My oldest son went to his first national jamboree when he was 14 years old, and I had the jitters. There were plenty of reasons that going to a Scouting event far from home would make a mom like me nervous. For one thing, he started making plans to attend two full years before he left.
“That’s a lot of money,” I told him when he showed me the price tag on the application. “How will you earn that much?”
“I’ll do it,” he said. And then he set out selling popcorn, chopping wood, working for neighbors, and growing vegetables to sell. It was a long two years. But the day finally came. He climbed onto a travel bus with his jamboree troop and was off. I was grateful…but jittery. How would he survive such a long time without me? What would happen when the inevitable homesickness set in? Would his jamboree activities actually meet his—and my—expectations?
My son arrived home two weeks later chattering non-stop. “We did_____. We did _____. We saw _____.” His adventures were incredible and life changing. Yep. The sacrifice, hard work, and money were worth it, to both him and me.
When I told my friend how wonderful the jamboree was, she was skeptical and hesitant about the possibility of sending her own Scout son to a future jamboree. She had several questions as a concerned and careful mother, and I could relate to her initial nervousness. After all, I was once an “unbelieving mom.” So, here are my answers to other Scouting Moms who may have the “jamboree jitters.”
When is the jamboree?
National Scout jamborees were first held in 1937, with the second being in 1950. And, since that time, national jamborees have been held roughly every four years. World jamborees are also held every four years. So, there is a jamboree event every two years, alternating between national and world. The next national jamboree is coming up in the summer of 2017. The next world jamboree is scheduled for 2019. And both will be right here in the USA! For the first time ever!
Where will the jamboree be held?
Both the upcoming national and world jamborees will be held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. I was lucky enough to tour the Summit this spring, and I can vouch for how amazing it is. The Summit is incredible: 10,600 acres of property adjacent to West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River area. It includes green fields, bike trails, rock climbing walls, zip lines, water venues, shooting sports areas, world-class facilities, and a focus on outdoor action sports.
During a recent conversation with Wayne Perry, former national president, he shared his vision for the jamboree site (and I paraphrase),
“When a popular video game recently went on sale, more copies were sold on the first day than there are boys registered in Scouting. Wouldn’t you rather have your son at the Summit doing something real? Maybe he will risk a broken arm on the high adventure bike trail. Maybe he will scratch his leg on the ropes course, but isn’t that better than a lifetime of leisure?” Yes, Mr. Perry, I wholeheartedly agree.
What’s the advantage of attending a jamboree over a regular Scout camp?
Jamborees give Scouts a chance to meet youth from around the nation (and visiting international troops) and gain a larger vision of the Scouting movement. There is an indescribable energy and excitement that comes from camping next to a troop attending from across the nation (or the world). Scouts make life-long friends, have experiences not offered at local camps, and create memories they will always treasure. For my sons, their jamboree experiences helped shape their youth and prepared them for future life experiences. When my oldest son left on his mission, he listed his trip to the national jamboree as one of his three life-changing experiences.
What do Scouts do at a jamboree?
Picture all of your favorite Scouting activities rolled into one! High adventure, including ropes courses, rock climbing, mountain biking, shooting sports, water activities, and more is a focal point of jamborees held at the Summit. In addition, there are booths where Scouts can practice skills related to various merit badges, learn about different faiths, and compete in competitions. Tents are provided for troops, and shower and restroom facilities are in every campsite. Food is distributed commissary style. The jamboree begins and ends with magnificent shows, Sundays include services from many religions, and patch trading among Scouts is always popular. Flag ceremonies, fireworks, rolling green hills, and starry night skies also contribute to the grandeur of the event.
How does my son find a jamboree troop?
Most Scout councils form a troop (or troops) specifically for the jamboree. These troops will meet regularly for several months before the jamboree. These meetings (usually every month or two, and then more often as the jamboree gets closer) allow the Scouts to get to know each other and the leaders, choose troop youth leadership, hone camping skills, and prepare for the jamboree. Call your local Scout office to find out how to get involved in your jamboree troop.
I’m concerned about my son being with Scout leaders I don’t know personally.
I can understand that sending your son off with leaders you may not know as well as the local ones can be concerning. However, did you know the BSA has the strongest, tightest youth protection program in the world? Leaders must always be “two deep” and all must take several courses in child abuse awareness and reporting. In addition, adult applications ask specific background questions and adults go through a criminal background check before being allowed to serve as a volunteer. Is the system entirely foolproof? No. But in a world of agency, no system is. However, the systems the BSA has in place to protect youth are second to none.
The jamboree sounds like so much fun. Can I go with him?
Yes! I have friends who make their jamboree experience a parent-child time. And they love it! If you want to go as a leader, consider signing up at your local council to help with the council troop. Or, apply to serve on the national jamboree staff. You may spend part of your day helping at an event, staffing a jamboree booth, or packing food bags. However, you will still have time off every day to experience the jamboree with your son. Oh, and remember that adults pay their own way to the jamboree just as youth do. Yep! There are thousands of good Scout leaders who are eager to spend their vacation time and their money supporting quality adventures like the jamboree.
Want to know even more about the upcoming national and world Scout jamborees? Click here for information.
The bottom line is: Put your jitters to rest, Mom. Sending your son to the jamboree will likely be a high point of his teenage life and could influence and change him in positive ways forever.
~Nettie H. Francis has sent her sons (and husband) to several national jamborees. She served herself on staff at the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Ube, Japan. She is the wife of LDS-BSA Relationships Director Mark Francis.