30 Years of summit success

Troop 474 Scoutmaster recounts his climb time on Mount Rainier.

If your troop harbors a bunch of avid hikers-turned-mountaineers, summiting Mount Rainier could represent a lifetime achievement. But how about 30 consecutive years spent leading Scouts to the summit of Rainier?

The challenging glacial traverse to the 14,410-foot summit separates weekend warriors from those adept in technical climbing, avalanche safety, self-rescue, and other specialized skills. Which makes the three decades of annual treks led by Kent Brooten, an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster of Troop 474 of Kent, Wash., even more worthy of celebrating.

What began as a way to keep boys interested in Scouting culminated on June 26, when Brooten’s most recent team of climbers stood on the summit of the highest mountain in Washington, southeast of Seattle. His climbers included adult leader John Hogg and Troop 474 Scouts Daniel Rothschilds, 15, and Ryan Kolbrick, 15. Ryan’s 24-year-old brother Reece, an Eagle Scout who made the 25th-anniversary climb in 2006 (see Scouting magazine article), also made the ascent.

Here, you can read some of the 34-year veteran Scoutmaster’s recollections of this year’s climb:

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Eagle Scout and injured war veteran reaches new heights

Aaron “Ike” Isaacson, an Eagle Scout, is one of 11 injured soldiers taking part in Soldiers to the Summit, an expedition to climb Lobuche East, a 20,075 foot peak at the foot of Everest.

Isaacson and his fellow soldiers have already arrived in Nepal to begin their journey. You can follow the expedition at the official Soldiers to the Summit site or on Twitter (@soldierssummit).

We caught up with Isaacson by phone last week while he waited at the airport to begin more than 24 hours of flying to get to Nepal.

Nepal is a long way from the small town in southwest Kansas where he grew up and where Scouting helped form this man’s love for adventure. Living on a farm, he would’ve had few opportunities to explore the outdoors without the Boy Scouts, he said.

Isaacson’s troop took trips to Colorado to climb mountains and experience camping. He earned his Eagle Scout Award in 1993 and then graduated college in 1999.

He was planning to use his degree in business administration when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened, compelling him to join the U.S. Army.

Isaacson quickly became an officer in the Army and served in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. It was there that he suffered the first of two serious injuries. In 2005, he was walking next to a vehicle when a land mine exploded, causing serious head and neck injuries.

The most lasting damage, though, was to his hearing. Isaacson will have to wear hearing aids in both ears for the rest of his life.

Because of his injuries, Isaacson was to be honorably discharged from the Army. After what happened, nobody would have faulted him for taking the Army up on its offer, but he told the Medical Review Board that wasn’t done serving the country.

“I felt I have more to give,” he said. “In the middle of the board, I said I want to go back to Iraq. They said if I had another blast like that, that I’d be completely deaf.”

He promised them he would wear extra hearing protection and was deployed to Iraq and then later to Afghanistan. In 2008, near the end of his third deployment, Isaacson was injured again.

“During some of our final operations, I needed to identify whether someone had a weapon in his hands, and I ended up falling off of a cliff,” he said.

He broke his right leg and spent months in the hospital recovering.

Back in the U.S., he spent most of 2009 rehabilitating and regaining strength in his leg. He received two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, and many other awards for his service.

Once he was fully recovered, he said he “needed a different challenge,” something significant to work toward.

Soldiers to the Summit gave him that opportunity, helping fund the costly trip to Nepal.

“A goal of mine when I was in Boy Scouts was to do an expedition in Nepal, but it’s so expensive,” he said.

It’s a dream come true for Isaacson, but he doesn’t want the expedition to be all about him.

“As people read this, they should take the time to remember that there are guys over there fighting right now,” he said. “The moment that you see anything about the climb, I want people to remember [the active-duty soldiers].”

And how can Scout packs, troops, and crews honor our soldiers?

“When a unit returns home, within the first few days there’s a welcome home ceremony,” he said. “Scouts could find a local unit and show up for the welcome home ceremony. That would be great.”


Photos of Aaron Isaacson were taken by Adam Livingston.

Pennsylvania Scouter has given 75 years of service to Scouting

TomLehmierWe're impressed by anyone who volunteers time to the Boy Scouts of America, but when we heard about Tom Lehmier, who has been involved in Scouting for 75 years, we had to stop and share his story with you.

Lehmier joined Troop 72 in Bakerton, Pa., in 1935. He hasn't taken a break from Scouting since.

He earned his Eagle Scout Award at age 17 and served his troop as an adult leader once he turned 18. He then joined the Marines, finished college, married his high school sweetheart, and began a career as a professional Scouter.

That job took Lehmier and his family to Johnstown, Pa.; Hawaii; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh; and finally to Lancaster County, Pa. where he served two decades as council executive.

In that role, Lehmier was instrumental in acquiring and developing the J. Edward Mack Scout Reservation. He's pictured above at the entrance of the facility he helped bring to Lancaster County.

During his time as council executive, he also started Troop 142 in Lititz, Pa., about 90 minutes west of Philadelphia. He was Troop 142's Scoutmaster for 40 years before retiring, and in that span, Lehmier helped more than 100 boys earn the Eagle Scout award.

He's such a legend in Troop 142 that the troop's Web site has a special page dedicated to him.

Lehmier's name is also gold in the borough of Lititz, where last month he was the grand marshal in the Fourth of July parade.

He's been noticed on a national level, too. He was the Pennsylvania Dutch Council's representative in the BSA's 100th Anniversary National Hall of Leadership.

Congratulations, Tom, on 75 years of Scouting service!

(Picture courtesy of Troop 142's Web site.)

Scouter Spotlight: Meet Mike L’Abbé

Mike-Labbe In our last Scouter Spotlight, we introduced you to an
excellent Scouter from Puerto Rico. This time, we’re traveling nearly 2,000
miles away to Maine to show off another fine Scout volunteer.

Meet Mike L’Abbé,
Scoutmaster of Troop 648 in Brunswick, a town about a half hour up the coast
from Portland, Me. He’s also on the National Camping School faculty in the
Northeast Region. And he'll serve on the media group staff at the National Scout
Jamboree in 2010.

How long have you
been involved in Scouting?

About 108 days. (Editor’s
note: Here’s how this veteran Scouter says he came to that number, using the
old “Scouting takes only one hour a week” saying. 1 hour/week x 52 weeks/year x
50 years = 2600 hours, which is about 108 days. Judging from his Scouting résumé,
we bet he’s spent a little more than an hour per week.

What was Scouting
like as a youth?

I was a Cub Scout and Eagle Scout growing up in Oak Park, Ill.,
and I served on staff at Camp Shin-Go-Beek in Wisconsin. Scouting in an urban
environment was very interesting. Can you imagine an 18-mile ramble or a 50-mile
bike ride in Chicagoland? How many people got to know neighborhoods like
we did walking on foot or riding a bike? We knew small little airports and
forest preserves, railroad yards and broad lawns, ticky-tacky homes and Frank
Lloyd Wright architecture. We used municipal and state parks and small weekend
Scout Camps. Driving through a town just is not the same thing as walking or

Describe your time as
a camp staffer.

Being on the Camp Shin Go Beek staff is one of the most
important growth events in my life. It required me to exhibit responsibility,
trust, creativity, friendship, and cheerfulness no matter what. Even though years
and miles separate us, those staff members who took care of us or served with
us are still special. 

Is your family
involved in Scouting?

My wife, Chris, served as camp director of Camp Minsi
(Pennsylvania) and Lenhok'sin High-Adventure Camp (Virginia). Son, Mac, is a Star Scout and
Patrol Leader. Daughter Abby is a Girl Scout.

Tell us about your
responsibilities as a member of the media group staff at the upcoming jamboree.

(For this answer and more, follow the jump…)

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Scouter Spotlight: Meet Santos Ortiz Perez


It’s time to bring out the Scouter Spotlight again to show
off some of the best volunteers in the Scouting program. This week we’re
heading to Puerto Rico to meet an impressive volunteer, Santos Ortiz Perez. He’s been involved
in Scouting since 1999 and serves as the committee chair for Troop 720.

If his name sounds familiar, it should. Santos was featured
in the March-April 2009 issue of Scouting
magazine in a story about the Philmont Leadership Challenge. (Read that story

When he isn’t receiving high-level leadership training,
Santos volunteers at the pack, troop, and crew levels. Read on to meet this great leader.

Scouting family:
My wife, Alicemarie Comas Perez, is a Scouter also. She was on Wood Badge staff
and was the one who first got me involved in Scouting. My son earned the Arrow
of Light and then became an Eagle Scout in 2007.

What’s your favorite
Scouting memory?

I have many. First, my son’s Eagle Court of Honor—wow,
it was memorable. Also, serving on the staff of Philmont for the Philmont
Leadership Challenge was great. And then there’s the date that I received the
invitation to become a Silver Beaver in my council.

What is Scouting to

For my family and me it’s a way of life. I’m grateful to the
movement for the values and the character of my two sons. There’s no money in
the world that I would take for that.

Explain the Scouting
message you use when recruiting.

Every day I invite kids to join Scouting because I don’t
really know another program in the world that offers what Scouting has to offer:
values, the Scout Law, promises to our youth, character, and the ability to
make ethical decisions.

Any plans for the 100th

I’m attending the big party at Fort A.P. Hill for the 2010 National
Scout Jamboree. My son is attending as a gift for receiving his Eagle Scout
Award. He worked hard and deserved it.

What do you tell new

Every kid deserves at least to be invited to become a Scout.
And every kid who joins deserves a trained leader. Also, remember that you sometimes need to adapt your
program to the necessities of the kids in your unit. Let them decide what is
good and what is bad.

I also like to tell leaders to “get off the bench!” Play an
important role in your unit. Get involved with all your kids in your unit.
They’re only kids once, so don’t miss that opportunity.

Our thanks to Santos for sharing his Scouting expertise. If
you have an adult volunteer who should be spotlighted, let us know.

Scouter Spotlight: It’s Your Turn

100th-logo So far, we’ve celebrated the great work of 15 different
volunteers in our Scouter Spotlight series. We’re still looking for great
candidates for future editions of that feature (just e-mail us if you have
one), but there’s another way to honor great Scouts or Scouters in your life. It’s the National Hall of Leadership, and nominations are
being accepted now.

There will be one inductee to the hall from each local
council, and the national office will add one more, meaning about 300 of the
best Scouts and Scouters will become official inductees. The announcement will
be made in May 2010 at the BSA National Annual Meeting in Dallas.

Have someone to nominate? Click here. But
first, check out the requirements:

-       The
nominee must be a living Scout or Scouter, but he or she doesn’t have to be
currently registered in the program.

-       During
the Scout or Scouter's time in the program, he or she must have been involved
for at least a year.

-       There’s
no age limit—nominate your child, spouse, or grandparent!

-       You
can submit as many nominations as you want.

-       Entries
are due by Feb. 8, 2010.

Even though only around 300 Scouts and Scouters will make it
into the hall, we at Cracker Barrel know that millions of Scouts and Scouters
have made a great contribution to the program in its 100-year history.

Keep up the great work into the next 100 years!

Scouter Spotlight: Meet George Keene


Some of the best Scouters do their work out of sight. This
week, though, all eyes are on Dr. George
T. Keene
, district commissioner for the San Tan District in the Grand
Canyon Council. He’s also in charge of the National Youth Leadership Training
(NYLT) program for his council.

Dr. Keene has been involved in Scouting for the past 25
years, serving roles in Cub Scout and Boy Scout units. As a youth, he earned
the rank of Life Scout and served as a junior assistant Scoutmaster.

Scouting family: Two
sons, now 23 and 27, were in Scouting from Tiger Cubs to Life Scout. Dr.
Keene’s wife also is involved in the program. In fact, she’s planning the Area
Training Conference for future course directors in areas 4 and 6 of the Western

What is your most
memorable Scouting moment?

I was a Scoutmaster and had taken the troop to summer camp.
When we returned, I was reviewing the feedback cards that were filled out by
our youth when I came across one that fascinated me. The young man had stated
that when he got older he wanted to be like his leader, me, because his leader
knew how to act like a boy.

What legacy do you
want to leave behind in Scouting?

I hope that when people talk about me they will say, “He was
a great Scout.” Scouting, to me, means living the Scout Oath and the Scout Law
24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I try to set the example
all the time—not just when someone is looking.

What’s the central
message you want boys to get when they join the program?

I want them to know that they’re embarking on a great
adventure, and along the way they will shape their character for the rest of their
lives. Everything a boy does in Scouting will be for a purpose, but that
purpose often won’t be revealed until much later in life.

What would you tell a
new leader?

Take all possible training courses and try to do Wood Badge
within the first two years.

What makes Scouting
different from other youth programs?

Leadership. It’s hard to argue against that.

What would you say to
a boy who is thinking of leaving Scouting

Here’s what I would say: “As long as you know for sure that
you will not regret your decision 20 years from now, and you are secure enough
with your accomplishments and achievements to go forward in your career choice
without all of the benefits of the leadership training that Scouting offers,
then I would wholeheartedly support your decision. Until you can assure me of
that, I will make every attempt to keep you involved in Scouting.”

Thanks to Dr. Keene for his time. Do you know a great
Scouting volunteer? Be sure to e-mail us so that we can feature
him or her in a future Scouter Spotlight.

Scouter Spotlight: Meet Elaine Francis

ElaineFrancis Ready to meet another great Scouter who has given her time
and effort to the program we love? This week, we’re spotlighting Elaine Francis, a committee chairperson
for Pack 75 and Troop 527 in the Detroit Area Council.

Elaine is on the council’s executive board and serves as the
vice president in charge of programs. She’s also held many positions at the
unit, council, area, regional, and national levels. In fact, the list of her
past leadership roles is quite impressive—and we aren’t the only ones who think
so. The Detroit Area Council recently recognized her for 45 years of Scouting

Elaine’s husband, George F. Francis III, is involved in
Scouting, too. As is their son, George IV, who’s an Eagle Scout. If you’re
curious to learn more about this stellar Scouter, follow the jump for the
complete interview.

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Scouter Spotlight: Meet Jim Lang


The stars of a Broadway show get the credit. But the people
working in the wings deserve a chunk of the praise. So this week we’re pulling
back the curtain to reveal someone who does his work behind the scenes so that
the stars of Scouting—the Scouts, of course—can shine.

Let’s meet Father Jim
, the Diocesan Vicar for the Parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Syracuse, N.Y. He’s vice president for strategic planning in Hiawatha Seaway
Council. He’s also a regional committee member and serves on the faculty of the
Adirondack Campus of National Camping School. And that’s just a few of the
bullet points on his résumé.

Read on to learn more from Father Lang.

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Scouter Spotlight: Meet Sherri Moravec

Sherri Moravec-4

Recognizing fine Scouters is a favorite pastime here at
Cracker Barrel. In fact, we just can’t get enough of it. So this week we’ll
share another Scouting volunteer with you.

Meet Sherri Moravec,
a Venturing crew advisor, assistant Scoutmaster, and district vice chairman
from Houston, Tex. She’s been involved with Scouting for 17 years, ever since
her oldest son was a Cub Scout. Her two sons, 18 and 23, are both Eagle Scouts,
and her husband is an assistant Scoutmaster and associate Venturing crew

Now let’s hear some meaningful insight from Sherri.

What is your favorite
Scouting memory?

I have so many good memories that it’s hard to choose, but I
would say that on the top of the list would be my time spent with youth at NYLT
and NAYLE. It’s such a rewarding experience to watch the experienced boys leading
and guiding other youth into becoming better leaders.

What does Scouting
mean to you?

Scouting teaches such good core values and beliefs with a
strong emphasis on the outdoors. I was brought up to believe that learning to
live with and care for our world would build strong character and values.

What would you say to
a boy who is thinking of joining Scouting?

Any boy will learn skills and make many friends that could
last a lifetime. What youth gain today from the scouting program far outweighs
anything else. 

How will you
celebrate the BSA’s 100th Anniversary?

I plan on being at the national jamboree! I have never been
to a national jamboree, so going to the celebration for the 100th anniversary
will be a highlight and another fantastic memory.

How do you make the
program relevant to your boys when there are so many other draws on their

We try to remain flexible and help them plan activities they want to participate in.

What advice do you
have for a new leader?

Always go to training. But most importantly never forget why
we are Scout leaders—for the boys.

Thanks, Sherri, for your contributions to Scouting and to
our Scouter Spotlight. Do you know a Scouting volunteer who deserves special
recognition? Then what are you waiting for? E-mail us the person’s
name and contact info and you might see him or her in a future edition of
Scouter Spotlight.