Why one troop in Illinois is sending 43 Scouts to the 2017 National Jamboree

When I got the email, I did a double take.

Betsy Hough, committee chairwoman of Troop 48 out of Lake Forest, Ill., wrote that 43 Scouts from her troop — nearly half the troop’s youth members — are registered for the 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Forty-three Scouts. That’s enough to fill an entire jamboree troop — and still have seven Scouts left to join other Scouts in a second troop.

So what’s the secret? A dynamic program, robust financial assistance and dedicated leaders — to name a few.

Hough and her troop’s leadership came up with these thoughts on how Troop 48 became such a jamboree powerhouse. If you’re looking for ways to boost jamboree attendance among your Scouts or Venturers, read on.

  1. Program: Have a dynamic program that builds to the jamboree so the jamboree seems like a natural step and a goal.
  2. Parents: Market the jamboree to parents as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their son or daughter. Ten days with tens of thousands of fellow Scouts? That’s a Scouting experience unlike anything you can get elsewhere. Remind parents that participants must be at least 12 years of age by the first day of the jamboree or an 11-year-old that has graduated the 6th grade, but they cannot have reached their 18th birthday by the last day of the jamboree.
  3. Tradition: Build on previous jamboree experience. Recognize leaders and participants who have attended past jamborees, and have them share stories and photos to generate enthusiasm.
  4. Leadership: Encourage your troop leadership to be involved with jamboree planning at the district and council level.
  5. Finances: Provide financial assistance through troop fundraisers. Encourage your council to set up attractive jamboree allowances for popcorn sales. In the Northeast Illinois Council, for example, Scouts can earn their way to jamboree by selling popcorn. Instead of the usual 33 percent of sales going to the unit, the council gives 50 percent of sales to jamboree-bound Scouts.
  6. Scheduling: Don’t leave non-jamboree Scouts behind. Make sure the usual yearly experiences— summer camp, OA callouts, campouts, etc. — are still held. In other words, don’t suspend regular activities because of the jamboree.
  7. JSPs: Everyone loves patches! Involve yourself in the design of your council and troop’s jamboree shoulder patch (JSP). If you have a JSP collection, bring it to show off at a troop meeting.
  8. Marketing: Help the council’s efforts to market the jamboree. Speak at roundtables, camporee cracker barrels, Webelos crossovers and more. Team up with another troop in the town or area to cast a wider net. Set up a Facebook page as a central source of information. Here’s an example.
  9. Deliver the Promise: The jamboree formula is simple: adventure + world-class facilities = jamboree. Familiarize yourself with SBR’s offerings. Then spread the word about the all the diverse activities Scouts can experience at the jamboree: climbing, hiking, shooting, rafting, paddling, archery, biking, skating, service, STEM and more. Plus, they’ll make new friends, earn merit badges, trade patches and have the best time ever.

What’s your secret?

Is your troop or crew sending Scouts or Venturers to the jamboree? What worked best for you when recruiting young people to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event?


  1. Also, be patient and persistent. We’ve pitched Jambo regularly for the past year — Not an overwhelming lot, just enough so the scouts and venturers would be fully informed.

    No takers. (Surprising, since we had about 1/2 dozen attend previously. They made outstanding presentations to the boys. And, yes, I encouraged some of those presenters and our ASM’s to consider staff … and encouraged older scouters who would otherwise pay full fare to consider underwriting the cost of any young staffer who represents our troop, but would have a hard time coming up with even the reduced fee.)

    I personally don’t expect huge numbers of boys in our troop to attend every year. About 2.5% of eligible scouts participate in any given Jambo. So, I knew the odds of signing up another “band of brothers” was slim. But, not having anyone represent our troop in the council contingent? 🙁

    Well, a couple of weeks ago, a scout came up to me and informed me that he would attend. So, we’re back up to national average. I forwarded other leads to my venturers in college. Hopefully we’ll get some representation from from them as well.

  2. My son was the only one from his troop in 2015. He went and loved every minute of it. He said it was of the best experience of his life beside earning Eagle.

  3. It also helps if half of your troop can afford the $1750 price tag. Why does ever event for the BSA need to be a profit center?

    • Not every event … The pinnacle events, hiking and camping independently with your mates, continue to be at attainable prices on a more-or-less monthly basis! I’m taking our troop and crew backpacking in a nearby national forest, the individual cost is their food and, for some, time away from work. We drivers are so thrilled to have a weekend like this, gas is on us. Gear has been handed down over the years by former scouts who had raised funds for their adventures and were more than happy to give back.

      This big-ticket scouting? Well, if it came cheap, the 97% of scouts who didn’t go would have to pay more in registration fees to make it so. And that would undermine program for far more youth than the perhaps 3% more who would then be able to attend at some hypothetical discounted rate.

    • The council sets the cost for travel, registration and food. the national Jamboree for 2017 is only $935 and they offer scholarships of up to $750

  4. Last Jamboree our small trio of 8 sent our 3 scouts that were eligible. They did not have a good time. All 3 said it was not worth it and would not encourage others going in the future. 2 of those 3 went to NOAC and Loved it. What can I say.

  5. This is truly awesome that a Troop is sending 43 scouts to Jamboree and that the troop has over 80 scouts in it.

    So as not to discourage other troops please note. An approximate median household income for a Lake Forest family is over $200,000. The U.S. median family household invoice is about $50,000. Of course all Scouts can sell popcorn, solicit donations, host pancake breakfasts, sell camp cards but in some areas it is easier than others.

        • Eagle projects have a slightly different set of rules – probably because the money is not going to Scouting, but rather towards whatever community group/location the project is being done for.

        • Eagle project has to be pre-approved by Council –especially if fundraising over $500, and the fund goes to the project, including left over — beneficiary can not be BSA.

      • You’re right fund raising is a great way to raise funds for Scouts.

        I would love to hear how much of the $75,250 it costs to send 43 Scouts from this Lake Forest Troop to Jamboree was raised by fundraising and what kinds of fundraising the Scouts did.

        Knowing this town is almost one of the wealthiest in Illinois makes me wonder if what they did for fund raising translates into something that could be done in other towns/cities.

        • Fundraising can go on right up to the time the bus pulls away for the SBR, so the portion of Jamboree fees earned/raised by scouts is still being determined. The Northeast Illinois Council has been actively meeting/planning for for the Jamboree since March of 2015. Scouts have had the chance to go through 2 cycles of popcorn sales (2015 & 2016) with a 50% bonus. Covering 100% of the Jamboree is entirely within reach of a motivated seller and a number of them (in the NEIC) reached the goal in 2015. The point for this Troop is that they set a goal of attending the Jamboree together and they were able to reach it with a strong commitment from scouts, leaders and parents.

      • Lets be honest here, for a troop in your home area to send 43 boys would be north of $90k in fees. If that was done in popcorn we are talking over $300K in sales.

        • It would be interesting to read an article on how these enterprising young men did fundraising to raise $90k. Easier in Lake Forest than Zion, but still not easy.

  6. It helps to be closer to West Virginia. It was a horrible decision to make it the permanent home. We West Coast units won’t send as many Scouts. We are going to Philmont instead.

        • Not really. When east coasters talk about “their region” they generally mean north of the Mason Dixon line. So no, the FL base is not really considered an East Coast base. (This is coming from a scout parent that has lived in AL, GA, SC, and PA in the past 5 years my oldest has been a scout. You get to know a lot about who considers what their region by changing Packs and Troops as much as we do.)

  7. sound to me the parents here have deep pockets. I hope those Scouts not attending WV will get the same or better support for Summer Camp and/or alternative, less costly programs the same summer.

  8. Jamboree is what it is. It is an expensive summer camp, for sure. And as for Scouts not having a “good time”, well, a lot is what you put into it. The first year out (2013 ) was a little rough around the edges, for sure. I think It was still a lot for the money, not including the expense to GET there. Opportunities? Lots of stuff you can find at most BSA camps, but lots more that are unique to the Jamboree only.
    I agree with the previous folks about putting it in WV, even if I do live only 6 hour drive away. Makes it hard for the Alaskans and Oregonians to make it. But WV made the BSA some deals they couldn’t pass up. Now, if the western folks can organize a spot out there, why, I think most everyone would be in favor of another NatJamSite….
    Canada opts for , I think three “national Jamborees” across their broad expanse. We might do the same…

  9. Troop 380 from the Golden Empire Council (Sacramento, California) filled an entire troop in 1997, 2001 and 2005. That is 36 Scouts and 4 leaders. We worked very hard and many years in advance on fund raising and organization. Remember this is from California, where the fees for Jamborees are much higher than on the East Coast. We are very proud of this accomplishment. More recently we have taken trips to summer camps farther away so our scouts can experience long distance travel and see more of our great country. We do not have parents with deep pockets, but families that are willing to work hard on fund raising.

  10. If you think it costs a lot on the mainland, I’m in the Chamorro District on Guam. It could cost up to $2,000 in air fare to get to WV

  11. Deep pockets help, but aren’t required. My son got to go to the last Jambo at Fort AP HIll and the first at the Summit. I knew both were going to be once-in-a-lifetime chances so did everything I could to get him there. The first time, he raised almost all the money himself, whether with popcorn, Expo tickets (a local Council Scout exhibition that we sell coupons for), a couple of family and friend “benefactors”, and I don’t remember what all else. Second time he was older and not as enthusiastic about the selling, but I knew he still needed to go.

    “Need”, you may ask? Yes, need. I’m a single mom. There were very few luxuries I could afford to offer him while my son was living at home. Scouting was his only extracurricular activity. (If we were only going to have one, we were going to have the best!) Yes, I could have bought a small car for what it cost to send him to two jamborees (the jambo fee is NOT the only cost!), but he needed the adventure and the memories. He’s now grown up and living on his own, but I know he remembers the fun he had with 40K of his “closest” scouting buddies, and I know it influenced him for the better. He also pointed out that he had “rich” cousins whose parents didn’t send them (because of the cost), but his “poor” mother made sure he got to go. Life is all about priorities, and I think that lesson has stuck with him.

    Is the jambo price really that steep? They’re feeding your kid for 10 days and providing an over-the-top high adventure camp. Those type camps, whether Scouting or not, do not come cheaply. What I hate to see is the contingents coming from the west who tack on so much sightseeing to the trip, the price tag becomes unattainable. That’s not fair to the Scouts who just want to get to go to Jambo.

    • That is one of the nice things about being in the East. The price from NC is “only” $1400. Our Troop (202 in Occoneechee Council) is also sending 43 Scouts to Jamboree, along with 4 adult leaders. Two of those scouts will age out, but one is going with the Venturer’s and one will be our Third ASM, with the other 41 making a whole troop and the extra 5 going to a second troop (along with one of the adults). We started recruiting back in November of last year, and our council I believe is sending at least 9 troops plus 1 venture unit. For what the Scouts get to do, I think the price is pretty good, especially since it includes the equipment and the transportation as well as all of the activities. My older son went in 2005 at AP HIll and had a blast, and I am looking forward to this one with my younger son.

    • Our Council allows higher commission (50% vs 30/35%) for Scouts working towards high adventure camps, of which Jambo gets included. Councils want their Scouts to go to the high adventures. They also know the high adventures are more expensive and that holds some back. This is a way to help anyone who wants to go, to get to go, to a high adventure camp.

  12. It’s a bargain at twice the price. my sons have been twice and 1 is going back as a volunteer skate instructor for jambo 2017. He’s paying to work. That should give you some idea of how fun the place is.

  13. Part of what I find interesting in this article is that they get to stay together as a Troop for the Jamboree. The Baltimore Area Council has a “rule” of breaking up groups of 10 or more from the same home unit.

    • Hmm, not sure about that “rule” as our troop is in the Baltimore Area Council and half of the Jamboree troop is made up of the boys and adults from our home unit.

  14. Good for them! We are sending 35 of 60 scouts and 5 leaders this year and are so excited. It all came down to scouts returning from the last Jambo and showing pictures and talking about the experience. Our Council has broken us into 2 troops and our leaders are spread over 3 troops but nonetheless we can’t be more excited for our scouts…

  15. We are from Washington and the cost was quite much. $3200. My son earned his way, sold popcorn for 2 years to pay for it. He is really excited to go, hoping he has fun and meets life long friends.

  16. For a different twist on all of this, Crew 27 from the NCAC sent 43 VENTURERS to the 2017 NSJ. 16 of them were blessed to benefit from a scholarship obtained through a grant procured by our Scout Executive – Les Baron! When the grant money ran out, some scouters with deeper pockets kicked in to make the Jamboree a reality for some of the VENTURERS who couldn’t afford the whole cost. It was an awesome team effort. If you want to read about it in the Venturers own words, see the articles in the Google Drop Box that they wrote!


    The Council put 36 of them in Crew 5107 and that is the first time in the history of Scouting that a home Crew filled an entire Jamboree Crew. The other 7 went to Crew 5106. They had a great time but indicated a desire to have Venturing specific advancement opportunities at the NSJ. They are looking forward to the 2019 WSJ!

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