It was an adventure of a lifetime and one they will not soon forget.
Members of the Slater Boy Scout Troop 163 and Venturing Crew 163 recently returned from the 2013 National Jamboree, held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. Jambo, as the Scouts called it, is held every four years, and this was the first year it was held at the Summit.
"It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Scout Riley Fleener.
While at Jambo, the Scouts did everything from white water rafting to zip lining to climbing to archery on the 10,000-acre reserve. Even skateboarding was including in the list of activities. Opening and closing ceremonies were held, during which speeches were given by the King of Sweden, Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel’s television show, "Dirty Jobs," the president of AT&T and bishops from West Virginia and Rome.
In addition to the recreational activities, Scouts were able to complete tasks that would help them earn Scout badges, or get closer to obtaining one. Scouts Adam Orgler and Riley were able to earn their genealogy badges by using computers available at Jambo to look for family history online.
A total of 30,037 youth and adults gathered at Jambo, representing Scout troops from all over the United States and the world. Some of the international Scouts that Troop 163 ran across were from South Korea, England and Egypt, just to name a few. The Slater Scouts told stories of the differences in how the international Scouts lowered the flag and ate meals. Venturing Crew advisor Dave Cook said the British troops brought tea sets and china dishes, complete with flowers in a vase for a centerpiece.
"It was a totally different way of camping than what we’re used to," Dave said.
One of the opportunities Scouts had to interact with fellow Scouts was through patch trading. Each troop brought a unique patch that represented their troop. The patches were laid out in a long line and Scouts traded patches to make complete patch sets to take home as keepsakes. Troop 163 chose to have John Wayne on their patches since he was from Iowa and was a Scout supporter, and it turned out to be one of the most sought-after patches at Jambo. Dave said Troop 163 all had John Wayne patches on their backpacks, and other Scouts would come up and ask if the patches could be cut off the backpacks. Other patches included ones from Detroit troops that had a motor vehicle theme and ones from Florida with a NASA theme.
Jambo wasn’t all fun and games, however. The Scouts had the chance to complete service projects as part of Messengers of Peace Day of Service. In total, 148,800 service hours were logged working on various projects. Venturing Crew member Garret Davies said his group laid tile in an old school building. Others spread woodchips at a playground and cleaned up shells from an old mine at a state park. Having the Scouts volunteer to do the work greatly helped the West Virginia communities.
"It’s a huge economic boom for the area," Dave said. "Having the Scouts come in saves them tons of money."
"It felt good to do it, too," said Scout David Konfrst.
Each morning and night, Scouts in each camp would take turns preparing the meal. Food would be dropped off at the base camp tower and have to be wheeled back to camp. Breakfast pick-up time was from 4:30-5:30 a.m. and supper would arrive from 4:30-6 p.m. Packaged food to be eaten for lunch would also be picked up with the breakfast food. Since Scouts would often not make it back to their camp during the day, they would pack and carry their lunch with them.
One of the things they missed while being at camp was a warm shower, Garret said. The shower water at the camp was ambient temperature, meaning it was whatever temperature the air was at the time. All Jambo participants slept in tents, with two Scouts to each tent. Adult leaders and advisors each had their own tent. Dave said the lack of amenities taught the Scouts "to be thankful for what you have."
The Scouts took three charter buses out and back from West Virginia, making lots of sightseeing stops along the way. Notable stopping points were the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; a Chicago Cubs game in Chicago, Ill.; the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Ky. The Scouts also held a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Penn., during which they placed a wreath at the crash site.
Parents of the Scouts said they are proud of how Troop 163 conducted themselves while on the trip and were glad the Scouts were able to participate in Jambo.
"There was no hesitation in sending them there," said Jane Konfrst, David Konfrst’s mother. "We know how prepared Scouting has made them for this opportunity."
Lisa Orgler, mother of Scout Adam Orgler, said this was the first time parents were able to follow the Scouts on Facebook.
"We knew what they were doing, and it was fun to see all the photos," Lisa said.
Overall, the Scouts enjoyed their experience at Jambo. They said it was a great time to further develop their leadership skills and interact with fellow Scouts. All agreed they would encourage other Scouts to attend future Jambos.
"It’s a good time to build leadership and a good time to learn how to cooperate with other people and get along with them," David said.