When ‘thanks’ just isn’t enough: 13 ways to recognize retiring Scoutmasters

Scoutmasters can retire or move away, but their legacy lives on.

You’ll find this imprint in the troop’s traditions, in signature meals and in frequently visited camping destinations. And it remains even after every Scout who was there during the Scoutmaster’s tenure has grown up.

This week, a Scouter from Pennsylvania told me his troop’s longtime Scoutmaster is retiring soon. He’s looking for meaningful and memorable ways to say thanks to the man who led his troop for more than 20 years.

Find 13 ideas, and add your own, after the jump.

smthanks-11. Set up a campership fund

Create a fund to send one boy to camp every year in the Scoutmaster’s honor. Consider making each recipient required to write the Scoutmaster a thank-you letter about his camp experience.

(Idea from Christopher Connolly)

smthanks-22. Give a James E. West Fellowship Award

This recognition, named for the BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive, is available for gifts of $1,000 or more to a council endowment fund. It includes a nice certificate and square knot for the recipient. Anyone can earn it for himself/herself, or (as in this case) a troop could pool its money together and present it in a Scoutmaster’s honor.

(Idea from Michael Woehlert)

smthanks-33. Hold a surprise ceremony

A “living monument” in which you contact as many of his former Scouts, regardless of their rank or how long they were in the troop, and invite them to a surprise ceremony. This shows him how many lives he touched. Think Mr. Holland’s Opus.

(Idea from Patrick Burke)

smthanks-44. Have a party outside

Chances are most of the best memories with the Scoutmaster were outdoors. So Mary Hynes’ Oklahoma troop “had a big cookout at the local lake, reminisced about past campouts, events, etc.” They presented the outgoing Scoutmaster, an avid fisherman, with a new fishing rod, ate cake and shared memories. “He gave a heartfelt speech of fond memories. A few tears, but a ton of laughs and great memories shared.”

(Idea from Mary Hynes)

smthanks-55. Make a slideshow

A slideshow interspersed with video interviews of Scouts and former Scouts honoring the Scoutmaster and recalling fun memories. Find someone with experience using video editing software and encourage former Scouts, including those who have moved away, to submit a video. Post the finished product to YouTube after the ceremony.

(Idea from Mark Crater)

smthanks-66. Give a meaningful, Scouting-related gift

A nice wooden hiking staff, or a framed Norman Rockwell painting, would be a nice gift. “Not too expensive,” says Pat Lynch.

(Idea from Pat Lynch)

smthanks-77. Present a retired troop flag

Buy a new flag each time you have a new Scoutmaster, and present the outgoing Scoutmaster with the troop flag that flew during his or her tenure.

(Idea from Stephanie Helman Muller)

smthanks-88. Convince BSA to create a new position: Scoutmaster Emeritus

This one’s a little tougher, but I like the idea. Scouter Michael Balot says, “I still think the BSA should institute a new position of Scoutmaster Emeritus for a Scoutmaster who has served 20 years or has served as the first Scoutmaster of a troop for 10 years.”

(Idea from Michael Balot)

smthanks-99. Give a gift that isn’t Scouting-related

The Scouter is winding down his time as Scoutmaster, so it might make sense to present him or her with something to use now that he’ll/she’ll have so much more free time! “I recently stepped down as Scoutmaster and my troop honored me with a very nice gift card at an elegant restaurant for me and my wife to enjoy,” writes Mark Chadwick.

(Idea from Mark A. Chadwick)

smthanks-1010. Create an award in the Scoutmaster’s name

If he or she had been the Scoutmaster for a significant time, you could create an award in his/her name that is awarded annually to a deserving Scouter in your troop.

(Idea from Eric McCollom)

smthanks-1111. Engrave and/or sign something

Personalize an axe, a knife, a walking stick or something else with the name of the troop and the years in which the Scoutmaster served. You could also do as Phil Stout’s troop does, which is have all the young men who earned Eagle Scout during the Scoutmaster’s tenure wood-burn or sign their name on the item.

(Idea from Phil Stout and Stephen Dillon)

smthanks-1212. Name something for him or her

If your troop needs a new canoe or troop trailer, why couldn’t it be the “Scoutmaster Bob Trailer” or the “Scoutmaster Jane Canoe”? Speaking of trailers, inside the trailer door you could inscribe the names of all the troop’s past Scoutmasters. Or why not name an annual camping trip for the Scoutmaster? Years later, a Scout will ask why the troop’s January trip is called Frank’s Favorite Trip, and that’ll give you a perfect excuse to describe the great former Scoutmaster.

(Idea from Michael Balot and Holly Barger Graffius)

smthanks-1313. Pass the Scoutmaster patch to the next Scoutmaster

This week I blogged about a troop that has each Scoutmaster sign the back of the Scoutmaster position patch. This patch is passed from one Scoutmaster to the next, each time taking with it the memories and wisdom of its previous wearer.

14. Your idea here

How does your troop recognize outgoing Scoutmasters? Scouters in packs, teams or crews with longtime Cubmasters, Coaches or Advisors are welcome to share their ideas as well.


Photos: 1, Some rights reserved by Max Wolfe; 2, BSA Archives; 3, Some rights reserved by hermans_4; 4, Some rights reserved by jeffreylcohen; 5, Some rights reserved by andrewrennie; 6, Norman Rockwell; 7, Some rights reserved by stevebkennedy; 8, Some rights reserved by DaveWilsonPhotography; 9, Some rights reserved by 401(K) 2013; 10, ScoutStuff.org; 11, Some rights reserved by Joe Shlabotnik; 12, Courtesy Troop 1776; 13, Photo illustration via ScoutStuff.org