Bryan On Scouting

Square knot rankings: What are the most- and least-awarded square knots?

Despite being one of the smallest patches in Scouting, square knots tell a big story.

Many of these tiny, colorful rectangles represent an award earned as a youth or adult. Others symbolize a volunteer’s efforts to get trained, help others or improve Scouting in some significant way. In cases like the Silver Beaver Award, a single square knot could symbolize a lifetime of service to Scouting.

Seeing the square knots on Scouters’ uniforms got me thinking. Which square knots are awarded most? Which are the rarest?

For the first time ever, I’m sharing the official rankings. But before we get to that …

A few things to know
  • There’s no national database of every square knot awarded. But we do know how many of the knots are sold at Scout Shops and directly to councils through the BSA’s Supply Group. Some councils will buy extra knots in anticipation of future needs, so the numbers are good but not perfect.
  • Some Scouters who own more than one uniform will purchase additional knots. That’s why, for example, 65 Silver Buffalo Award knots were sold in the past 52 weeks even though only 10 Scouters received that award during that span.
  • Square knots are a restricted item, meaning you must have documentation to purchase one from your Scout Shop.
  • Two knots aren’t listed: the Professional Training Award, which is only for professionals, and the Hornaday Award, which isn’t ordered through the Scout Shop.
  • To find requirements for each of these knots, head to Awards Central.
  • For an overview about how to wear square knots, read this.
Square knot rankings 1. Religious Award – Youth

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 51,572

About the knot: Represents a youth’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice.

2. Eagle Scout Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 23,471

About the knot: Represents earning the highest rank in Scouting as a youth. You wear the oval Eagle badge until you turn 18. After that, you’ll switch to the knot.

3. Arrow of Light Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 20,542

About the knot: Represents an adult who earned the Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout.

4. Scouter Training Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 11,927

About the knot: Encourages training, tenure in a position, participation and performance of adult leaders. Earned by roundtable commissioner staff, Cub Scout leaders, Webelos leaders, Boy Scout leaders, Venturing leaders, Sea Scout leaders, commissioners and district committee members.

5. Den Leader Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 9,949

About the knot: Recognizes den leaders who have completed training, tenure and performance requirements.

6. District Award of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 8,466

About the knot: Available to registered Scouters who render service of an outstanding nature at the district level.

7. Scouter’s Key Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 5,906

About the knot: Encourages training, performance and tenure in Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Venturing crew Advisors, district and assistant district commissioners, and district committee members.

8. Silver Beaver Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 5,079

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a council.

9. Religious Award – Adult

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 4,903

About the knot: Represents an adult’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice.

10. NESA Life Membership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 4,256

About the knot: Recognizes life members of the National Eagle Scout Association for their commitment to support Eagle Scouts.

11. Unit Leader Award of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,505

About the knot: Encourages units to be strong and viable by attaining certain benchmarks characteristic of strong units; seven requirements must be met with nomination by the top youth leader if for a troop, crew, or ship; nomination is certified by the unit commissioner.

12. James E. West Fellowship

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,023

About the knot: Presented to those who make a gift to a local council in addition to — and not replacing or diminishing — the donor’s annual Friends of Scouting support.

13. William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award


Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,574

About the knot: Presented to volunteers who organize a new, traditional unit.

14. Community Organization Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,475

About the knot: Denotes that a Scout volunteer has been recognized by one of 20 approved national chartered organization partners, such as the American Legion or Kiwanis International, for Scout service within that organization.

15. Venturing Leadership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,245

About the knot: Recognize Venturers and Venturing Advisors who have made exceptional contributions to Venturing and who exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. Presented by councils, areas, regions and the BSA National Council.

16. Distinguished Commissioner Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,155

About the knot: Presented to commissioners who have earned the Arrowhead Honor and Commissioners Key, served five years of continuous service, and completed a project for their council.

17. Commissioner Award of Excellence in Unit Service

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 729

About the knot: Awarded to a commissioner who provides exemplary unit service, focusing on unit performance as measured in Journey to Excellence and through the use of the current BSA Unit Service Plan and Commissioner Tools.

18. Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 620

About the knot: Recognizes Scouters who have earned one of these five awards: Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award, Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award, American Indian Scouting Association Grey Wolf Award or the Special Needs Scouting Service Award.

Note: The Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award and Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award have their own separate square knots that are being phased out. Once supplies of those knots run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot will be used to recognize recipients of those awards.

19. Philmont Training Center Masters Track Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 536

About the knot: Promote educational opportunities by encouraging Scouters to return to Philmont Training Center over a number of years, growing through advanced-level training, and then taking knowledge back to units, districts, councils, council clusters, and national and international venues.

20. Medal of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 441

About the knot: Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.

21. Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 403

About the knot: Recognizes completion of a standardized program leading to the completion of a thesis or project and the award of the Doctorate of Commissioner Service from a College of Commissioner Science.

22. International Scouter’s Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 369

About the knot: Recognizes adult volunteers who promote international Scouting on all levels and who, in turn, help broaden the perspectives of Scouting.

23. Venturing Summit Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 341

About the knot: Venturing’s highest honor (replacing the Venturing Silver Award). To achieve it, a young person must serve the crew as a leader — both formally and informally — and mentor others. In addition, the Venturer must strengthen his or her community by designing and leading a service project to benefit others.

24. Alumni Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 268

About the knot: Presented to Scouting alumni who promote continued engagement with the Boy Scouts of America.

25. Silver Antelope Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 229

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a region.

26. Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 208

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding service by an adult individual or by an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

27. iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 148

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding service by an adult or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Hispanic/Latino youth.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award.

28. Sea Scout Quartermaster Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 118 (73 with white background, for wear on the dress whites, and 45 with black background, for wear on the New Century uniform.)

About the knot: Represents an individual who has earned the highest award in Sea Scouts.

29. Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 101

About the knot: Recognizes Arrowmen who have rendered outstanding service to the Order on a sectional, regional or national level.

30. Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 98

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding services by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Asian American youths.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award.

31. Honor Medal

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 96

About the knot: Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.

32. Heroism Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 86

About the knot: This award has been discontinued. Previously it was a lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at minimum risk to self.

33. Silver Buffalo Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 65

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters and others of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service at the national level. (See a list of recipients here.)

34. Silver World Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 28

About the knot: Presented for noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth on an international basis. Recipients must be a citizen of a country with a Scouting program that is a member of the World Scout Conference. Registered members of the BSA are not eligible for this award.

Thanks to the BSA Supply Group’s Alicia Reese for the info.

Detroit Fishing Day a model for how to get young people hooked on Scouting

Professional bass fisherman Tom Redington calls it fishing’s biggest “urban legend.”

It goes like this: You can’t catch fish in an urban environment. Nothing will bite unless you’re miles and miles from the nearest highway.

The truth is much more convenient. Redington has caught fish, including the proverbial “big one,” in the middle of Chicago, Milwaukee, Dallas and New York City.

And later this month, he’ll add another metro area to his list: Detroit.

On June 30, Redington and other Fishing League Worldwide tour pros will take part in Detroit Fishing Day, a free event sure to get boys and girls hooked on fishing — and Scouting.

The event is a collaboration of the Michigan Crossroads Council, Boys’ Life magazine and the FLW Foundation Unified Fishing Derby.

A family found a quiet spot to drop a line in the water at last year’s event, held at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But wait, there’s more

What makes Detroit Fishing Day even more exciting? Shakespeare, a leader in quality, affordable fishing tackle, is giving free rods and reels to the first 500 new or current Scouts who recruit a friend to join Scouting and attend the event. And Berkley is providing baits that will be irresistible to the fish.

With fishing poles in hand and fishing superstars at the ready to give pointers, this event will get young people interested in fishing and recruit families to Scouting.

Some Detroit families who might rarely, if ever, have the chance to fish will be equipped to cast a line in their own urban backyard. They’ll even get a chance to walk across the FLW weigh-in stage and have their catches measured — just like the pros.

How big are city fish? This big, said Joaquin Solivan of Pack 90 of Queens, N.Y. Joaquin should know — he pulled several fish out of the urban lake at the fishing event last year. Why this event is such a great idea

Detroit Fishing Day is one way the BSA and Boys’ Life magazine bring outdoor adventure to youth in all parts of the country.

The event marks one of Scouting’s many opportunities for boys and girls and their families to learn about the outdoors from a hands-on, unique perspective. Partnering with FLW brings expertise and an added level of excitement to the event.

After the BSA Detroit Fishing Day, FLW will continue the fun with a free Family Fishing Expo from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Expo is a chance for fishing fans to meet their favorite anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by FLW sponsors, and learn more about fishing and other outdoor activities.

Christian Carter of Pack 409 in Brooklyn, N.Y., got help from FLW pro angler Grae Buck at last year’s event. Detroit-area families: Join the free fun!

What: Detroit Fishing Day, brought to you by Michigan Crossroads Council, Boys’ Life magazine and the FLW Foundation Unified Fishing Derby.

Who: All families.

When: The morning of Saturday, June 30, with additional family fun continuing that afternoon and into Sunday, July 1.

  • Detroit Fishing Day: Saturday, June 30, from 9 to 11 a.m. Check-in starts at 8.
  • Family Fishing Expo: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday (June 30) and Sunday (July 1).

Where: Lake St. Clair Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, Mich.

How much: Free.

Register: At the Michigan Crossroads Council website.

Photos by Anna Grace Goldman

Five simple ways to make your campsite a little more comfortable

Going camping with Scouts gets you out of your comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean your campsite needs to be uncomfortable.

After a full day of Scouting adventures, you’re ready to relax at camp. By following the five tips below, powered by our friends at Thermacell, you can make roughing it a little less rough. 

Most of these ideas don’t apply to backpacking, where every ounce of added weight must be considered. But if you’re camping near your car, these are the tips you’re looking for.

1. Get a tent with a higher ceiling.

Do you know your tent’s “peak height”? This refers to the distance from the tent’s highest point to its floor.

If you’re a tall human or simply like extra space for changing clothes or organizing gear, look for a tent with a taller peak height. (You can easily find this info online.)

Cabin-style tents with walls that are almost vertical will offer the highest ceilings and most livable space. Dome-style tents with sloping sides will have slightly less room.

2. Bring along some games.

Does your family often spend its evenings watching a movie, playing videogames or catching up on favorite shows?

When camping, take advantage of some screen-free time with activities that don’t have a power button.

I’m thinking cards, a board game or some sports gear — anything to step up your down time.

3. Get a Thermacell lantern.

Mosquitoes can derail even the coziest campsite. Next time, bring along a Thermacell lantern.

The Thermacell Scout Lantern, available at most Scout Shops and at, creates a 15-by-15-foot zone of comfort by repelling mosquitoes, black flies and other biting insects.

It’s great for camping with your pack, troop, crew or family. You’ll keep mosquitoes away without spraying any chemicals on your skin. Plus, the Thermacell Scout Lantern is an excellent light source. You can use the lantern and mosquito-repelling functionality separately or simultaneously. It’s a win-win.

Even cooler: If you purchase a Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Lantern between April 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2018, you can get $10 off through a mail-in rebate. Hang on to your receipt, and go here to get started.

4. Think about location.

When selecting a campsite, first consider safety. Stay away from dead or dying trees or any areas that could get flooded if it rains.

Beyond that, think about where you’ll be most comfortable. How’s the view? Does the site provide ample shade? How far is the campsite from the water spigot and latrine?

You and the bathrooms shouldn’t be next-door neighbors, but nobody likes walking half a mile for a middle-of-the-night bathroom break, either.

5. Upgrade your foam pad to an inflatable mattress.

Closed-cell foam pads are the cheapest option. And that’s … about all of the nice things I can say about them. They’re bulky and uncomfortable.

That’s fine for a night of camping every few months. But if you’ll spend multiple weekends in a tent each year, it’s time to upgrade.

An inflatable mattress compacts smaller, is lighter and is much more comfortable.

Your back will thank you.

Wave hello: 2018 Jamboree-on-the-Air, Jamboree-on-the-Internet dates set

Before the world gathers for next summer’s World Scout Jamboree, let’s all get together for a chat.

The 2018 Jamboree-on-the-Air and Jamboree-on-the-Internet, empowering Scouts and Venturers to communicate with other Scouts from around the world, will be Oct. 19 to 21.

Add the weekend of Jamboree-on-the-Air (JOTA) and/or Jamboree-on-the-Internet (JOTI) fun to your unit, district or council calendar.

Just how big of a deal are JOTA and JOTI? Consider this: The World Scout Bureau reported that the 2017 JOTA and JOTI events had more than 1.5 million Scout participants from more than 160 countries.

In addition to talking to Scouts from other countries, participants complete requirements for Cub Scout adventures, Boy Scout merit badges and the International Spirit Award. All that, plus JOTA and JOTI offer a hands-on lesson in STEM — the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Requirements completed

In addition to being incredibly fun, JOTA and JOTI count toward Scouting requirements:

2018 Jamboree-on-the-Air (JOTA)

What: Annual Scouting event that uses amateur radio to link Scouts around the world, across the country and in your own community.

When: Third full weekend of October (this year it’s Oct. 19-21, 2018). There are no official hours, so you have the whole weekend to make JOTA contacts. The event officially starts Friday evening and runs through Sunday evening.

Who: Scouts and Venturers of any age, plus their families.

How: Once at the ham radio station, the communication typically requires speaking into a microphone and listening on the station speakers. However, many forms of specialized communication can also take place, such as video communication, digital communication using typed words on the computer screen transmitted by radio, communication through a satellite relay or an earth-based relay (called a repeater), and many others.

Where to find help: Contact your local council. They may already have an event set up that your Scouts can attend. Otherwise, find a local American Radio Relay League club here.

Learn more: Get resources, quick-start guides, patch order forms and lots more at the JOTA website.

Just for fun: Check out this archive of JOTA patches through the years.

Bonus tip: If your unit or council wants to participate in JOTA but doesn’t have an amateur radio station, hope is not lost. Icom America and the BSA have a sponsorship agreement that began in 2012 and now extends through 2018. One aspect of that agreement is that Icom America will provide up to 10 complete amateur radio stations for use by local Scout councils. Stations can be requested for long-term development loan stations and for event loan stations. You can find the details, application and loan agreement here.

2018 Jamboree-on-the-Internet (JOTI)

What: JOTA’s younger brother, JOTI is an annual Scouting event that uses the Internet and the numerous devices that are used to get online — laptops, iPads and more — to link Scouts from around the world.

When: JOTI begins at 00:00 hours local time on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2018, and will end at 24:00 hours local time on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.

Who: Scouts and Venturers of any age, plus their families.

How: Scouts can participate at home with the help of an adult (remember two-deep leadership), or they can participate in a Scout group at a councilwide event. JOTI is an economical way of communicating with people from other corners of the globe. The event allows Scouts to “meet” other Scouts from around the world through the Internet and share more information than just “hi.”

Where to find help: Contact your local council. They may already have an event set up that your Scouts can attend.

Learn more: Get resources, quick-start guides, patch order forms and lots more at the JOTI website.

Just for fun: Check out this archive of JOTI patches through the years.

Safety tip: Scouts should learn the rules of safe internet use by earning the BSA’s digital training tool, the Cyber Chip, before they participate in JOTI.

Professors to study how adult leaders foster character development in Scouts

We know adult leaders play a vital role in developing character in Scouts and Venturers. But how does that character development happen? And is there a perfect mix of training and experience that results in the best character outcomes?

Over the next two years, a pair of researchers will study those questions and more.

Two professors from Montclair State University in New Jersey have been awarded a $5.7 million grant to study the ways adult leaders build character in Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America National Character Initiative sub-award is funded by the Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

Jennifer Urban and Miriam Linver, professors of family science and human development, will answer questions like:

  • What combination of training and experience of Scoutmasters and other volunteers best builds character in Scouts?
  • How can adult leader training be enhanced to strengthen a Scout’s character development?
  • What are the pathways that build a young person’s character?
  • How does volunteering in Scouting develop an adult’s character?
How the study will work

Urban and Linver will work with a team of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students to collect and analyze data about everything happening within BSA packs, troops and crews.

“We want to understand how youth development practitioners, or adults in general, foster youth character development in Scouts,” Urban says.

They’ll share their findings in reports and articles, and this newfound wisdom will cascade throughout Scouting.

It’ll start with the BSA organization, which can use the results to develop a plan for how to better serve Scout leaders. This plan, in turn, will benefit Scouters by helping them maximize the time they spend volunteering. And finally, the project findings will be shared with other youth-serving organizations so all can benefit from what’s uncovered.

“It’s easy to be cynical about the state of civil society, but we only need to look as far as our youth to see the full potential for a brighter future,” Urban says. “We aren’t only going to be able to understand more about character development in youth, but we’ll also be able to understand more about how adult character develops through volunteering with BSA.”

Phase I a success

The research into adult leaders is actually Phase II of the Montclair State study.

Phase I of the project, Urban says, “confirmed that BSA offers a distinctive character initiative that is deeply rooted in its culture — and that is ideal for exploring and documenting the relationship between adult practice and youth character development.”

I’ll share the results from Phase II once they’re released in a couple of years.

Summer camp merit badge encourages Eagle Scout’s welding career choice

Addison Foli thought he should head for a career in marine biology, but after one semester, he realized college wasn’t for him.

Back to the drawing board. What job should the Gainesville, Fla., Eagle Scout pursue?

His godfather — an electrician — suggested he look into a trade field. That’s when his family reminded him how much he enjoyed earning the Welding merit badge at summer camp in 2014. Bingo!

“It’s science mixed with art mixed with hard work,” Foli says. “You can make a career out of it.”

From camp to career

When Foli looked over merit badge classes to take at Woodruff Scout Camp in Georgia, Welding intrigued him, even though he knew practically nothing about it. It was a fairly new merit badge, debuting in 2012. He signed up and learned how to create a T-joint and tack plates together in a flat groove weld. It was a fun merit badge, and Foli talked about it a lot after camp.

When it came time to focus on higher education, however, Foli aimed for marine biology since he was on swim teams in middle and high school. The strong swimmer even received a lifesaving medal for rescuing friends and family from a dangerous rip current.

While he had a passion for being in the water, he discovered he wasn’t quite as passionate about the traditional academic studies. Piling up debt for years in college also didn’t seem too desirable.

Foli opted for a two-year welding certification program at Santa Fe College in his hometown. Thanks to a scholarship, Foli recently graduated with little debt. He also graduated with a job already lined up as a pipe welder and fabricator.

“I’d never look back,” Foli says. “I do something new and exciting every day. It’s a hardcore job, but I love it.”

Foster Scouts’ future

Foli’s story serves as a great reminder about what can happen at Scout summer camp.

“Scouting is the No. 1 reason why I’m where I am,” Foli says. “The merit badges are more than merit badges; they can be your future.”

It’s also a great reminder for merit badge counselors and Scout leaders to breathe life into their lessons. What you teach can inspire Scouts into lifelong passions and livelihoods. If you need a little inspiration yourself, check out Scouting magazine’s series on tips for teaching merit badges, including the Welding merit badge.

Scouts can also learn about specific careers through Exploring.

“If you don’t think college is for you, there are other options,” Foli says. “Explore all of your options.”

View from the top: What an Eagle Scout learned on his climb up Mount Everest

When it comes to gaining perspective about life, it’s hard to beat the view from the top of the world.

Matt Moniz, a 20-year-old Eagle Scout and the BSA’s first Adventure Ambassador, made it to the summit of Mount Everest on May 20, 2018.

This was Matt’s third Everest attempt, and coming up short twice before both strengthened his resolve and gave him a new definition of “success.” Matt learned to see his previous two Everest trips not as failures but as transformative experiences. He has learned to value the journey over the destination.

“Going into this project, I came in thinking if I get the opportunity to stand on top of the world, that’s going to be amazing,” he says. “But if not, I’m still going to learn from it and have an incredible experience.”

Matt’s journey to the top of Everest didn’t begin at Everest base camp. It started when he was a Scout in Colorado. Matt says Scouting gave him the leadership skills that are an often overlooked but essential part of climbing.

I caught up with Matt by phone last week after he returned safely to Boulder, Colo. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

2014 and 2015 attempts

In 2014, Matt’s first Everest attempt was thwarted by a block of ice falling onto the Everest slopes.

A year later, Matt was in Nepal preparing his second attempt when a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit.

Instead of immediately heading home, Matt used his Scouting skills to help others — service that earned him the BSA’s Honor Medal with Crossed Palms.

When Matt returned to the U.S., people told him they were sorry he wasn’t able to climb Everest. “I feel really bad for you,” some of them said.

“And I say, ‘No, I think I got more out of that experience than I ever could standing on top of the world,'” Matt says. “Everything is so unpredictable, and people can get bogged down focusing on the summit. You’ll learn a lot from every experience.”

The Everest project

When talking to Matt, I noticed that he didn’t call his expedition to Everest a “trip” or a “journey.” He called it his “Everest project.”

That’s because he’s actually been working on this project since he took a trip to Nepal when he was 9 and saw Mount Everest for the first time.

“It really sparked my passion for climbing,” he says.

Since then, everything Matt has done — including rock climbing during Scout campouts and becoming the youngest person to summit Makalu, the world’s fifth-tallest mountain — has been part of the Everest project.

“Every time I get the opportunity to climb, I have to realize I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity,” he says. “That’s one of the big things I love about Scouting. They do a great job of introducing people, who previously had no access to the outdoors, to magical places.”

How’s the weather?

On an Everest attempt, everything depends on the weather. On a single day, one side of the mountain might get an inch of snow while the other side gets a foot.

Matt and his team kept in contact with Matt’s friend who is a meteorologist in Boulder. The friend sent weather updates that included forecasted wind speeds — the most important weather factor for an Everest climb.

On certain exposed sections during Matt’s journey, the winds reached 40 mph, and the temperature dropped to minus-35 degrees.

Way up there

The other big factor is the altitude. Everest’s summit is 29,029 feet up — nearly 5 and a half miles above sea level. And so Matt and his team had to slowly acclimate — training their bodies to survive in lower-oxygen conditions.

“If you went from your home in the U.S. and jumped right to the top of Mount Everest, you’d die very quickly,” Matt says. “You have to acclimate your body slowly to the pressure that’s up there.”

Matt and his team used a technique he calls “rotations” but I call “two steps forward, one step back.”

The idea with rotations is to climb high and sleep low. They’d climb up to a camp, touch the camp, and then climb back down to sleep at the previous camp. That process repeats as they slowly make their way up. 

“Some people do as many as three or four rotations before making a summit attempt,” Matt says. “For me, I like it a lot because you get to know the mountain really well. For others, it’s really frustrating.”

The summit attempt

While some climbers reach the summit when it’s dark, Matt and his team wanted to be there in sunlight. They timed it perfectly.

“We reached the summit, and the sun hits us in the face,” Matt says. “We saw that little tiny glow over the horizon.”

Matt hugged his teammates.

“We couldn’t even speak because we were so happy,” he says. “It was beautiful. It was more powerful than any of us realized. There are no words to really describe what it was like.”

A team effort

Matt reached the summit on May 20. His team of four included his friend Willie Benegas and two sherpas.

“I feel like people don’t recognize enough the sherpa team that you’re with. I don’t think anyone could climb these mountains without the help of these guys,” Matt says. “A lot of people see it as two separate groups, but I felt it was really important that we integrate and see us as one team.”

When climbing, Matt says, you need to know your team and trust them. It’s like that “trust fall” team-building exercise, but the stakes could be life or death.

“They’re going to hold your life in their hands,” he says.

Talking Scouting

When Matt talks with members of the climbing community, he’s often asked why he’s so passionate about Scouting.

“And I think that unless you’re part of the Scouting community, you don’t realize what skills Scouting emphasizes,” he says. “The biggest ones that helped me on this project is the leadership skills. Scouting really emphasizes making young guys and young girls leaders.”

When climbing Everest, everyone had to do his part. Everyone had to make decisions. To know when to follow and when to lead.

“The amazing thing about Scouting is you’re introduced to that at a young age,” Matt says.

More quick questions with Matt

Favorite trail snack on Everest: “Everyone always makes fun of me, but I love these things called Bobo’s Oat Bars. Especially the lemon poppyseed flavor. I brought probably 50 of them, and I ended up running out.”

Favorite piece of Everest gear: “My Adidas Terrex jacket. Most comfortable, warmest jacket I’ve ever used, and it packed down super small.”

His hero: “I really look up to my dad. He does a great job of balancing climbing with being with his family and with work.”

What he did during downtime on his Everest climb: Reading and a lot of sleeping. “Almost every night you’re getting between 10 and 12 hours of sleep, which I never do. You spend so much time sleeping and recovering because you’re climbing so much and putting your body through so much physical stress.”

What’s next: Matt is a sophomore at Dartmouth College, studying government, international relations and global health. “I want to do some international work and something that combines my climbing, medical and academic backgrounds.”

Backcountry Bingo cards encourage Scouts to pay attention to the world around them

On your next walk in the woods, encourage your Scouts to look closer at what’s around them. In fact, why not make a game out of it?

A Scouter in California has created a Backcountry Bingo Hunt game to encourage his Scouts to pay attention to the natural world. He’s made the cards available to fellow Scouters for free.

You can download and print the cards at this link (PDF). There are 12 different configurations, and the game can be played individually or in teams of two or more.

They’re the work of Kevin Bostwick of Troop 407, part of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council. Bostwick debuted the Backcountry Bingo cards on a recent troop hike in Mount San Jacinto State Park.

“I wanted to have an activity that would encourage the Scouts to pay attention to the backcountry details around them,” he says. “I Googled several scavenger hunt or bingo-type activities, but none of them were quite right.”

So he made his own, and they were a hit.

“The Scouts had a good time,” Bostwick says. “It actually created some great, sometimes hilarious, conversations between the Scouts and adult leaders.”

Troop 407 Scouts play Backcountry Bingo. From left: Robert M., Cooper S. (photobombing), Phillip Q., Zachary M., Camden B. and Nate M. How to play Backcountry Bingo Hunt
  1. Print the Backcountry Bingo cards at this link.
  2. Share them with your youth leaders (senior patrol leader, Venturing crew president, etc.) for them to consider using on a future trip.
  3. Fill a square to earn one point. You can fill a square for things like spotting a mammal, picking up someone else’s trash or posing for a photo with a friend.
  4. Score bonus points for further identifying what you see. While you might get a point for seeing a tree, you’ll get three more for correctly saying what kind of tree it is.
  5. Other bonuses include:
    • Five points for being the first player/team to fill in four squares in a row
    • Five points for filling in all 16 squares

Competitive fun and a chance to more fully appreciate their surroundings? This is a game where everyone’s a winner.

Hargrave Military Academy, like Scouting, teaches leadership and ethics

At Hargrave Military Academy, cadets learn traits like respect, courage and integrity. They practice putting others before themselves. They become leaders who are prepared for lifelong success.

Sounds a lot like Scouting to me.

It’s tough to imagine a school sharing more values in common with Scouting than Hargrave Military Academy located in Chatham, Va. As a top-ranked college-preparatory boarding school, Hargrave serves young men in grades seven through postgraduate, and develops future leaders who go on to success in college and beyond.”

Why they choose Hargrave

Many cadets choose Hargrave because they aren’t getting what they need at their local schools. They come from more than 25 different states and six continents to learn leadership, build stronger SAT/ACT scores and create a solid record of academic success. They’re challenged in the classroom, on the athletic field and in service activities.

To achieve academic success, you want to establish a solid daily routine. Hargrave does that for its students; it helps them solidify structure. These skills serve them throughout life.

For proof, just look at the Hargrave Military Academy Class of 2018. These 50 graduates have been awarded a combined $4.4 million in scholarships and will go on to universities across the country — from the University of Washington to Miami Dade College.

Nine cadets will attend senior military colleges, including The Citadel, the Virginia Military Institute and Norwich University.

Scouting at Hargrave

Hargrave doesn’t just share values with Scouting. The academy actually charters its own Scout troop.

Troop 68 welcomes any young man who is enrolled at the academy. Scouts in Troop 68 can choose from — get this — 68 different merit badges taught by Hargrave faculty.

To date, more than 70 cadets have become Eagle Scouts.

Learn more at

2018 FIFA World Cup: Ranking the countries by percentage of Scouts and Scouters

Scouting is a global movement, and soccer is a global game.

Now that the 2018 FIFA World Cup has arrived, I thought I’d offer a Scouting-focused look at the 32 countries that will battle for the big prize.

Germany, Brazil and Belgium are soccer powerhouses, but I’m more interested in which nations are Scouting powerhouses. When you trade cleats for hiking boots, which countries emerge victorious?

Sadly, the United States didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup. But with the information below, you can find a backup favorite.

The Scout Association of Nigeria has been part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement since 1961. Go Nigeria!

Using numbers from the World Organization of the Scout Movement, of which the BSA is a member, Nigeria is the World Cup country with the most registered Scouts and volunteers.

In the Scout Association of Nigeria, which started in 1915, boys and girls complete service projects, learn to be better citizens and provide first aid in cases of disaster.

Also cool: the Nigerian soccer team’s nickname is the “Super Eagles.” Doesn’t get much more Scouty than that.

But wait, you say. Nigeria’s population is nearly 191 million, making them the second-most-populous country in this year’s World Cup (behind Brazil). Nigeria’s population is 570 times larger than that of the least populous World Cup country: Iceland, which has about the same number of people as Honolulu.

And that’s why …

Icelandic Scouts hike up Úlfarsfell, a 968-foot mountain near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Go Iceland!

… I ranked the squads by percentage of the population in Scouting.

Looking at the data that way, a clear No. 1 emerges. Yes, it’s Iceland. In small but mighty Iceland, 1.42 percent of people are involved in Scouting.

The Icelandic Boy and Girl Scout Association has been around since 1911. Scouts are divided into age groups with some pretty awesome names: Dragon Scouts (7 to 9), Falcon Scouts (10 to 12), Court Scouts (13 to 15), Ranger Scouts (16 to 18) and Rover Scouts (19 to 25).

World Cup countries ranked by percentage of Scouts

I’ve included the United States for reference.

Rank Country  Number of Scouts and Scouters Population % of Scouts and Scouters 1 Iceland  4,766 335,025 1.423% 2 Belgium  105,383 11,429,336 0.922% 3 England*  562,454 66,181,585 0.850% 4 Portugal  81,329 10,329,506 0.787% United States  2,536,872 324,459,463 0.782% 5 Denmark  42,927 5,733,551 0.749% 6 Nigeria  750,073 190,886,311 0.393% 7 Sweden  36,389 9,910,701 0.367% 8 Switzerland  24,611 8,476,005 0.290% 9 Australia  67,495 24,450,561 0.276% 10 South Korea  136,079 50,982,212 0.267% 11 Costa Rica  11,423 4,905,769 0.233% 12 Tunisia  24,070 11,532,127 0.209% 13 Argentina  70,140 44,271,041 0.158% 14 Spain  68,306 46,354,321 0.147% 15 Germany  113,398 82,114,224 0.138% 16 France  75,547 64,979,548 0.116% 17 Poland  42,149 38,170,712 0.110% 18 Egypt  82,940 97,553,151 0.085% 19 Croatia  3,154 4,189,353 0.075% 20 Japan  89,470 127,484,450 0.070% 21 Senegal  9,857 15,850,567 0.062% 22 Panama  2,479 4,098,587 0.060% 23 Saudi Arabia  19,260 32,938,213 0.058% 24 Uruguay  1,968 3,456,750 0.057% 25 Serbia  4,804 8,790,574 0.055% 26 Brazil  81,518 209,288,278 0.039% 27 Mexico  45,553 129,163,276 0.035% 28 Morocco  12,304 35,739,580 0.034% 29 Colombia  14,153 49,065,615 0.029% 30 Peru  8,254 32,165,485 0.026% 31 Russia  6,395 143,989,754 0.004% 32 Iran**  N/A 81,162,788 N/A

Source for number of Scouts: World Organization of the Scout Movement; source for population: United Nations.

*England is competing in the World Cup, but Scotland, Wales and Ireland are not. WOSM’s data only provides the total number of Scouts in the U.K. Scout Association, so I’m including that number here, as well as the population for all of the U.K.

**Iran is one of 25 countries where Scouting exists but where there is no National Scout Organization that is yet a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Join the world

Speaking of international Scouting, I hope you consider attending the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. Like the World Cup, it will be a global celebration you won’t want to miss.

2018 Eagle Scout Project of the Year: He built a fully accessible musical playground

For Nathan Fain, the toughest part of completing his Eagle Scout project wasn’t building an innovative musical playground or making sure it was fully accessible for students with physical or mental challenges.

And it wasn’t raising $40,000 for the project or leading 19 fellow teenagers who helped him complete the work.

For Nathan Fain, the hardest part was telling a bunch of grown-ups what to do. Grown-ups who are professionals in their field, no less.

“It became pretty difficult to step in and say what I needed to say and get my two cents in so I get the job done right,” Nathan says. “I just had to overcome it and let them think whatever they thought of me but get the job done right anyway.”

He did just that, and the result is a resounding success.

There are more than 50,000 Eagle Scout service projects completed each year, but only one is deemed the Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year.

For 2018, that one was the work of Nathan Fain. Nathan, an Eagle Scout in Troop 326 of LaGrange, Ga., won the 2018 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

Learn more about this and other National Eagle Scout Association scholarships at

Behind the scenes

Nathan secured $40,000 in donations, including equipment and cash. Some 50 businesses pitched in with money or materials.

With everything ready, Nathan got to work on the playground at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange.

Like all Eagle Scouts, Nathan didn’t do his project alone. He led more than 100 volunteers who collectively provided 1,254 hours of service.

The name of the project — LCS Joyful Noise — comes from Psalm 98:4, which reads “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”

Dale Jackson is co-founder of LCS Discovery Cottage, a program at the school that helps students with learning differences. His students will benefit from Nathan’s project.

In his role, Jackson often is approached by people who want to raise money for the school but don’t know where to start.

Not so when Nathan showed up.

“He simply sat down for 30, 40 minutes, I gave him advice, and then he’s gone,” Jackson says. “And he did it.”

Watch this

To see Nathan’s playground in action and hear more from this terrific young man, watch this video:

Troop committee member attending 59th consecutive summer camp

Robert Podboy loves Scout summer camp. This month, he’s attending his 59th consecutive one at Sinoquipe Scout Reservation in Pennsylvania.

“I do enjoy camping and still go hiking as long as it’s not too strenuous,” the 88-year-old retired optometrist says.

Podboy, who serves as a committee member for Troop 97 in Waynesboro, Pa., got involved in Scouting soon after he moved to Waynesboro in 1959. As a newcomer to town, he felt getting involved with an organization would be a great way to meet people. A troop was seeking a leader; Podboy wasn’t too sure he’d make a good leader, especially since he was never in Scouts as a boy. He originally thought he’d volunteer for a just few months.

“I got into it,” he says. “I really enjoyed my work and helping the boys.”

Some things never change

Summer camp has changed quite a bit since Podboy first attended at Sinoquipe. Hot showers were a new feature at the camp in 1959; camp roads were primarily dirt; and old Army surplus buildings served as some of the camp buildings.

Now, Scouts at Sinoquipe can go rappelling off the climbing tower, zip line at the C.O.P.E. area and study robotics in the technology center. They can also enjoy archery, canoeing and swimming just as Scouts did five decades ago.

One thing doesn’t change: Summer camp is fun.

Podboy has served as a leader for provisional troops at camp, an assistant Scoutmaster and an international representative for the Mason-Dixon Council. He has relished seeing Scouts learn and mature, and then catching up with them years later. Some of them are grandfathers now.

He plans to continue attending summer camp, guiding young Scouts as they begin their Scouting adventures.

“I view them as going to be good citizens,” Podboy says. “The country is going to be in good hands with them.”

This is the most important piece of summer camp gear for Scout leaders

Hiking boots are made for walking, and life jackets are made for canoeing.

As for camp chairs, those are made for sitting down at summer camp.

In fact, I’m going to say camp chairs are the most important piece of gear an adult leader can pack for their weeklong Scouting sojourn.

Not a cot. Not bug spray. And definitely not a laptop full of work stuff. A camp chair.

You’re already taking a week off from your job, so you might as well sit down and enjoy yourself. Here are five reasons why.

1. Scouts will always know where to find you.

For emergencies large (“I can’t find my merit badge class!”) or small (“I can’t find my other shoe!”), it’s good to have an adult who can be found quickly and easily.

2. It’s the rule at most camps anyway.

Oh yeah, this is more than just a good idea. It’s a rule.

Most summer camps require that at least two adults be present at camp at all times. This is so camp staffers can reach someone from any troop at any time.

3. Scouting’s supposed to be youth-led.

Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell once came up with this unofficial motto for Scoutmasters: “When you want a thing done, don’t do it yourself.”

He means you can keep your seat while your senior patrol leader and patrol leaders do things like conduct flag ceremonies, gather the troop for meals and clean up camp.

They get to practice leadership skills, and you get to be around to offer help or mentorship when needed.

4. You worked hard all year long. You deserve this.

Yeah, Scouting’s youth-led, but it’s powered by the sweat of adult volunteers like you.

Summer camp is a great time to kick back and put your feet up — assuming your camp chair is the fancy kind with a leg rest.

5. It’s the ideal spot for reading a book.

The Scouts are off earning merit badges and making new friends. The only sounds are the rustling of leaves and chirping of birds.

The conditions are right for reading. That makes a good book the second most-important piece of gear you can bring to summer camp.

But remember to walk around some, too.

When it’s another adult’s turn to stay behind at camp, take advantage of the opportunity to explore.

Pop over to the climbing wall to cheer your Scouts to the top. Check out a merit badge class or two. See if the camp has some sort of competition for Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters.

Camp Daniel Boone in North Carolina, for example, offers a Scoutmaster Golf Tourney every Thursday afternoon. Instead of golf balls, they use racquetballs. Instead of golf clubs, leaders use clubs they make while at camp — perhaps while seated in their camp chair?!

At Camp Buffalo Bill in Wyoming, there’s a Dutch oven dessert cook-off for leaders. Yum!

And you know the perfect place to enjoy some Dutch oven cobbler, right?

Yep. A camp chair.

As BSA welcomes families into Scouting, councils add a Family Scouting Director

Do you crave more time with your children and less time bouncing between drop-offs and pickups?

Julie Anderson has been there. Like most parents, she laments not being able to spend enough quality time with her two children, Ian and Samantha.

That’s why Anderson is such a fan of Family Scouting, the BSA’s push to welcome all members of the family into our life-changing movement.

She’s such a fan, in fact, that she made it her career.

As the BSA brings the benefits of Scouting to more young people, at least two councils are preparing for the influx by adding a newly created position: Family Scouting Director.

Today, let’s meet these two women and hear how their vibrant Scouting pasts will help them shape Scouting’s future.

Julie Anderson, Orange County Council Julie Anderson and her children at Philmont in 2014.

Anderson, who began her BSA career in 1997, has been promoted to Family Scouting Director for the Orange County Council, based in Santa Ana, Calif.

She’s pumped to share the ways Family Scouting will appeal to moms and dads out there. It lets parents “take the whole family on outings and activities for scheduled fun family time,” she says.

Anderson has seen firsthand how the program makes a huge impact on Scouts and their families.

Both her son and daughter have been involved in Scouting since they were kids. Ian is now 11, and Samantha is 13. They’ve been to countless Orange County Council camps, day camps and campouts.

While her time in Scouting has been “unofficial” to this point, Samantha is eagerly awaiting Feb. 1, 2019, when she can become one of the first girls in Scouts BSA.

Anderson knows that the benefits of inviting the entire family into Scouting will extend far past her own home.

“Having more of our children who will become our future leaders, learn the values of the Scout Oath and Law, have a love of the outdoors, and embrace everything the BSA stands for is very exciting,” she says.

Claire Osterman, Cascade Pacific Council Claire Osterman (back row, left) stands with some girls who are interested in joining Scouts BSA. The other adult pictured is Kaleen Deatherage, the council’s Family Scouting volunteer chairwoman.

The Cascade Pacific Council, based in Portland, Ore., has promoted Claire Osterman to Family Scouting Director.

Growing up, Osterman watched with envy as her older brothers enjoyed their time in Scouting. She wanted to do what they were doing and “be just like them,” she says.

When she was 12, the family traveled to New Mexico to visit her brother, who was working that summer at Philmont Scout Ranch. This sealed the deal.

“I fell head over heels for the whole thing,” she says. “Desert vistas, hiking, climbing, stepping off a bus and into the wilderness for 10 days with nothing but a pack on your back. It was so much more exciting than anything I’d experienced in the small town I was growing up in. I was sold.”

Pretty much everything Osterman did during her teenage years put her on a trajectory to get back to Philmont as a staff member.

She worked at Cub Scout camp with her brothers. She explored the natural world. She enrolled in college to study anthropology.

Then, finally, she landed a summer gig at Philmont’s archaeology backcountry camp, Indian Writings.

“It was everything I’d dreamed of,” she says. “I hiked 6 miles every day to a turnaround called 7-mile road. I climbed up mesas in the dead of night to sleep on top of them. I still remember falling asleep outside looking at the sky, only to wake an hour or so later to see thousands of stars suddenly shift. It was just one summer, but it meant so much to me and has framed my entire life since. Philmont taught me what adventure is.”

After graduation, Osterman visited her college’s career fair. She was there for one reason: to seek out the Boy Scouts of America booth and get a job.

Unsurprisingly, she was hired. She has been a district executive, senior district executive, district director and field director. Now she’s the Family Scouting Director.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this new role,” she says. “I consider it an honor.”

What a Family Scouting Director will do

Before she became Family Scouting Director, Anderson served as director of activities for the Orange County Council. She has held several other positions in the council, including Cub Scout activities director, district director, senior district executive and Canyons District director.

In her new role as Family Scouting Director, Anderson will work with units and their chartered organizations to help them determine the best way to provide the Scouting program.

She will help leaders with questions, offer additional information and supply support materials. She’ll reach out to the community and various organizations to enlist their help in introducing more families to Family Scouting.

Osterman says she’ll seek to “create a space where every kid knows that they are celebrated and welcome.”

And what she’s learned so far won’t be a trade secret.

“I am happy to share all of the tactics we’ve used with other councils,” she says. “Feel free to reach out!”

These two women are paving the way for Scouting’s continued success. Let’s wish them the best of luck!

Thanks to Melissa Dundovich for the blog idea.

Watch this quick refresher about ATV safety, from our friends at Polaris

Have fun, ride safe and respect the outdoors.

Riding an all-terrain vehicle, like one of the Polaris ATVs found at select BSA council camps, is really as simple as following those three steps.

But what about those of us who crave a little more guidance before hopping aboard one of these fun and functional machines?

Polaris and the BSA have us covered with this brief safety video.

Watch for:

  • Essential gear for ATV safety
  • A reminder to never ride on paved roads except in specific circumstances
  • Guidelines on transporting passengers on an ATV
  • Advice on trails, speed and supervision

Consider screening the video at a troop or crew meeting, unit committee meeting, adult leader training or summer camp staff training. It’s a quick, effective refresher.

Tune in and win

At around 10 a.m. CT on June 28, Boys’ Life will be broadcasting LIVE on Facebook from a local council camp in Texas.

Learn the latest ATV safety techniques from a certified instructor, watch Scouts demonstrate how to ride a Polaris ATV and win great prizes from Polaris.

Five lucky Facebook Live viewers will win, so be sure to tune in.

Castaways Against Cancer: Eagle Scouts on team kayaking to Key West for good cause

Some walk, run or bike to support the fight against cancer. These guys paddle, paddle and then paddle some more.

Think of it as Relay for Life, with kayaks. This month, two Eagle Scouts, each of whom turned his passion for Scouting into a career with the BSA, are part of a team kayaking from Miami to Key West in support of the American Cancer Society.

They call themselves Castaways Against Cancer. Eagle Scouts Patrick Linfors and Anthony Berger are two members of the group, which has raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society since the effort began in 2000.

This year’s trip launches June 9. That’s when 17 paddlers will begin the 160-mile journey, expected to take seven days.

Eagle Scout Patrick Linfors, whose day job is director of field service for the BSA’s North Florida Council, is the Castaways team captain. Starting small, thinking big

The journey to raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society started in 1999 when Steve O’Brien, a Miami high school teacher, lost his mother and grandmother to the terrible disease.

At his mother’s wake, O’Brien decided it was better to “light a candle instead of curse the darkness.”

When O’Brien was looking for three paddlers to join his journey in 2000, he recruited two fellow schoolteachers. One of them was Linfors’ brother.

“They were looking for a fourth person, and my brother recommended me,” Linfors says. “They assumed that, as an Eagle Scout, I could handle it.”

And so that’s how four men in two tandem kayaks found themselves paddling from Miami to Key West. They raised $10,000, and the Castaways Against Cancer were born.

Linfors, who is director of field service for the North Florida Council, has been on all 19 Castaways Against Cancer trips, including this year’s paddle.

The Castaways Against Cancer team captain, Linfors earned Scouting’s highest honor in 1993 as a member of Troop 314 of Miami, part of the South Florida Council.

Eagle Scout Anthony Berger, who is the BSA’s national director of Cub Scouting, has been on every Castaways trip since 2010. More than a million

From 2000 to 2017, the Castaways raised $933,061 for the American Cancer Society, making them one of the top Relay for Life teams in the nation. Add in the funds raised in advance of the 2018 trip, and the total has surpassed $1 million.

As the years have gone on, Linfors has been personally impacted by cancer. Both his brother and wife are cancer survivors.

“My commitment to the cause cemented over time,” Linfors says.

Berger earned Scouting’s highest honor in 1990 as a member of Troop 101 of Fort Myers, Fla., part of the Southwest Florida Council. He’s now the BSA’s director of Cub Scouting.

Berger joined the Castaways in 2006. After a few years away, he rejoined in 2010 and has been on every trip since.

Berger has turned to his vast network of Scouting friends to help him raise money for the cause.

Honoring the fighters

The Castaways really have two goals. The first is to help find a cure for cancer through their fundraising efforts. A million bucks goes a long way toward doing that.

The second is to honor those who have fought the fight against the disease.

With each donation, the Castaways ask the donor to provide the names of loved ones who have battled cancer.

These names are listed on the Castaways Against Cancer website. Upon arrival in Key West, the group holds a solemn closing ceremony in which they lay flowers in the ocean at sunset.

“All of the names from all of the donors from every year are with us on a special display board,” Linfors says. “Those loved ones are with us annually.”

Through his service to Scouting and to the American Cancer Society, Linfors is committed to helping others.

“I’m so honored to know that my life’s work in Scouting — and my labor of love with the Castaways — have such a positive impact on so many others,” he says. “It’s a great blessing to be a part of two amazing, life-changing, memory-making organizations and families.”

Follow along

Follow the Castaways Against Cancer on their website or Facebook page.

With one of their own hospitalized, pack brings the bridging ceremony to him

Pack 246 of Woodland Hills, Calif., isn’t just a group of Cub Scouts and their parents. Pack 246 is a family.

So when Chris L. was hospitalized with pneumonia last week, his packmates were there for him — standing right outside his hospital window with signs and the Pack 246 banner.

You see, it wasn’t just being sick that upset Chris. It was the realization that he’d be stuck in the hospital during the den’s party and ceremony to celebrate its bridging from Webelos to Arrow of Light.

“This was Chris’s last bridging with Pack 246, and we were very sad and disappointed to miss this very special event,” says Laura, Chris’s mom.

Waving and saluting

Throughout Chris’s hospital stay, families in Pack 246 had sent Chris cards and messages to wish him a swift recovery.

And then, on the day of the bridging, Cubmaster Jonathan Watts called Laura with an idea.

“He asked if he could come by the hospital and do an official bridging after the pack’s event had concluded,” Laura says.

When Watts arrived, he presented Chris with a card signed by his fellow Cub Scouts. Then he told Chris to look out the hospital window.

Across the street, Chris saw his fellow Cub Scouts and their families. They were waving the pack banner and saluting.

“They turned a day that had been feeling dismal into one of hope, friendship and cheer,” Laura says. “We felt the love and the Scout spirit!”

Thanks to Andrew Sisolak of the Western Los Angeles County Council for the blog idea.

Share your suggestions for improving the 2019 Journey to Excellence scorecards

Continuous improvement is a big part of Scouting. Whether you’re 8 or 80, you’re never really done learning to be a better Scout.

Continuous improvement is a big part of the BSA’s Journey to Excellence standards, as well. Rather than rolling out the same JTE scorecards every year, the JTE team meets yearly to make any necessary improvements to the formula.

But they don’t complete this process in a vacuum. The group of national, council and unit-level volunteers that soon will meet to craft the 2019 JTE standards wants your input.

Any leader who wishes to share feedback for improving the JTE scorecards should do so by sending an email to You have until June 15, 2018.

Wait, what’s JTE?

Scouting has a lot of acronyms, and we at Scouting magazine do our best to spell things out for you.

Journey to Excellence, or JTE, lets volunteers see how well their unit is meeting the goals of Scouting.

By tracking their progress on a JTE scorecard — like these 2018 scorecards — leaders can check in regularly to make sure they’re delivering the best possible program for their Scouts and Venturers.

Scouts, Scouters or Venturers in units that receive bronze, silver or gold JTE recognition can wear the corresponding patch on their uniforms.

For more on what JTE is and why it matters, read this.

Some guidelines when sharing your feedback

Have something you’d like to suggest about the JTE scorecards?

First, read this guidance from the JTE team.

  • Generally, JTE is well received and is considered to be measuring the correct factors that represent what Scouting should be doing. Major changes are unlikely.
  • Remember that gold status represents exceptional Scouting. Silver is excellent Scouting. Bronze is effective Scouting. Seeing gold scores across the board isn’t expected or realistic. Silver is very solid performance at every level.
  • There have been critiques that Journey to Excellence is too complicated with too many “moving parts.” There are some criteria which might be made more accurate, but that could require additional complexity.
  • When there is a suggestion to add something, the review group asks, “What should we then take out?” Normally, the answer has been that everything already in there is of high priority.
  • Ideally, at every level, JTE factors are things that should be known anyway. A unit really should know how many of its youth advanced during the year. A council should have recorded how many of its youth went long-term camping during the year.   Documenting JTE performance should simply involve recording what is already known.
  • Like everything else in Scouting, JTE should be fun. It should be fun to plan to get better, then to actually do it, and then to be recognized for it.

Please send in your suggestions to Every suggestion will be read carefully and considered.

Thanks to Neil Lupton for the info.

Ute Park Fire forces Philmont to cancel treks through July 14, Philmont Training Center programs through June 23

Philmont Scout Ranch announced Monday that the still-burning Ute Park Fire has forced it to cancel all backcountry treks from June 8 to July 14.

Treks after July 14 may resume, likely with altered itineraries, if backcountry conditions improve.

Additionally, programs scheduled to take place at the Philmont Training Center have been canceled through June 23. The training center expects to welcome back participants beginning with the Philmont Family Adventure on June 24.

The National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience, or NAYLE, program, takes place at Rayado Ridge Leadership Camp. That camp is 7 miles south of the Philmont base camp and is unaffected by the Ute Park Fire. NAYLE will go on as scheduled.

“The safety of our youth participants, volunteers and staff is a priority for everybody at Philmont Scout Ranch and the Boy Scouts of America,” Philmont said in a statement posted on its Fire Information page.

What happens next

Over the next few days, Philmont will contact the lead advisor or contingent leader of all crews that are affected by the decision, beginning with those that are scheduled to arrive first and continuing chronologically.

Affected Philmont Training Center coordinators also will be contacted.

Rather than calling the ranch yourself, Philmont asks that you wait until their team contacts your crew.

“Your assistance will help make sure that Philmont phone lines remain open,” Philmont said in its statement. “Thank you for your support and patience.”

In the meantime, your best information resource will be Philmont’s Fire Information page and Facebook page. These sites are being updated daily.

Those whose summer Philmont adventure has been canceled should be aware that other high-adventure bases — especially the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia — are gearing up to provide outstanding adventures to those impacted.

What we know about the Ute Park Fire

As of 5 p.m. MT Monday, the Ute Park Fire is burning more than 36,000 acres and is 23 percent contained. Residents in Colfax County and the village of Cimarron were cleared to return to their homes at noon Monday.

The fire started Thursday afternoon in Ute Park, a village between Eagle Nest and Cimarron.

It’s centered along U.S. Highway 64, which bisects the Philmont Scout Ranch property.

The fire has destroyed 14 backcountry buildings on Philmont property — most of which were unused. Backcountry Philmont staffers had been safely evacuated before the fire arrived.

Homes in the area have not been damaged.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez talks with Philmont staffers during the evacuation to the Colfax County Fairgrounds. Philmont staffers keep high spirits during evacuation

On Friday, with the fire moving in, Philmont began evacuating all 1,100 of its seasonal and year-round staffers to the Colfax County Fairgrounds, located about 30 miles east of Philmont in Springer, N.M.

During their forced retreat, the men and women were in high spirits. They received support from nearby landowners and were visited by elected officials from New Mexico, including Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Philmont food team kept the staff well nourished, and training for the summer season continued at the new location.

The staff returned to Philmont on Sunday afternoon, and the ranch shared this simple photo and message: “Our staff is home.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush talks literacy, life as a grandmother

Former First Lady Laura Bush addressed the BSA’s national meeting on May 24 in Dallas, giving an impassioned speech about literacy, her family and the BSA’s role in shaping young lives.

Mrs. Bush, who lives in Dallas with her husband, President George W. Bush, spoke at the Duty to God Breakfast in front of more than 1,000 Scouting volunteers and BSA professionals. She shared the spotlight with Scouts who had received their religious emblems and adults who were presented the National Duty to God Award.

Life as a grandmother

Mrs. Bush began with an update about her family. In addition to her work at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Mrs. Bush is a busy grandparent.

She talked about the joys of spending time with her two granddaughters, “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager.

She also shared that her daughter Jenna’s husband, Henry Hager, is an Eagle Scout. The 40-year-old earned Scouting’s highest honor on Oct. 27, 1993, as a member of Troop 444 of Richmond, Va.

Reading for success

Throughout her time as First Lady and beyond, Mrs. Bush has worked to promote literacy in young people. The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, which has raised $13.4 million for school libraries since its founding in 2002, is the most visible example of her legacy.

“Reading is not just a cause I selected as First Lady,” Mrs. Bush told the BSA leaders. “It’s one of the passions of my life.”

She sees developing a love for reading books and magazines as more than entertainment or schoolwork.

“Literacy is an essential foundation of democracy,” Mrs. Bush said.

Advocating for young people

In spite of the countless young people whose lives she changed for the better, Mrs. Bush still remembers one child she wasn’t able to help and she shared this example as a reminder to Scout leaders that they matter. Their Scouting service makes a difference to every single child.

Today’s Scouts will be tomorrow’s leaders — a fact that gives adults like us an incredible responsibility.

“The choices we make now will shape the next generation,” Mrs. Bush said. “That’s why I celebrate your contributions to BSA.”

Photo by Michael Roytek