For 10 days in July, the peaceful hills of southern West Virginia were alive with the sounds of more than 30,000 Boy Scouts, leaders and staff during the 2017 National Jamboree. Participants from all over the country and world voyaged to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Mount Hope, West Virginia, for the event.
Although most Scouts and Scouters (adult leaders) at the Jamboree were from the United States, more than 700 international youth attended from 59 different countries. Approximately 6,000 staff members were also on-site throughout the event to assist with everything from adventure courses, camp operations and transportation, to making sure kids wore sunscreen.
PHOTO: A sea of colors rippling across the West Virginia wilds (Photo courtesy BSA)
SUMMIT BECHTEL RESERVE
The 10,600-acre Summit property was purchased by the Boy Scouts of America in 2009 in order to create the expansive Scout retreat. Jamborees are held every four years, making this the second at the new location – the first was in 2013.
Touted as “the home of achievement, adventure, and innovation in Scouting with world-class facilities and a focus on outdoor action sports,” the Summit Bechtel Reserve sits adjacent to the New River Gorge National River area and offers a unique experience for visitors. More than 13 miles of the property borders the park, giving Scouts access to more than 70,000 acres of managed wilderness beyond the Summit property.
The Summit Bechtel Reserve is also home to the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base, which complements the three existing bases: Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier and Florida Sea Base. The Summit will be hosting the 2019 World Jamboree.
PHOTO: Scouts on the boardwalk at The Summit (Photo courtesy BSA)
WOODCARVING MERIT BADGE
Scouts may choose from a large variety of activities and adventures during their stay at the Jamboree. Of course, Woodcraft’s favorite is the woodcarving station. Hundreds of youth went through the booth this year and earned their commemorative badges, thanks to volunteers like Mike Springer, the Woodcarving Merit Badge director. In the oversized take-home instructional pamphlet to the carvers, Mike encouraged the kids to continue learning their new skill at home, saying, “Woodcarving can become your lifelong hobby providing many hours of pleasure for you and those you carve for.”
PHOTO: A proud Scout with his low relief project. (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Jody Garrett, Woodcraft president and Eagle Scout, appreciates the work of the volunteers who make the event possible. In an email to Mike, he wrote, “I would like to thank you, and each one of the Woodcarving Merit Badge staff members, for the investment in the BSA program. I know that the time at Jambo is an unpaid, labor of love. We are fortunate to have folks, like those on the Woodcarving Merit Badge staff, who selflessly give to the kids. And it’s always great to see the smiling faces of kids having fun.”
PHOTO: Staffer Ike Thomas teaching a young Scout about carving. (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Mike is part of what he calls “The Brotherhood of the Blade” (pictured below), who serve as the merit badge staff. “We have been together since 1987,” he said. “Over time the staff has changed but we are in touch with our past staff and get together in small groups outside of scouting. Carving is always the reason for our outside get-togethers.”
A long-time supporter of Scouting, Woodcraft provided tools and supplies for the carving booth, as did our partner Flexcut Tools. A JET bandsaw and blades, a JET scroll saw with stand and blades, Flexcut beginner’s carving sets and various sizes of thumb guards were sent in advance of the big event.
According to Mike, the booth stayed quite busy throughout the Jamboree. “Most kids were from the U.S., but we had kids carve with us from Ireland, Egypt, Thailand, Algeria, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Staffer Mark Wagner teaching several Scouts how to carve. (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Staffer Jay Campbell (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Abdulrahman Ghalib from the Saudi Arabian /Boy Scout Association works on a project at the Woodcarving Merit Badge exhibit. (Photo courtesy BSA)
Staffer John Rentko with Scouts from United Arab Emirates. (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Ken Walton (photo below) was one of the volunteers at the booth, shown here at the pre-carving area teaching first aide, safety, tools, sharpening and wood selection.
According to Mike, this marks Ken’s 6th time on Woodcarving staff. “His first was 1997. That’s 20 years on staff!” he said.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
PHOTO: Scouts from Thailand stopped and carved at the Woodcarving booth. (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
The tools stayed in motion as they were used one evening at staff camp for a carving session with the adults.
After classes wrapped up at the end of the Jamboree, the leaders auctioned off the power tools, allowing them to raise money to buy more patches for the participants as well as general booth needs. The carving tools were split up among the staff to use teaching the Woodcarving Merit Badge classes in their respective Troops back home.
PHOTO: Staffers took tools and projects to staff camp for “adult carving night” (Photo courtesy of Mike Springer)
Obviously, the Jamboree is a huge undertaking with the help of literally thousands of volunteers. Dan McCarthy, Logistics Lead for the Jamboree, stated, “The participants are why we do it. They’re why the staff pays to be here to share their talents and develop fitness, citizenship, character development, and leadership within the Scouts. It just wouldn’t be a jamboree without them.”
To learn more about the Boy Scouts of America, go to their website at www.scouting.org. To read more about the National Scout Jamboree and the Summit Bechtel Reserve, head to their site at www.summitbsa.org/jamboree.
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