from WLS-TV in Chicago that was first shared on Scouting Newsroom.

Staffers at the BSA’s Medicine Mountain Scout Ranch, where the troop was spending the week, were impressed with the Scouts’ quick thinking and bravery.

“Ranch officials said the troop credited their training and participation in first-aid competitions for enabling them to respond swiftly to the situation,” according to the WLS-TV article.

Well done, Scouts. You’ve done us proud!

Encourage your Scouts to answer the call to bugle

It’s a classic summer camp sound: the rousing wake-up call of “Reveille” played on a bugle.

It was once practically considered a standard piece of Scout equipment; the 1911 Handbook suggested every patrol have a bugle. They are perfect for communicating a message in a large area instead of straining your vocal cords by yelling.

Outside of camp though, you might rarely hear the instrument, especially if there isn’t a bugler in your unit. On our annual posts of the most popular merit badges, Bugling often ranks among one of the rarest earned.

While its prominence has seemed to wane over the decades, it’s important not to forget the powerful role bugles can play in Scouting — and not just at summer camp.

Listen up

A Scout can play more than “Reveille” in the morning and “Taps” when it’s time to go to bed on a campout. There are 15 bugle calls Scouts are required to know to earn the Bugling merit badge. They can be played at meetings and other outings. There are calls designed to get Scouts’ attention (“First Call”), let everyone know it’s time to eat (“Mess Call”), honor the country during a flag ceremony (“To the Colors”) and even signal when everyone can go for a dip in the pool (“Swimming”). Get the Music and Bugling merit badge pamphlet to read the notes for these calls.

These call notes can be peppy and quick or slow and somber. The 24 notes that comprise “Taps” can evoke a sense of relaxation and reflection when played at the end of the day, and they can swell one’s heart with patriotic pride during a school assembly, holiday ceremony or military funeral.

Knowing how to play a bugle allows Scouts to volunteer by playing a part in many community events, such as a Memorial Day or Veterans Day ceremony or at a funeral. If a unit is approached by a group or municipality to perform, a couple of items should be kept in mind.

“They are encouraged to assist in doing their Good Turn,” says Garfield Murden, Boy Scouting national director. “They should not be doing this for money, and they need to make sure they are following the Barriers of Abuse and Guide to Safe Scouting.”

Learning to play a bugle can also help in rank advancement.

Scouts can serve four months as the troop’s bugler en route to earning the Star rank and six months in that position for Life. The position does not, however, fulfill the “position of responsibility” requirement for the Eagle Scout Award.

Buglers help bring order and efficiency to unit activities by signaling what fellow Scouts should do at a certain time. Their work aids leaders in assembling Scouts and getting their attention.

Brass horn greenhorns

So, how can you revive this Scouting tradition in your unit?

First of all, you can encourage Scouts who are members of a band to use their talents within the troop or Sea Scout ship, too. They can play a bugle, trumpet or cornet. Show them how their talents can serve the troop and community.

Venturing crews can specialize in music, including bugle corps/drill teams. Some Cub Scout Adventure electives, like Webelos Maestro!, feature music, presenting opportunities to introduce Scouts to instruments.

While you certainly could spend a couple hundred dollars on a brand-new quality instrument for your unit, you can find cheaper used options at your local music shop, online or borrowed from a fellow Scouter’s attic.

For Scouts who aren’t musically inclined, trying the bugle can be intimidating. Many Scouts have cited Bugling as one of the more difficult badges to master. If they struggle, remind them to continue doing their best and not get discouraged.