Sir Robert Baden-Powell’s Birthday

Sir Robert Baden-Powell was born on February 22, 1857 making today his 154th birthday.

After returning from Africa as a hero in the Bohr War he noticed his military manual “Aids to Scouting” was being used by boys all round the country. In 1907 he organized the first camp at Brownsea Island where he tested the ideas put forth in his book “Scouting for Boys” (later published in 1908). That was the beginning of the Scout Movement. His World Organization of the Scouting Movement is still going strong. Quite a legacy he has left us!


Happy Birthday, Sir!

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Eagle Scout: Merit Beyond the Badge

Today, the BSA National Council is drawing attention to a study conducted by Baylor University. Funded by the Templeton Foundation, this was an independent study of the differences between adults that were Eagle Scouts, had been Boy Scouts, and those that were never Scouts. You can read the entire report here. After reading through the study it is no wonder that the BSA is advertising the results!


According to the Baylor study, later in life Eagle Scouts are more likely than non-Scouts to:

  • Have higher levels of planning and preparation skills, be goal-oriented, and network with others
  • Be in a leadership position at their place of employment or local community
  • Report having closer relationships with family and friends
  • Volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations
  • Donate money to charitable groups
  • Work with others to improve their neighborhoods

The final paragraph of the report concluded like this:

In sum, when compared to Scouts and non-Scouts, Eagle Scouts exhibit significantly higher levels of health and recreation, connection, service and leadership, environmental stewardship, goal orientation, planning and preparedness, and character.

Sounds good to me.


However, those are some strong claims. As a Scout Leader I have to wonder, are we still providing the same benefit today? The first Cub Scouts I had the honor to lead won’t turn 30 for another 17 years, so I guess the jury is still out on my particular corner of the program. However, I can look at the Scouting program as it sits today and draw some pretty clear associations between the activities of Scouts and the results of the Baylor study.

Goal oriented and preparation skills? As Clarke has pointed out, preparation and planning are explicit actions expected of Scouts as they plan and execute the outdoor adventures. As long as they are the ones doing the planning and the preparing.
Leadership positions at work and in the community? Spending time in front of a group of Scouts as their “leader” is a quick lesson in where authority, motivation, and leadership are sourced. Lesson #1 is just because you have the position, doesn’t mean they are going to listen. Without the mentorship and training these lessons get lost, and with it goes the understanding of leadership.
Closer relationships to friends and family? Time builds relationships. Spend time with your friends in Scouting, and you are going to be closer friends. Camping and shared outdoor adventures bring Scouts and their family and friends together in ways that the Wii and Xbox can’t. Ask an Scout what his favorite campout was and the answer is almost always one where the weather or other challenges brought them closer to their friends.
Volunteer for organizations and working with others to improve their neighborhood? After spending 6 or 7 years working on service projects and leading one of their own choosing, it isn’t a big leap to think the Scout has made the connection with the power of volunteerism. Service is an important part of an Scouting program.

Well, that’s great that we are helping the 4% that achieve the Eagle Rank. What about the other 96% that don’t get that far? Have we failed them? One other thing I noticed as I read through the report- in many places there were not statistical differences between the Eagle Scout group and those that were Boy Scouts that did not achieve the Eagle rank. This study is one more thing that points out the benefit of Scouting isn’t in that red white and blue ribbon they earn at the end, it is found in the journey to get there.

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Five Ways to Help Webelos Transition to Boy Scouts

Our Blue and Gold Banquet is next week, and that has me thinking about the Webelos to Scout transition. There is quite a bit of difference between the Cub Scout program and the Boy Scout program (or at least there should be) and often Scouts struggle with the the change as they leave Cub Scouting behind. It often takes a new Boy Scout a year (or more) to successfully make that transition of mindset to what is needed in Boy Scouts. For those that don’t make the transition, often the result is leaving the program at some point in the first year. That group is no small number of boys, as it is not uncommon for troops to lose half (!) of the crossover scouts in the first year.


So how can we help prepare these new crossovers? Five things quickly come to mind for me, if you have others, feel free to add them in the comments.

1. Let the Scouts choose which activity badges to work on
Earlier in the Cub Scout program it is the Den Leader that sits down with the book and decides which activities to have the boys participate in throughout the year. As they get older, let them have a hand in deciding what they are going to do. We have two dens of first year Webelos, and the Den Leaders split up the activity badges and each den covered half of them. The boys in both dens were invited, and could choose which pins they wanted to earn. If they were really motivated they could chase all twenty (with some work on their own). Why is this important? First, whey they get to Boy Scouts there is a dizzying array of choices for things to pursue, which can be discouraging. This lets them see that they don’t have to do everything. Second, it gives them a bit of ownership of the program, helping them to understand that they can direct what activities they are involved in.

2. Den Camping
Once they become Webelos (and with proper training for the adults), the Den can go on their own camping trips. This smaller subset allows for more targeted activites that teach camping skills to the Scouts and the increased number of camping trips helps to get the boys comfortable with preparing for and attending outings. The more of these Webelos-specific trips that are offered, the more time they have to practice putting up a tent or dining fly, learning to cook and clean up meals on trips, and how to pack and dress for different weather that they will encounter as a Boy Scout. There is the added benefit of providing a much better location for teaching scout skills than any indoor classroom.


3. Visit multiple Troops
Not all Boy Scout Troops are the same, and what connects with one Webelos may not with the next. Even if your Scouts traditionally all go to one unit it would be beneficial to go to a couple more. In addition to visiting the meetings, try to get out camping with the different Troops. Those outings will tell you (and your Webelos) a lot about how that particular Troop operates. Not having them cross over as one monolithic block isn’t a failure, it is giving the new Boy Scouts every chance to succeed. It also exposes them to other ways of doing Scouting so they know they can change units if their initial choice isn’t working out.

4. Use the Webelos to help with the Pack Meeting
By the time they get to 4th Grade, many of these Scouts have been attending pack meetings for three years. It is difficult to keep things engaging and interesting for 4th and 5th graders without losing the interest of the 1st graders, so one option is to engage the older Scouts in helping with the program. Our October Pack Meeting was a life-sized version of Angry Birds where the Scouts painted pumpkins like their favorite Angry Bird then launched them with a six-foot slingshot we had outside. The target was a bunch of pumpkins painted like the pigs stacked on boards and five gallon buckets. Who reset the pigs and buckets after every shot? The Webelos. I’m not sure who was having more fun.

Angry Birds

5. Have the Scouts physically take their books to the Den Leader to be signed.
One change for Webelos from earlier ranks is that the parents can no longer sign off requirements in the book. Is that because parents suddenly became untrustworthy? No, it is one more way to prepare the Webelos for Boy Scouts. Having a parent bring the book to the Den Leader is a no-go too. Even though it is likely the parents and the Den Leader know what requirements have been completed, it is important to have the Scouts approach the Den Leader and get them to sign the book. Why is this important? When they get to Boy Scouts it will be necessary for the Scout to take the initiative to bring his book to his Patrol Leader when he feels that a requirement has been completed. This is one step in getting him to that point.

These five things are not ground-breaking or novel in any way, but we have found them to be important for that crucial first year in a Boy Scout troop. Do you have other things that you have found effective during the transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, either from the perspective of the Pack or the Troop? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Categories: Pack, Pack Meetings, Scouts, Troop | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Proposed Changes to the BSA Membership Policy

Today the Boy Scouts of America sent out a statement about changes they are discussing that would remove the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.

In part it reads:

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”


While I welcome the news, I have to remind myself that this is an announcement that there is a discussion, not a final determination. I sincerely hope it is a sign that the current prohibiting national policy will be revoked allowing local Charter Organizations (COs) to enact policies that are consistent with the values of their organization.

“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

Many people will claim that this is the National Council “passing the buck” or “not taking a stand”, but in actuality it would put the sexual orientation issue on the same footing as any other membership question. For example, while the BSA is not tied to a specific religion, there are plenty of Troops, Packs, and Crews that are. I have met Scouts from units that are all members of the same church, chartered by that church and restricted in membership to families in that church. That works for them, and has no impact on the other units I know that are Muslim (chartered by a mosque), Orthodox Jews (chartered by a neighborhood religious organization), or have a mix of many faiths like my pack, chartered by a secular organization. This allows the BSA to be partners with a wide range of organizations with diverse principles, families to participate while teaching their own held religious beliefs. When these units gather at Scouting events, they find that they aren’t that different after all, and we get one step closer to Baden Powell’s idea of worldwide Messengers of Peace.


Personally, I hope this change is enacted by the National Council. The opportunity to join Scouting is something that should be offered to every kid, the things that are learned around leadership, service, values, and citizenship are not the sole domain of any one group.

If this is implemented there will be a lot of hand-wringing, many loud statements of how this is ruining the Boy Scouts of America, and some may leave Scouting all together. Then the rest of us will get back to work, doing our best to teach service and citizenship to Scouts around the county, and in a few months the hysteria would die down. Eventually we would look around and see that the change did not destroy Scouting, and it actually brought us closer to living the principles we try to teach.

Remember, it’s not a done deal yet.

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A friend of mine shared this TED talk, and I thought it calls out the baggage we add to the term “leadership” and how a change in our perspective calls us all to be leaders.


We have elevated leadership to a world-changing ideal. We celebrate only the truly phenomenal actions as leadership and soon it becomes an unobtainable goal that someone else will have to do. If most adults are not comfortable with being called a leader, imagine the weight that word has for Scouts when we ask them to be one.

The everyday leadership needs to be celebrated, as Drew Dudley points out. We all have “lollipop moments” where people do things or say things that have a profound impact on our lives. Recognize these, but more important is the recognition and celebration of the everyday leadership.

Leadership is not the domain of big acts. Leadership is the cumulative sum of the small acts every day.

Categories: Leadership, Scouts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Election Fun for Cub Scouts

This month’s Pack Night was a chance to have some fun and maybe learn something along the way. With all the media attention on the Presidential election, we decided to have an election of our own! But rather than electing the leader of the free world, we were going to decide something much more important: electing your favorite candy bar.

This was an idea that explained by another participant in the “Strictly for Cubmasters” course at Philmont Training Center that I attended in the summer of 2011. I have wanted to do this for a pack meeting since then, but I thought it would have the most impact around the time of the next election.

Our election was between Kit Kat and Twix. The candy bar choice is very important, the votes are fairly evenly split between the two; when you run the voting rounds using different methods, the ‘winner’ bounces back and forth.

When planning the meeting, we selected two adults to be “campaign managers” for each candy bar. Their job was to drum up support for their candidate, passing out signs and stickers to the scouts and provide “political commercials” between each round of voting. They both did an excellent job, going over the top with excitement and props to drum up support.

We started off by talking about citizenship, elections, and the importance of participating in the voting process. There were four rounds of voting, each using a different method. Before each round we would (very briefly) talk about the pros and cons of using that method to select a winner. After votes were cast, we would have two campaign commercials while we counted the ballots, the display the results using a laptop and projector. For the commercials we kept everything positive except for one. Each side was allowed a negative ad just before the final vote. It was a hoot, I had no idea that Twix was originally called the “Raider” bar. That just won’t fly in Bronco Country!

Round One: Every Den gets one vote

This was fun because up to this point the scouts thought they were going to get to each vote for the one they wanted. As soon as we announced that they would have to vote as a den there was a definite “wait, what?” look in their eyes as they realized they would have to compromise.

Round Two: Each Den gets votes based on the number of Scouts

Then we talked about how some dens had more scouts present than others. Maybe it was more fair if they had votes proportional to the number of scouts that were present at the meeting. We gave every den one vote for every two scouts, and they could divide the vote up however they would like. I really liked the dens that split their vote evenly for each bar, effectively cancelling themselves out.

Round Three: Representative Voting

This time around we had each den select one member of the den to represent everyone. We introduced a special guest, Erik Hansen. He is the County Commissioner that represents our area. He talked to the scouts about what it means to represent a group of people, knowing that you can never vote in such a way that will please everyone every time. He explained that you had to do your best to represent your constituents and vote in the way that you felt was best for your area. Best line of the night? “A scout asked me if I supported Kit Kat or Twix, but I really like Butterfinger. Where’s the third party candidate?”

Round Four: Popular Vote

This was the round that decided everything. The winner of this round was the bar that we gave to every scout before they went home. Even if you voted for the other one, you still went home with the winner, just like how you have to live with the winning candidate regardless of how you voted. We picked up a couple of “fun sized” bags of each just before Halloween, just to make sure they didn’t disappear before we needed them.

It was a lot of fun. The scouts were excited and engaged the whole time, we got to see them struggle with compromise a few times, and they came away with a better understanding of elections. The best part was when they were trying to convince each other- signs waving, everybody talking loudly, nobody listening. It was just like an actual political convention, only shorter!

Categories: Pack, Pack Meetings, Scouts | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Arrow of Light, Crossover, and out the door!

Last week was our pack’s Blue and Gold Banquet, a wonderful evening of food and ceremony where we awarded the Arrow of Light to fifteen scouts.

After awarding the AOL, just has been done for years in our pack, we crossed the boys over into Boy Scouts where they were received by three different troops in our area. The whole thing went relatively smooth, the boys seemed genuinely excited about joining a troop, and the parents were beaming and proud.

This is all well and good, but something still nags at me. We give these boys the highest award in Cub Scouts, congratulate them for five years of hard work, then promptly send them off to Boy Scouts where they start all over at the bottom of the heap. Time at the top of the mountain? About 5 minutes total.

Are we doing these boys a disservice by crossing them over at Blue and Gold? I don’t get the impression that the boys really want to stick around, they have had their fill of Cub Scouts and are ready to move on to something new. It is hard to have a program that is equally entertaining to 1st graders and 5th graders, and doubly so when the 5th graders have seen it all already.

Nobody is complaining, I just wonder if there is a better way to handle Arrow of Light and Crossover.

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Nothing New Under The Sun

I remember seeing a South Park episode where Butters was trying to take over the world, but every idea was shot down as something that had already been tried on the Simpsons.

A filmmaker named Kirby Ferguson has put together an excellent set of four videos on the role of using other peoples creativity (or ideas) in creating new work. They are entitled “Everything is a Remix” and has a blog located here. Check out the videos, there’s some facinating stuff in there.

Part 1: The Song Remains the Same

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 2: Remix Inc.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 3: The Elements of Creativity

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 4: System Failure

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

h/t: Peta Pixel

Categories: Research, Work | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

…and on to 2012!

Last year at this time I ended a blog post with this:

I wish each of you health and happiness for you and your families as we start off in 2011, and when we look back on it a year from now I hope we will all see it as time well spent.

Time well spent? I can say, looking back on 2011, I got to spend a lot of time on things I love. Family, Scouting, and travel. What a year!

  • We started the year off by getting a new puppy! A two month old Rottweiler named Toby.

  • I gave the Scout Sunday sermon at the church I grew up in.
  • I was a course participant in Wood Badge course W5-61-11-1

  • Toby got bigger.
  • Traveled to San Francisco at the beginning of the Summer
  • Watched our kids start piano lessons, and take to it like fish to water.
  • Toby got bigger.
  • I was a camp councilor for our regions’s Junior Camp for 3rd through 5th graders.
  • Took my son to Resident Camp in Longs Peak Council. I really enjoyed just being a Scout’s dad instead of the Cubmaster!
  • Our family went down to the Philmont Training Center to take a Cubmaster training course.

  • I started my second year as Cubmaster for Pack 223, with a great group of boys and volunteers.
  • Toby got even bigger.
  • I got a new camera, which should result in more photos being shared here as well as on Google+.
  • We went back to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, having a wonderful time with my sister and her family.

  • At work I got a brand new lab in a brand new R&D building, all ready for fantastic things in the next year!
  • Toby got bigger still.
  • I finished my Wood Badge ticket in December with a workshop on the physics of the Pinewood Derby.

  • Spent Christmas here in Colorado, seeing family and friends for the holidays.

Not to be outdone, ’12 is going to be another year packed with activities.

  • Unpacking all the stuff we moved to the fancy new lab
  • Travel to Israel with my wife, mother-in-law, and some friends to see the Holy Land.
  • I am going to be the Director (in Training) of Junior Camp for our Regional Churches.
  • Continue to put on the best Cub Scout program I possibly can for the families of Pack 223.
  • Head back to Philmont for the Philmont Leadership Challenge. A week in the backcountry of New Mexico extending the skills I learned in Wood Badge.
  • Hopefully the end of 2012 also finds me working closely with the next Cubmaster of our Pack, because my tenure will be up by that coming summer.
  • One thing is for sure: the dog will continue to grow.

Categories: Family, Pack, Photography, Scouts, Training, Travel, Work | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Building a Better Pack Meeting

As promised in the last post (long ago), I wanted to mention some of the things covered in the The Strictly for Cubmasters class during Week 7 at Philmont Training Center. I know it has been a while, but for some reason I never hit the “publish” button on this one. Hopefully there are some ideas in here you can use in the new year!

Interactions with the two trainers Debbie Spohn and Jim Hou started well before the week at Philmont. Introductory emails explained the Race Fan theme for the week, and little notes and small gifts (candy!) showed up every few weeks as we counted down to our week. That was a lot of fun!

After our arrival on Sunday afternoon, I initially met the instructors at a short check-in that evening. We made the introductions, and they had each participant make a slide to go with the checkered flag neckerchief we were given. Our theme for the week was racing, so everything was NASCAR or racing related.

The format for the class was a morning session that lasted about three hours then a break for lunch (when our families came back from their outings) then another three hours in the afternoon. We had class on Monday and Tuesday, then we were off for family stuff on Wednesday, and another two days of class on Thursday and Friday. It was a really nice mix of training and family vacation.

We spent time talking about meetings and recuriting, how to include outdoor activities in your program and the magic of campfires. We met up with the “Strictly for Scoutmasters” class and spent some time talking about what makes a sucessful transition from Webelos to Boy Scouts. At the end of the week we put on a Pack meeting on the lawn of the Villa Philmonte, adding a bunch of the extra touches we had learned during the week.

At one point toward the end of the class we did an exercise called 30 ideas in 30 minutes. The class wrote ideas down on index cards and then when yours was selected you stood up and talked about it for a minute. We had more than thirty, but that’s ok, we took longer than thirty minutes too. I think we could have continued this for an hour or more, it seemed that when someone would present something it would jog another Cubmaster’s memory about something that worked in their Pack. Hopefully something here is useful for you!

Here’s what we talked about-

  1. Hold Blue & Gold outside.
  2. Have Scouts earn pool time at the community pool by mowing lawns and doing yardwork at abandoned/neglected houses.
  3. Dress in full Native American regalia for graduation.
  4. Turkey bowling. Exactly what the name implies – bowling with a fully frozen turkey. Winner gets to take the “bowling ball” home!
  5. Spirit Water – put food coloring in the lid of a baby food jar, and let dry (probably for 3-4 days, or use a blow dryer to speed the process). When you shake the jar filled with water, tell the Cub Scouts that it will only turn blue if they have Scout Spirit.
  6. Lad & Dad Cake Bake – have the boys work with a male counterpart (older brother, dad, grandpa, even a neighbor) to bake a cake for the blue & gold.
  7. Survival Bracelet
  8. Use fake vampire teeth to present rank advancement awards to the boys. All representative animals (bobcat, wolf, bear) have sharp teeth, so the analogy is an easy one for the boys to grasp.
  9. The Twix vs. KitKat election. A mock election to show the different ways we elect representatives. Dens vote for their favorite- first with one vote/den then based on number of members, and then elect a representative to vote for them, and finally a full vote of all Scouts. Everyone gets to take one of the winning candy.
  10. Use Day Camp as a recruiting tool. Statistics prove that cubs who go camping within the first 60 days of joining stay with the program much longer.
  11. Five after five. For popcorn sales, the boys hit “five after five” – five houses after 5 p.m. Five houses doesn’t seem overwhelming, and waiting until after 5 assures better odds of catching people at home.
  12. Outlaw pinewood derby race as a fundraiser. The pack has created an “outlaw” category for the Pinewood Derby (similar to the Open Class), open to everyone. Invite local dignitaries to enter (such as Police Dept., Fire Dept., city council members) and charge an entry fee.
  13. Ideas for an outdoor pack meeting: provide a bag of Frisbees for a gathering activity of free play. Make ice cream in a bag as a “game”.
  14. Science Olympiad event at a pack meeting. Editor’s note: look back in old Pow Wow books and Program Helps books for information on “Genius Nights” and putting together genius kits. Excellent way to link school and Scouting.
  15. Hand out a 1 page sheet with announcement and upcoming events at the end of each pack meeting rather than take up time during the meeting to read announcements.
  16. Encourage attendance at religious retreats.
  17. Invite the local TV weatherman to speak at a pack meeting.
  18. Outing to a battleship with a sleepover.
  19. Save campfire ashes and add them to the next campfire your pack has.
  20. The glowing bobcat ceremony.
  21. Year in a Night. A 15 minute talk about cub scouting and then we let the kids go have fun. We have 4 areas set up for the boys to go through. a) pinewood derby (our biggest event of the year), b) water bottle rockets (from day camp), c) cubmobiles (from a fall District event) and d) popcorn tasting (to let parents know about our fall fundraiser and to let the boys taste what they are selling. So 4 fun things for the boys to do representing 4 different events that they will get to experience during the year.
  22. Popcorn blitz prize. We set up a goal for the kids in our pack to reach in a certain time frame. We tell the boys that if they sell $500 worth of popcorn in the first 14 days of the sale then we will reward them with an additional prize (typically valued between $10-15).
  23. Get parents involved more with songs & skits.
  24. Have a pack storage unit and use it to share materials between the leaders. This cuts down on the initial cash outlay for various resources, and encourages everyone to use props and things for pizzazz.
  25. Pack Rocket Launch Party.
  26. Do a pack family trip to an historic place for a weekend with families all staying at the same hotel.
  27. If your state parks offer it, use the naturalist/historian. Time permitting, they’ll usually put on a great program at no cost.
  28. Museum /ship overnighters. Ditto previous listing, including having a sleepover in a museum.
  29. Make rope out of plastic bags. The idea here was to recycle plastic grocery bags and use that material to make rope.
  30. Every pack meeting has a table for each den to showcase month’s activities. Not only does this glam up the room with displays, it encourages families to attend the Pack meeting, to pick up the things little Ralphie made!
  31. Precook as much as possible for pack camping. Plan ahead! If most of the cooking is already done, and you just need to either reheat or mix up and serve. This can allow the cooks to actually spend a little more time with the family.
  32. Have the boys decorate cookies for the Police Dept or Fire Dept. Deliver with a “Thank You for keeping us safe during the holidays” message.
  33. Donate leftover food from Blue & Gold to the homeless shelter. Take Cub Scouts when delivering, and use this as a learning experience about their community.
  34. Send a Care Package to troops. Include a banner signed by all the boys, and include their school picture by their message. Our banner said “Pack 913 Loves Our Troops”. Troops deployed in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan like to get care packages of disposable wipes, hand sanitizer, travel soaps & toothpaste, etc. One caution here: the USPS no longer delivers letters/packages addressed to “Any Soldier”. Work with your local recruiting or reserve center to get names and addresses of soldiers.
  35. Do recruiting with an Eagle Scout.

There are a whole lot of classes offered through the Philmont Training Center in 2012, and if you hurry and register you can get the discounted rate through the end of this week!

Categories: Den, Pack, Pack Meetings, Scouts, Training | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments