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At the jamboree, lots of adult supervision

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At the jamboree, lots of adult supervision



Wednesday, August 3, 2005





BOWLING GREEN -- Pale shins and calves betrayed the truths of summers spent behind desks for many Scoutmasters when they put on shorts for the first time in a while at the National Scout Jamboree.


With all respect to Scouts' reputation for responsibility and skill, the nearly 32,000 of them needed some supervision and direction from the 3,532 adults who accompanied the boys. In some cases, the Scoutmasters did more than supervise at the jamboree, to which the boys and adults will say so long this morning after 10 days at Fort A.P. Hill.


"You shouldn't take 36 boys to the jamboree unless you're ready to take care of every one like he was your only son," said First Assistant Scoutmaster George Boothby of Montvale, N.J.


Boothby saved up a week of vacation from last year so he could come to the jamboree and still have time for his family holiday. Each of these adults paid about $600, plus varied travel expenses, to work and live in tents during some of the summer's hottest days. They also took about two weeks off from work.


Emerson, N.J., Scoutmaster Linda Sue Andrese's job does not include any vacation time, so she got a coworker to substitute for her. There will be no family vacation for the Andreses this year.


The role of adult leaders took on added emphasis at this year's jamboree, when four leaders from Alaska were killed on the event's opening day after the center pole of a large tent they were helping put up touched an electrical wire.


And as Scouts rushed toward the tent with water after they saw flames, Scoutmasters blocked them from the accident scene, possibly saving the youths from being electrocuted.


At the jamboree, each 36-Scout troop has three adult leaders and a third assistant Scoutmaster between the ages of 18 and 21.


Andrese's third assistant was James Beattie, 18, of Bergenfield, N.J. The position can be confusing, Beattie said, because he feels torn between two sets of peers.


"I still relate to the boys, but I have to be an adult," he said. "I keep kids from doing dangerous things that seem like fun to them, like going down a hill in a food wagon."


Andrese is one of a handful of female Scoutmasters at the jamboree, but she said she did not consider herself different from other leaders. Beattie said he noticed the boys were less confrontational with her than they were with men.


These 18-hour days are not all work, and the Scoutmasters have had some fun, too.


Boothby has been participating in activities such as rappelling and hatchet throwing, not just to feel young, but to convince Scouts in his troop to be active.


"We can't really expect them to go out and do things they might be nervous about unless we try some things ourselves," he said.


Andrese takes a different perspective on expecting Scouts to do things.


"I won't ask any Scout to do anything I wouldn't do myself," she said.


When temperatures soared last Wednesday, she gave the Scouts the option of staying at camp, rather than going to the arena show that was later cancelled because of heat and storm concerns. About 16 stayed in camp with Andrese, while the other 20 went to the show with a neighboring troop.


Scoutmasters were in a position to set the tone for the jamboree, which for 16-year-old Andrew Bolton of Franklin Lakes, N.J., made the difference between a lackluster 10 days and the unforgettable experience he said it was for him. He credited jamboree Scoutmaster Ernie Kastner with running the troop in a way that allows the Scouts to have fun and respect him as the leader.


"He treats everyone the same, even his sons, and he gives us options and freedom that allowed us to govern ourselves," he said.


Although they did not live in the camps, thousands of other volunteers converged on Fort A.P Hill to add support at various parts, including merit badge instruction and security.


Steve Bosak of Medford, Mass., helped direct thousands of Scouts and visitors into the arena Sunday night.


"I do it for the same reason as any parent does anything -- they want their kid to have the best," he said.


Waving his arm over the crowd of Scouts assembled for the closing arena show, he added, "I'm hoping these guys will have what I had at my first jamboree."


Elsie Metz of Bethlehem, Pa., began volunteering when her son joined Cub Scouts -- 33 years ago. Even after his participation waned, she continued to work as a liaison between Scout troops and councils in eastern Pennsylvania and the Washington region. This is her third jamboree.


"I believe in what the Scouts teach the boys, and the experiences they make possible," she said. "Plus, it's fun."


Contact Charlie Ban at (804) 649-6152 or cban@timesdispatch.com

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