100 years later, boys are still honored to be Scouts

The Baltimore Sun

The 150 Boy Scouts gathered with their troops in front of the mess hall at the Broad Creek Scout Reservation in Whiteford.

The youngsters listened to a brief speech, followed by the sounding of a kudu horn and a recitation of their Scout Oath.

"A lot of these boys might not understand what we did out here today," said Reed Blom, who has been the director of the Scout reservation for the past 20 years. "But when they're older, they'll remember that they participated, and then they'll understand the significance of the event."

As Blom alluded, the short ritual about 8 a.m. Wednesday, called Scouting's Sunrise, commemorated a larger event -- the founding of the first Boy Scout camp by Robert Baden-Powell, 100 years ago to the day, in Brownslea, England.

"This event is not just to celebrate the first 100 years of Scouting," said James Milham Jr., director of field service for the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. "It's also a dedication for the next 100 years."

Scouts all over the world held similar vigils.

One of the most significant events was held at the original campsite in England. About 300 of the 32,000 Scouts from around the world who are participating in the 21st World Scout Jamboree camped out last Tuesday night at the Brownslea Island site, Milham said.

Back in Whiteford, once the speech and oath were completed, facts about Scouting were read to the youngsters. Some of the details involved obstacles faced by Baden-Powell when he established the Boy Scouts, said J.D. Urbach, who spoke at the ceremony.

"People thought camping was unsafe and unsanitary," Urbach said. "But Baden-Powell started the camp because he was concerned that children weren't spending enough time outdoors."

Baden-Powell created an outdoor-based program. The campouts are a favorite activity of Charlie Miller of Eldersburg, who recently became the 13th person in his family to make Eagle Scout.

"Almost everything we do is outside," said Miller, 19. "I didn't use to spend a lot of time outside, but now I love the outdoors. I love camping. And everybody knows that Scouting means outing. If you aren't outdoors, you aren't Scouting."

Today the Boy Scouts of America is the largest youth organization in the United States, and the largest national Scout organization in the world, with nearly 3 million youth and 1 million adult leaders, Milham said. Worldwide there are 28 million Scouts in 216 countries, he said.

The growth of the organization is due, in part, to the fact that Scouting has maintained its original model, said Urbach, who works as a project manager for Baltimore-based Laureate Online Education.

"As much as Scouting has changed, there's more that has stayed the same," Urbach said.

In accordance with the original mandates, Scouting teaches character and service learning. But it also gives youngsters a chance to make friends and survive in the woods, said Ryan Beatty of Abingdon.

"Scouting has lasted 100 years because it's a lot of fun, and we learn important things like survival skills that we can use when we get lost." said Ryan, 12, who joined Cub Scouts in first grade. "I've learned how to tie knots, be trustworthy, friendly, loyal and reverent."

Scouting is also a steppingstone to adulthood, Nathaniel Foote said.

"Scouts are helping me prepare for the real world," said the 12-year-old Westminster resident. "It helps you figure out what you want to be when you grow up."

State Sen. J. Robert Hooper from Harford County showed up after the ceremony and challenged the youngsters to work hard.

"You boys are part of the greatest world youth organization in the world," Hooper said. "Be proud that you're a part of Scouting ... and look for ways to give back."

Although Hooper said he grew up on a farm and never participated in Scouts, he saw the impact of Scouting firsthand.

"I saw kids in Scouts who were involved with community service projects," Hooper said. "Today there are too many children who will only do something if it benefits them right at that moment. Boy Scouts teach children to give back and help others."

Nathan Cook, 12, of Perryman, who joined Scouts in kindergarten, made some predictions about the future of Scouting.

"Once you join Scouts, you don't ever want to get out," Nathan said. "And for that reason, I think Scouting will be around for at least another 100 years."

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