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…)

For the 150 professional communicators who serve in our
media section, the jamboree is a chance to learn new things from each other
while getting the word out to so many towns about their Scouts at the super jamboree.

Jamborees are usually every four years, and that means huge
changes in how communication happens at each. As long as I have been in the
media section, I have found every four years is amazingly different in how we
collect and send out news and information. Black and white photography, keeping
the water at a constant temperature for developing, Telex machines, and pasting up our
newspaper are distant memories. Selectric typewriters, floppy disk computers
with WordStar, and fax machines came later. Now we are digitally imaging in
color, transmitting huge files on the Internet, and using cell phones. We used
to mail stories; now we post them on the Web.

The role I’ll take in the Media and Corporate Alliances
group is wherever I am needed most. We’ll be publishing a daily paper, hosting
council visitors, working on a Web site, distilling urgent information, capturing
the sights and sounds of the jamboree, and passing them along. Working in those
fields in real life and at jamborees, I know that every day will be different,
the current volunteers and professionals closest to the action will be well
prepared, and there will be times when we will work almost around the clock.

Why do you love

Every camp-out makes more memories with more great boys and
leaders and parents and families. Our troop just hosted the district camp-out,
and watching the youngsters grow in leadership and poise is a great thing.

Every outdoor event has its own special character, and I can
remember the boys who took leadership and what we did. Older boys teaching the
younger boys about Klondike derbies in the snow behind the parish church and
all the folks who told us how fun it was to hear them shout.

Can you pick one top
Scouting memory?

OK, here it is: the World Scout Jamboree. Once you go to one
you can never again look at Scouting the same way. Boys and girls from 160 nations—nations
with long histories and some that did not exist at the previous jamboree. 

Getting involved with a troop from Beirut, Lebanon, and
learning from them was exciting. They did not have a lot, but I learned gobs
about the simple pleasures of Scouting and friendship and fellowship, cheers,
songs, and games. Troop 32 in Rotterdam, N.Y., sent friendship gifts, including
handbooks and Wiffle Balls and bats. We had great fun with them!

Define Scouting.

It is a gift that we give to each other. It was given to me
by people I remember so well and some I do not even know. I am giving to
others, and they are giving it back to me. It is friendship and fellowship.

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

I want to take advantage of our February birthday to tell
the story of how much our Scouts do. And the jamboree, of course.

How would you improve

Get boys over the hump. That takes parents and leaders. If
Joe would rather blow it off and stay home tonight or next weekend, get him
over the hump and make sure he gets to the meeting. Understand separation
anxiety and homesickness.

For every unit: Let every family take a piece of leadership
either in uniform or on the committee.

For the district: Make training the most fun you can and do
a great job.

What would you tell a
new leader?

Plug in. Get to know other leaders and take advantage of
council camps and district programs. Have a fellow leader and do lots together.
Laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, and laugh.

What do you think of
the new handbook?

I like it in so many ways. It is well organized. The camping
and service logs are terrific. It’s an easy read with a good index. I think the
Web references are a good idea, but does that just encourage putting down the

In our troop, when a Scout has questions or needs that are
in the book, we point out the pages and focus him on the book. However, we live
in Maine. I don’t know about south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but I want even
more outdoor skills like getting the right sleeping bag. It gets cold up here
in September, and knowing your personal gear is huge. Selecting the right gear
is a choice a family must make and an investment in our program; let’s give
them more to think about.

Thanks to Mike for his great responses. Now it’s your turn.
Recommend a great Scouter today by e-mailing Cracker Barrel here.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.