When a major YouTube personality visits a beloved Scout camp, the result is comedy gold — and millions of people introduced to the adventure of Scouting.
Mr. Beast, a YouTuber whose philanthropic videos and epic stunts (riding a Ferris wheel 1,000 times in a row, for example) have grown his following to 30 million subscribers, recently visited Camp Elmore in the South Florida Council.
So far, the video has been watched about 16 million times. That’s more than double the average viewership numbers for an episode of This Is Us. And because the 21-year-old Mr. Beast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) appeals to a younger demographic, those views are extremely valuable for those of us who want to grow Scouting.
“The highlight of the experience is the opportunity to share the adventures that await in Scouting,” says Jeff Berger, Scout Executive of the South Florida Council. “The fellowship and fun of the Mr. Beast team really shine through in the different challenges.”
If you haven’t seen the video, check it out below. Then keep reading for more about how officials in the South Florida Council seized this terrific opportunity.
I enjoyed seeing the Mr. Beast team immerse themselves in Scouting, giving viewers a taste of the experiences that young people enjoy every weekend in the BSA.
And while you and I know that earning merit badges takes a bit more work than what’s seen in the video, the average viewer will get enough of a taste to be intrigued. Oh, and I love the idea of merit badges that can be added to a sash just by kind of slapping them on. Think of all the sewing time saved!
For me, a highlight was the “Wall Hop merit badge,” even if it doesn’t actually exist (I checked). In this challenge, Mr. Beast tells the group they have to get to the other side of a tall wall.
But like any good obstacle on a Scouting challenge course, this one required careful listening.
“All I said is they have to get to the other side of the wall,” Mr. Beast tells the camera. “I didn’t say they have to go over it. Shh.”
It’s a good reminder to listen to both what’s said and what isn’t.
How it happened
Late last year, the Mr. Beast team called one of the camps in the South Florida Council directly and left a message. Berger, the council’s Scout Executive, called them back right away.
“Like anything, the opportunity can go away from a lack of response,” he says.
So Berger flagged the opportunity with the team at the National Service Center, who quickly offered guidance about how to move this forward.
Cliff Freiwald, the council’s director of support services, served as the Scouting consultant on the ground. He answered questions about Scouting: Which shoulder does the merit badge sash go on? How do you start a fire with flint and steel? Where’s the archery range?
“Mr. Beast’s ideas are very creative,” Freiwald says. “This group was up for anything, and so we had to be ready to support that effort, within our capabilities.”
Freiwald also helped ensure that safety rules were being followed.
“They were very appreciative and receptive of our BSA policies to keep their actors safe at all times so that they could concentrate on their work and create their production,” Freiwald says.
And what a production it was. Freiwald says the team filmed with two or three cameras for the entirety of their 12-hour day of filming. They also had four GoPro cameras collecting footage from additional angles.
All that for a final product that lasts just 13 minutes and 37 seconds.
“It was a blast to be with them and witness their enthusiasm,” Freiwald says. “They are as much fun off-air as they are on-air in their productions.”
Sharing some takeaways
Freiwald urges other councils to welcome these kinds of opportunities whenever they arise.
“Overall, it was a very positive experience for the council and our Scouts,” he says. “The incredible reach to millions of young people from creators like Mr. Beast is something we should be prepared to welcome whenever an opportunity becomes available.”
Berger has three big takeaways from the experience. The first is not to shy away from an opportunity because it sounds edgy. Instead, take the right steps to bring in national resources to help you evaluate it and provide guidance.
The second: The video has worked. Berger and his team have noticed an increased buzz around the programs available at Camp Elmore — “especially the challenge course,” he says.
The third is that Mr. Beast takes giving back seriously.
Mr. Beast’s team made a list of gear and clothing items they’d need during filming. The YouTuber paid for everything and told the council that all the items would be donated back to the council.
“The Mr. Beast team made a list,” Berger says, “and we went shopping with zeal.”