Combine a dad full of natural curiosity and a love of learning with a Scouting momma full of passion for children, education and the outdoors and you get a family with many Dutch oven cooking, camp song singing, compass-confounded exploring, squirrel-chasing experiences. Despite my family background, I couldn’t have guessed I would one day be a National Parks and Monuments tour guide for Japanese people. And I really never would have guessed I’d then move on to work for the Boy Scouts of America.
Not quite six months ago, I remember being pulled into one of my first meetings at my new job for Boy Scouts at the Utah National Parks Council. As I sat and waited for it to begin, true to my tour guide training, I started searching all available resources (my phone) for any information I could pull together on the topic for the meeting. It was an unfamiliar word I had already heard several times in my first two days at my new job: Jamboree.
My initial searches resulted in a crash course in Jamboree history, starting with the very first Jamboree and how it was delayed from 1935 to 1937 due to a Polio outbreak. I learned of the event’s nomadic movements every four years, each Jamboree in a different place to promote Scouting until the early 1980s when they consistently began to be held in Virginia. In 2013, Jamboree found a permanent home at The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia. Having lived in Japan, I am all too familiar with humid summer heat, and for the life of me, cannot understand setting up camp in it. However, I was charmed by the history and legacy of what I discovered in those few minutes of Google searching before my first meeting about the Jamboree.
“Charming” was not a word I thought of too many more times in the coming months as the waves of my Jamboree responsibilities hit. With our new tiny team of three (all without previous Jamboree experience and all with additional responsibilities outside of the Jamboree), we started assigning responsibilities. Michelle on registration, Angela on gear, and John on…well, everything else.
With no personal experience as a mother (only 19 nieces and nephews), I began trying to figure out how to clothe and accessorize five hundred Scouts. I quickly found myself drowning in thousands (literally thousands! No, actually TENS OF THOUSANDS) of patches along with t-shirts, duffel bags, backpacks, luggage tags, hats, laundry tags, dunk bags, ID badges, etc. I was most surprised by the patches, though. Shoulder patches, jacket patches, Order of the Arrow patches, National patches, troop number patches, patrol patches, leadership patches…and all these years I foolishly thought Scouting was all about the merit badges!
For me, though, the best part of the process has been working toward an updated image of how to gear up our Jamboree Scouts. At first, I thought I was limited to what we already had and what had already been done in past Jamborees. Luckily, I was blessed with an incredibly supportive boss that encourages creativity who gave me the freedom to seek out new ideas and opportunities.
All I talked about during those months (even to friends and family) was how I wanted these adorable and excited Scouts to feel and look awesome going off to an event they have been looking forward to for literally years, so my real break through was when I found out it wasn’t too late to change the shirts and the hats. These particular items were the most important in my mind because the Scouts wear them and it becomes part of their image and the image of the Council they represent. In past Jamborees, shirts and hats had a reputation for being begrudgingly worn at the time and never seen again. With a small window of time, I saw it as an opportunity and a challenge to create something Scouts would be excited about wearing and would (fingers crossed) wear again!
I sifted through endless catalogues and saw dozens of samples from vendors in my search to find the right styles, quality and material for the shirts and hats. I narrowed down the shirt and hat selection and the vendors pressured me for the artwork. After all, they had a small window of time to complete this as well. But I just couldn’t bring myself to give them the design originally slated for the swag because it didn’t have the right appeal to really make it all come together…so I stalled on the artwork and focused on the final selection of shirt and hat.
The shirt was a relatively easy choice. The hat, however, took some negotiating. I knew it was the hat the moment I saw it. I wanted it for “my” Scouts. It was a thing of beauty. Slick, quality material built for hot environments and comfort with a sleek and solid double-billed design. But the ghosts of Jamboree past told me it was a waste to get anything but a really cheap hat because “the Scouts would destroy it”. Finally, after much discussion, I got the approval and support of the powers that be. My Scouts would get that hat.
I was thrilled! But found myself still struggling with the design meant to go on this fancy new hat. The design style hadn’t been updated in a couple of decades. Fortunately, it was about this time that I overheard some of the hidden talents of my new coworkers. I received permission to enlist the illustration and design talents of one of our camp directors and make a proposal for a new design for the hat. With the gear distribution deadlines fast approaching, we exchanged a flurry of emails with potential designs. Once I saw something I liked, I would then text it to my teenage nephews for the teen test. The hat was a hit which led to the approval to extend the new artwork to the t-shirts.
By the time I got around to the duffels, lanyards and luggage tags, we had an established theme for our 2017 Jamboree swag! My nephew deemed it all ‘lit’, staff and volunteers deemed it ‘quite the update’, people were asking to buy extras, and somehow, by the time our distribution meeting came to pass, I was nicknamed the “Gear Diva”.
Now, with less than a month away from Jamboree, I’ve generally managed to piece together, yet sometimes still find myself puzzled by, all things Jamboree. I have been stunned by and grateful for the dedication, patience, support and kindness of our main volunteer coordinator, Harold, as well as our amazing leaders. I’ve seen people seek out boys struggling to come up with funds for Jamboree and offer to help pay, even if they didn’t know the boys personally. And I’ve also found that sense of charm once again as I watch the excitement of the youth and the youth-like stocking up for patch-trading and gearing up for the Jam-venture of a lifetime!
It’s definitely been a crazy ride and we’re getting into the final stretch! Go Jambo!