Read this letter from a mom about her son’s jamboree experience

Consider it the ultimate leap of faith.

Over the past three years, the Boy Scouts of America asked tens of thousands of Scouts, Venturers, Scouters and parents to trust the organization’s vision to reshape the national jamboree.

Not only was the Summit Bechtel Reserve the first new location for a jamboree since 1981, but also the planners intended to drastically change the jamboree model entirely.

Did it work?

Rather than taking my word for it, now you can hear directly from one Hudson Valley Council mom who “spent $1,600 and many hours of meetings and travel preparing for an event that I was sure would be too strenuous, too long and too difficult for my often-scattered and unfocused 12-year-old son.”

She sent her letter to me and said I could share it with you. Don’t miss her touching, well-written thoughts below.

On the subject of the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree …

I felt compelled to write a letter to the council regarding my son’s experiences at the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Although social media has been the communication method of choice, I felt that I could not do this message justice in a small paragraph.

Six months ago I was terrified. Terrified that my son would not make First Class rank after we had spent $1,600 and many hours of meetings and travel preparing for an event that I was sure would be too strenuous, too long and too difficult for my often-scattered and unfocused 12-year-old son.

My husband and I forged along, buying gear, attending meetings and encouraging our son to complete his First Class requirements. Little by little, everything started to come together, as it often does in Scouting, until you realize you’ve accomplished what six months ago looked to be impossible.

So we appeared to be as prepared as we could be. Logistically, we were not sure the same could be said at the national level for the site preparation. But schedules arrived before departure and all of the questions that were answered with “I don’t know” or “We’ll find out when we get there” were ultimately left as a leap of faith on our part as parents.

Much less terrified, I dropped my son off in Central Valley, N.Y. at 4 a.m. on July 14. I had coached myself and my son to keep an open mind, be willing to alter your expectations, and go with flow. Above all, have the most fun of your entire short life. That was the goal, ultimately.

The first surprise was an actual phone call from our son the first evening, who reported the buses were really comfortable, the trip was smooth, the fellowship dinner was really nice and the hotel was great! Whew! Kudos to our local council — excellent planning!

The boys would arrive fresh, not tired, and ready for 10 crazy days and nights. Second surprise, the following evening, another phone call! Arrival at the camp site was at the designated time, pretty much on the nose. HOLY COW!!!!! I am still scratching my head wondering how TMS pulled off such a precisely timed arrival. (The return trip, by the way, was also within 10 minutes arrival of the original schedule.) To make a long story short, the surprises kept coming and coming, and they were almost all pleasant or even thrilling surprises. The Flickr site images, with professional photos of all things jamboree, making us feel like we were really there, the nightly check-in phone calls, the last minute opportunity to go on the “BIG ZIP!”, and all the activities: the archery course, the stand-up paddleboards, the waterfront obstacle course, rock climbing, scuba diving, pioneering, service project, ropes course, a rock concert, fireworks, patch trading, world record-breaking, meeting and patch trading with Scouts from all across the U.S. and foreign countries, mud slides… all of which my son saw and participated in, with patches and souvenirs from most events included.

Did my son stand on long lines? Yes. Did he get dirty? Yes. Did he miss out on doing some things he had hoped to do? Yes. Did he dislike some of the food? Yes. Are his hiking boots so mud saturated they are unusable now? Yes. Did he have the best time of his short life, and accumulate a ton of memories and skills that will stay with him forever? YES.

I don’t know how to thank all of the leaders of Troop A449 and all of the staff and volunteers with Hudson Valley Council, and most of all the staff at the Summit, who spent a lot of personal money to wake up at 4 a.m. for 10 days in a row, stand around in 90-plus-degree heat all day, so that my son could have a good time.

I just don’t know what he will do if he is asked to write an essay in English class about what he did this summer, because I’m pretty sure no seventh-grade teacher will believe it.


Cindy Reifenberger, Scout Mom

BSA photo by Edward Bronson

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