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 after the jump…

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

56 thoughts on “Read this letter from a mom about her son’s jamboree experience

  1. My first Jamboree was 2010 and there were so many behind the scene glitches I couldn’t believe it, but we pulled it off. Knowing what I knew from that I forged ahead and was nothing but supportive of the efforts being made at the Summit in just three short years.

    And they did it!! Were there glitches? A few (actually less than in 2010, at least in my area). I was in Stand Up Paddleboard and we put through almost 10,000 scouts in those few days even with rain and lightening delays. I want to shout out to all of the staff who gave up their one potential day of rest, Sunday, in order to volunteer so that the scouts would get a chance to get done all that they wanted to.

    The few complaints I heard were reasonable and I counseled scouts when filling out evaluations to make suggestions rather than just complain and they liked that idea.

    But what was the best was when I heard a scout walking by and he said that this was “better than sitting at home playing video games”……..!!!!

    I had a blast and so did my daughter who was on staff in the stadium. We both plan on returning in 2017 if they will have us.

    And I even got to take our very own Brian out on a SUP on the last day. He fell in a lot but if you read the blog about SUP if you are not wet you aren’t trying hard enough.

    Thanks again to all of the wonderful staff and scouts who made this experience all that I had hoped for and more.

    • Connie, you rock! I was part of the SUP staff with Connie and a bunch of extraordinary, dedicated staff that worked long hours with a smile and encouraging words. Who goes to bed at 9 PM? We did and up at 5:30 AM or so. Our leader Bill Hall was a brick
      Ambient showers forever! Don Bievenour

  2. As a pharmacy staff member we built a pharmacy from scratch and delivered necessary drugs to base camps and program areas. There were many bumps in the road and battles to fight (RAIN), most we won some not. One of my fellow Pharmacists and I were walking from the stadium to boulder cove and passed two leaders on the trail. One of the leaders said “Thank you staff for what you have done”. That made us realize that all the work we had done in the staff week was worth it. For a leader to say thank you out of the blue, not knowing where we worked or who we were was humbling. We both realized that the scouts were in for an adventure of a lifetime. To be part of it was great and the leaders comments reflect on what all staff members have done to make the Jamboree happen. I said from the start its going to be an adventure and boy was it !!!!!!!!!!

    • I’d like to thank you again. You were part of the crew who kept my Eagle on the trail so he could continue to staff the Jamboree. He was in the medical tent at least twice and came home with prescription ear drops that he could not have gotten without the services of the pharmacy staff. His ear is much better, BTW.

  3. My 7th Jamboree as a chaplain and my first in a base camp. A grandson was jr. staff and a granddaughter in a Venture crew in my camp, “F”. Witnessing the overall courteousness and expended energy of staff and participants makes me realize the Summit property will only improve, as have the other high adventure sites (I’ve been to Philmont.) it was a strenuous experience, not for the lazy or the unmotivated; my family told me of the cheap shots fired at BSA and the Summit over the emphasis on BMI and physical preparation for the Jamboree and all I can say to them is to get out of your comfortable tv studio seats and experience as did Willard Scott and Al Roker-who actually saw and talked with the boys-who were joined this year by nearly 4,000 co-ed Venture Scouts and foreign scout contingents.
    You had to have witnessed the 2013 Jamboree and the nascent Bechtel Summit Reserve property to have had your faith in America’s youth renewed.


    RUNNING OUT OF TIME! Zachary Cuny is running out of time to complete his Eagle Project! He needs donations to buy materials to finish it by August 9th (goes off to college), and he turns 18 on September 1st!!! Please help! Donate anything you can, or as much as you can… he needs your help! (By the way, Zachary worked on the volunteer youth staff at Jamboree this year on Conservation Trek – if your son enjoyed the hike, won’t you help him out?)

    >>> <<<

    Thanks, Antonio Cuny

  5. I saw A449 there. “Looks like a Scout Troop to me!” Those boots have not reached the end of their usefulness. I doubt if they are “so mud soaked” as to be unuseable: lots of water, alittle scrubbing…. Mebbe he has grown out of’em. Simply nail’em up on the side of the garage, your house wrens will appreciate them. As to the rest of the mom’s comments, I have no doubt that all of them are correct and a natural result of the saying that “a bad day at camp is beter than a good day at the office”. And there were NO bad days at the Jambo. Only gradations of GOOD (it did rain sometime, somewhere on site everyday!)
    Good Jambo to you!

  6. I just love how “the locals” (people who can drive to Jambo in a few hours) complain about paying $1600.00 to attend the Jamboree.
    Try paying $3600.00 just to start, then add cost of the shakedown camps, extra uniforms and equipment and spending money……., and that’s from the west coast. Think about a scout from Aloha, Far East, Transatlantic, Great Alaska, or any of the distant councils in BSA (or Direct Service units). It becomes a huge expense to attend Jambo. $5000 is not a bad estimate to start with.
    Does National offer any incentive/discount for those scouts? Nope. never.
    But I’ll bet that they would jump at the opportunity to pay $1600.00!
    If it were that inexpensive, I would have sent both my Sons and offered to staff too!
    Touring? Who needs to tour? You go for the Jamboree.

      • Our Council does not offer that option. I wish they did.
        It is always said AFTER the fact.
        By the next Jambo, those Kids have aged out and moved on.
        So back to square one.

        Why can’t National mandate a Jambo only package?
        Or maybe offer a provisional package for individual boys?
        Group them together with other boys from around the country.
        Talk about a cool experience.
        That may really increase attendance.

  7. Thanks for sharing this Scout Mom’s letter. It’s great to hear successful camping/jamboree stories such as this one. And, it’s great to know that things went well for this Scout (and his family) and his Troop. Kudos to this Scout for his achievement, to his parents for taking their leap of faith, to his Troop’s leaders for making sure their whole trip ran smoothly, and to the Jamboree staff for planning, organizing, and running this huge memory-making event for thousands of Boy Scouts, Venturers, and Scouters from all over.

  8. My 18 year old Eagle Scout was one of those up at 4 – 5 am — and for far more than 10 days, because he was there to help with setup. He will be happy to know how much fun this Scout had, but he also made friends and many memories. He went to the last Jamboree at AP Hill with a BAC contingent and had a blast. This time he got to do many of the things the contingents did and help prank the National OA leadership. Something about filling a tent with beach balls and help run the station where Scouts threw hatchets at targets – among many other experiences. From his previous Scouting experiences, I know that it will be years before I hear everything that happened at this Jamboree. I’m still hearing new details about the last one (3 years ago) and Mountain Man (also 3 years ago) and Seabase. I hope this mom’s son sticks with Scouting to have many more such experiences.

  9. My grandson went and has this to say:
    I was at Jamboree as a scout. I will personally say it was well worth the money. Due to a mystery medical problem, I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted. But I was able to do a lot of patch trading and I met a lot of cool & interesting people. Sadly I wasn’t able to stay the whole time and left early Sunday morning.

    I was happy when I learned about the forgein venture crews being there, in fact, I spent most of my time up at Foxtrot hanging out with the Canadians, Austrailians, Norwegians and the Scots. The Canadians practically adopted me, giving me a few items to make me even look like I was one of them at first glance.

    I’d like to give a shout out to my new friends, not only across the country, but, across the world. The staff was amazing and pretty cool to chat with while out walking. Lastly, I’d like to give a special shout out to the Medical Staff and Chaplin at C2. They were great people and very helpful on my last day.

    I’m looking forward to the International Jambo in 2015 and going back to The Summit in 2017. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the next few years.

    Derrick Hall,
    Georgia-Carolina Council, C231

  10. As a staff member for the inaugural Jambo at the Summit, I can say that through the short nights and hot, steamy days, it is the energy of the youth that keeps us going. And do you know what the very greatest thing you can do is? Tell this story over, and over, and over. There will be those who will dwell on the no days off and ambient showers, but most of us will remember that youth that we helped achieve a personal goal while at Jambo. Some staff member someplace is reading your message and is saying to themselves, that whatever their inconvenience, the youth had a lifetime memorable time. Thanks.

  11. This Mom’s reaction reminds me of my son’s Summer camp experience one year. From the camp in our Council, he never sent anything the week he was there. Might be because I could pop in a couple times. The year he went to the Adirondacks (5 hours away), i got a letter almost everyday. It was shocking and to this day i still treasure them!!

  12. I do not agree. My unfocused son couldn’t do almost anything. He lost a lot of items. He got lost on a trail in the woods many times so got late to the activities. It was really hot so when he got to the lines he was very tired and preferred to do anything else. He wants to forget the experience at Jambo. It was a very expensive disappointment for him.

    • Ask him again in a couple of months about his Jamboree experience. I bet he’ll remember more of the good times by then.

    • As unfortunate as it may be, not everyone will enjoy any particular Scouting experience. The hope is that virtually everyone comes away happy; but some youth will come away from the Jamboree (or Philmont, or Sea Base, or summer camp, or a hike) disappointed, frustrated, or unhappy.

      It’s unfortunate that your son was one of those, but I hope he concentrates on the experiences in Scouting that he finds fulfilling.

  13. ACS,
    I feel bad for your son and hope that maybe after 4 years he will have a different outlook and be ready to try again.

    I wonder why the leaders he was with or his buddy were not able to help him.

  14. My son also participated in this wonderful event!!! He learned so much and came back an even better boy than he was before he left. Thank you to the leaders of Troop A231.

  15. My son was an OA Trek Guide and thought the Jambo went fairly well. His biggest complaint was “important” people driving around in Rhinos/Jeeps and such. Lots of logistical problems also. Hoping the organization improves for the next one. He also attended the final at Fort AP, so had some grounds for comparison. Overall he thought it was a good experience.

    • I know from my son’s experience that some of the vehicles were transporting youth that were wounded … and that a shortage of vehicles (or perhaps, an excess of injured?) was one problem.

      One of the females in his crew was injured, and he gallantly 🙂 offered to be her buddy for several days. They were ferried around The Summit in some sort of vehicle. He never quite explained (or I didn’t ask) whether it was a dedicated vehicle, or whether there was some sort of shuttle system.

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