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Victim in Kansas City-area Jewish center shooting was a Life Scout

reat-griffin-underwoodUpdated April 15, 2014, with information on where to send donations and condolences. See end of this post.


A senseless act of violence has taken a young Boy Scout from us too soon.

Reat Griffin Underwood, a 14-year-old Life Scout who was working toward Eagle, was one of three victims in Sunday’s shootings at Jewish community centers in Kansas. The alleged gunman is in custody and is scheduled to appear in court today.

I’d ask our Scouting family to please keep Reat’s family and troopmates in your thoughts and prayers during this tough time.

Reat, a high school freshman, loved camping with his grandfather, father and brother. His grandfather was also killed in the attack.

According to a family statement, Reat “participated in debate, theater and had a beautiful voice. Reat had a passion for life and touched so many people in his young age.” He was a big supporter of the University of Oklahoma and its sports teams.

To help bring his family and troop a small bit of comfort, I would encourage them to apply through their local council for the Spirit of the Eagle Award, meant to honor the life of a Scout taken from us before his time. Continue reading

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BSA announces partnership with ATV manufacturer Polaris

All-terrain vehicles combine dirt and a motor — what’s a Scout or Venturer not to like?

Recognizing this winning mix, the BSA launched council-level ATV programs at camps across the country. And today, Polaris — a leading manufacturer of off-road vehicles — enters a 10-year partnership with the BSA, providing top-of-the-line ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS) and safety equipment to help deliver this exciting program to even more youth. PolarisSxS

Driving down a dirt trail doesn’t replace the rugged adventures of exploring on foot, but it does add diversity — not to mention horsepower! — to current activities available at BSA properties.

Now, with the help of Polaris, Scouts and Venturers age 14 and older will not only learn to drive the crème de la crème of ATV equipment, but they’ll also receive safety instruction vetted by a company with 60 years of industry expertise.

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Eagle Scout Connor Stotts receives 2014 Citizen Honors award

On July 31, 2011, Eagle Scout Connor Stotts singlehandedly saved the lives of three swimmers caught in a dangerous riptide near Oceanside Beach, Calif.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

This bravery earned Connor the BSA’s Honor Medal With Crossed Palms, as well as the Carnegie Medal (which came with a $5,000 reward). But the college sophomore now has another award to add to his collection: a 2014 Citizen Honors award.

Selected by living recipients of the Medal of Honor — the highest award bestowed upon military heroes for acts of wartime valor — the Citizen Honors awards recognize three civilian American heroes for acts of bravery in their daily lives. Connor’s actions certainly fit the bill.

(Read on to learn more about Connor and find out how you can watch the Citizen Honors Ceremony March 25 at Arlington National Cemetery.)

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Watch what this sanitation worker did when he found a U.S. flag on the street

Boy Scouts are inherently patriotic.

We wear the American flag on our sleeves, we say the pledge before meetings, and we learn the proper ways to post, fold and retire Old Glory.

So it was no huge shock when I learned the Oregon sanitation worker who showed unbelievable patriotism — when he thought nobody was watching — is a former Scout. Here’s how it went down: Continue reading

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Virginia Beach Cub Scout will deliver game ball at Super Bowl XLVIII

superkid-2When the Seahawks and Broncos take the field for Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, Cub Scout Thomas Brown won’t be watching from his couch like more than 100 million other Americans.

He won’t be sitting in the frigid seats at MetLife Stadium, either.

No, Thomas, a Cub Scout in Pack 14 from Virginia Beach, Va., will be on the field, holding the game ball that he’ll hand to officials before kickoff.

Thomas, 9, was selected from among thousands of entrants as this year’s NFL PLAY 60 Super Kid. He pledged to be active for at least 60 minutes a day and answered questions including “If you could tell your favorite team which healthy foods they needed to eat, what would you suggest and why?” and “What do you think your favorite player does to stay fit?”

He learned about the contest in Boys’ Life magazine.

Whether you’re rooting for Peyton’s team, Russell’s team, or neither, save some cheers for Thomas. He’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who wrote about his admiration for Troy Polamalu and how he remains a Steelers fan even as his military family moves across the country. Continue reading

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LAX shooting survivor says Boy Scout first-aid training saved his life

Brian LudmerAn Eagle Scout who was shot in the leg during Friday’s deadly attack at Los Angeles International Airport credits first-aid training he learned as a Scout with saving his life.

Brian Ludmer, a 29-year-old California teacher and former member of Lake Forest, Ill., Troop 48, used a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding in his leg and keep himself alive.

In an interview with NBC News, Dan Stepenosky, superintendent of Ludmer’s school district, said Ludmer’s Scouting skills proved invaluable.

“He dragged himself to a nearby closet, closed the door and relied on his old Boy Scouts training to create a makeshift tourniquet to help slow the bleeding,” Stepenosky said. 

Ludmer, who remains in good condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, earned his Eagle Scout Award in 2002. To reach Scouting’s highest rank, Ludmer had to earn the First Aid merit badge, which teaches Scouts both how to apply a tourniquet and the benefits and risks of doing so. Continue reading

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In letter, parents of Cub Scout victims of Sandy Hook shooting thank BSA family

Sea-Scout-Sandy-Hook-1We’re one big family in Scouting, and that’s true in times of joy and times of sorrow.

When two Tiger Cubs were tragically killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in December, the Scouting family stepped in to comfort the parents of 7-year-old Chase Kowalski and 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler.

Scouts and Scouters from around the world, some total strangers to the Kowalskis and Wheelers, contributed nearly $65,000 (and counting) to the fund set up by the Connecticut Yankee Council, said Tony Vogl, the council’s development and marketing director.

“This does not include the countless cards, certificates, framed pictures, blankets, and other trinkets from packs and troops around the world,” he continued. “We at the Connecticut Yankee Council share a sense of pride and purpose as the Scouting family truly came together to support our newest members in a time of great sorrow.”

The love came from outside the council, too. In August, the National Capital Area christened its newest 22-foot sailboat the Benjamin Chase.

Steven and Rebecca Kowalski and David and Francine Wheeler have been overwhelmed by the response from the Scouting family, and they wrote this letter, which Vogl asked me to share with you:  Continue reading

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Tech blog Gizmodo: Summit treehouse ‘looks just like an Ewok village’

summit-sustainability-treehouse-2I can think of no higher praise than the words used today to describe the Summit’s Sustainability Treehouse.

Alissa Walker, who writes for the popular technology and design blog Gizmodo, said in a blog post that the treehouse “looks just like an Ewok village.”

Any Star Wars fan knows that’s high praise indeed. If the Summit’s creation is suitable for those furry little forest-dwellers, it’s certainly a great spot for Scouts seeking a new perspective on sustainability.

Walker writes:  Continue reading

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Joe Theismann: Values of the Scout Law ‘don’t leave you’

As a Dallas Cowboys fan, it hurts me a little to type this, but here goes: Joe Theismann is the man.

I mean, how many Super Bowl-winning former quarterbacks can recite the Boy Scout Law without notes?

The former Life Scout and Washington Redskins star did just that tonight, causing the gathered group of hundreds of council and national professional Scouters to break into applause.

Theismann really connected with me and others when he recalled Scouting’s impact on his life and the lives of today’s young people. His impassioned words were delivered with spiral-like precision at tonight’s closing dinner of the BSA’s annual Top Hands Conference in Washington, D.C.

Those 12 points of the Scout Law “don’t leave you,” Theismann said. “Think about it; how many things can you remember from when you were young?”

Adults who were in Scouting recall more than merely the words of the Scout Law, Theismann continued. They remember its meaning.

“As adults, look at this code,” he said. “Whether you’re a Scout or just a person in life, that’s not a bad credo to follow.”
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Rendering of Giant Magellan Telescope

Eagle Scout Astronomer gets a glimpse at rare mirror-firing for the Giant Magellan Telescope

Stellar accomplishments, like earning the Eagle Scout award, reap stellar rewards. Eagle Scout Tristan Bullard can attest to this, as he watched astronomers take one step closer to completing the Giant Magellan Telescope at Saturday’s rare mirror-firing event.

During a Mirror Lab tour, visitors looked on as the massive mirror is "fired" in a spun-cast furnace (shown at back of photo).

During a Mirror Lab tour, visitors watch as the massive mirror is “fired” in a spun-cast furnace (shown at back of photo). Courtesy of NESA.

Alongside internationally known scientists and astronomers, Tristan — who was named Eagle Scout Astronomer earlier this year— looked on as liquid glass spun in a gigantic furnace reaching 1170 degrees Celsius at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in Tucson.

The new, 20-ton mirror is the third of seven mirrors needed to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope, a project that will allow astronomers to look into the cosmos with clarity and precision 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT mirror-firing is considered to be the most challenging optics ever undertaken with each mirror measuring 27 feet in diameter.

Tristan says the mirror firing was a once-in-a-lifetime event. And one that he experienced thanks to the National Eagle Scout Association.

Read more about how Tristan got the chance to attend the mirror-firing after the jump. Continue reading