PLC Meeting

Earlier this summer, the PLC voted to hold the PLC meetings on the 2nd Monday of each month – in lieu of a regular Troop meeting.

The following Scouts should plan to attend every PLC meeting:

  • SPL
  • ASPLs
  • PLs (or APL or representative of each Patrol)
  • QM
  • Scribe

The next PLC meeting will then be on Monday, October 12 at 7:00 PM at SJCC.  Remember:  on the night of the PLC meeting, there will not be a regular Troop meeting.

LifePro Camping Tip: Keep Your Paper Towel Roll from Unraveling with This Simple Camp Hack


Posted on September 30, 2015 by 


Paper towels, the Swiss army knife of front-country camping, can do it all: clean messes, wipe dishes and maintain tidiness.

But when wind gusts, as it is wont to do outdoors, things unravel quickly. The roll unrolls. The tail ends up in the dirt.

There’s gotta be a better way. Larry Green, a Scouting volunteer, has one.

His paper towel trick is the first in a series of Camp Hacks I intend to share. These are simple, ingenious ways to improve your camping experience.

Step 1: Get a paper towel roll. Any kind will do.


Step 2: Cut a hole in the top, slightly larger than the diameter of the cardboard tube. [Obligatory knife safety reminder: Always cut away from yourself.]


Step 3: Squeeze the roll on all sides to loosen the tube.Paper-towel-hack-3

Step 4: Slide the cardboard tube out. This is probably the hardest step.Paper-towel-hack-4

Step 5: Set aside the tube. Recycle it, use it in a craft project, etc. Don’t just throw it away.Paper-towel-hack-5

Step 6: Pull the innermost sheet out to get it started.Paper-towel-hack-6

Step 7: Success! You just made a paper towel dispenser.Paper-towel-hack-7

See the video

More from Larry Green

Green, you might remember, is the Scout volunteer behind the dishwashing rack and water-boiling gadget I shared previously. Read more on his Scout Pioneering blog.

Share your Camp Hacks

Have a Camp Hack to make outdoor life better? Email it to me at Please send step-by-step photos if possible, and I’ll make sure to credit you as the originator of the hack!

Guide to the Grand Slam and Triple Crown of National High Adventure

Scouts who are traveling with us to Okpik (and who attended Philmont and Florida Sea Base previously) will be eligible to earn the “Triple Crown.”

Posted on September 25, 2015 by  

Attending one of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases — Northern Tier, Philmont, Sea Base or the Summit Bechtel Reserve — will change your life.

Attending three or four? Why, an accomplishment like that deserves an award.

Scouts, Venturers and adult leaders who participate in a qualifying high-adventure program at three of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases may receive the Triple Crown of National High Adventure award.

Those who participate in a qualifying high-adventure program at all four may receive the new Grand Slam of National High Adventure award.

The awards are administered by the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, and applications are now accepted online at the association’s slick new website.

Here’s everything you should know about these awards — including, of course, a look at the patches.

Triple Crown of National High Adventure award

What is it? Created in 1996, the Triple Crown of National High Adventure award recognizes those who have participated in at least one qualifying high-adventure program at any three of the BSA’s four national high-adventure Bases. That’s Northern Tier High Adventure Bases (Northern Tier), Philmont Scout Ranch (Philmont), Florida National High Adventure Sea Base (Florida Sea Base), and Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base at The Summit (Paul R. Christen).

The 10,000th Triple Crown was awarded this summer.

Which programs count? To put it broadly, you can count the programs for which these high-adventure bases are known. That means Philmont treks, weeks at the Paul R. Christen base, Sea Base adventures and Northern Tier voyages. Activities that don’t count include training conferences, the national jamboree and family programs.

The complete list of qualifying programs is available in this PDF.

What do you get? Recipients of the award receive a 3-inch Triple Crown award patch reflecting the three national high-adventure bases where they participated in a high-adventure program. An optional large (6-inch) Triple Crown of National High Adventure award patch is available for purchase. There is no limit on the variations and quantities that may be ordered of the largepatch.

The patch will show a combination of animals that represents the three bases attended: a loon for Northern Tier, a bull for Philmont, a dolphin for Florida Sea Base and a black bear for Paul R. Christen.

Philmont, Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier

Triple-Crown-PH-SB-NT-Large-PatchPhilmont, Florida Sea Base, Paul R. Christen


Philmont, Paul R. Christen, Northern Tier


Paul R. Christen, Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier


How do you apply? Online only. You do so at this site.

Note: The paper application used for the original Triple Crown (Northern Tier, Philmont and Florida Sea Base) has been discontinued and will no longer be accepted if received after Oct. 31, 2015. Those who have already submitted a paper application should not resubmit online, as doing so will result in further delays in processing their awards. The association says it currently takes about eight weeks to process paper applications from mid-summer to fall because of the large numbers of award applications received during this time.

Applying costs $9, which covers the cost of the patch. You can buy 6-inch versions of the patches separately for $10 apiece.

How do you keep track of participation? To help, use the printable fact sheet and worksheet, available on the “About the Awards” page here.

What if I have other questions? There’s a helpful FAQs here.

Grand Slam of National High Adventure award

What is it? The new Grand Slam of National High Adventure award recognizes those who have participated in at least one qualifying high-adventure program at all four of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases.

Which programs count? Same list included with the Triple Crown. See which programs qualify in this PDF.

What do you get? Recipients of the award receive one 3-inch Grand Slam patch. An optional large (6-inch) version is available for purchase.


How do you apply? Same as with the Triple Crown, you can only apply online. Do so at this site.

How do you keep track of participation? Use the printable fact sheet and worksheet, available on the “About the Awards” page here.

What if I have other questions? There’s a helpful FAQs here.

American Scouter Visited Pope Francis in 2014 and Brought Back the Pontiff’s Message for Scouts


Posted on September 25, 2015 by 


It’s 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning when Bray Barnes gets the call.

The voice tells Barnes he has been granted a private audience with Pope Francis. He needs to be at the pontiff’s Vatican office on Saturday — in just four days.

This call, however unexpected, has been hoped for and sought after.

Months earlier, Barnes had written a letter to the pope informing him about the 100th anniversary of Catholic Scouting worldwide. Barnes, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and the first American to serve as world chairman of the International Catholic Conference on Scouting, wrote that he’d be in Rome in February. He wondered if Pope Francis would offer a blessing to Scouts around the world at that time.

And now this call. Barnes asks the voice, belonging to a Vatican priest, whether the meeting could be pushed to February, when he’s already scheduled to be in Italy.

“Mr. Barnes,” the voice says, “the Holy Father will meet with you on Saturday.”

And so Barnes gets on a plane in New Jersey and flies to Rome. The meeting is set for Jan. 25, 2014.

That morning, Barnes and two fellow International Catholic Conference on Scouting leaders — one from Italy and one from France — make their way to the Vatican.

It’s a Saturday, and St. Peter’s Square is expectedly crowded. The trio weaves through the crowd to the front of the security line. They tell an officer they have a private audience with the pope.

After a pause, they show the skeptical officer a letter from the pope’s office and get to cut to the front of the line.

Once inside, the men walk through ornately decorated rooms, each with its own color palette and watched by a Swiss Guard. Everything — tapestries, upholstery, draperies — seems to bear the papal seal. They arrive at the pope’s outer office a little early and meet with the bishop secretary.

“How long do we have with his holiness?” Barnes asks.

“Whatever he tells you you have,” the bishop secretary says.

“OK, I get that,” Barnes says.

A buzzer rings. The door swings open to reveal a large wooden table surrounded by white chairs with high backs. The table and chairs rest on an Oriental rug, which itself lays on a beautifully polished marble floor. But where’s the pope?

Barnes has a thought: Oh my gosh, maybe he changed his mind or something else came up.

But Barnes has been looking ahead, and the pope’s desk is to the side. He looks right, and here comes Pope Francis, smiling and walking toward the group with hand extended.

They exchange gifts. The pope presents the men with rosaries; Barnes gives Pope Francis a book about Baden-Powell.

“Ah, si, si, Baden-Powell,” Barnes remembers the pope saying. It seems the pope knows all about the founder of Scouting.

The men spend the next 30 minutes discussing Scouting.

Barnes begins with an explanation of the International Catholic Conference on Scouting. The organization, headquartered in Rome, represents 6 million Catholic Scouts around the world through 68 national Scout organizations that are ICCS members. Duty to God, in America and in other countries, remains an important part of Scouting, Barnes tells him.

Next, Barnes asks the pontiff whether he has a message for Scouts as Catholic Scouting enters its second century.

The pope does. Here’s how Barnes remembers it:

We are just custodians. We are here for a very short period of time on Earth. When you work with Scouts, make sure that we pass along to them a good Earth and a good world. We received the Earth as a legacy by those who were before us. Such legacy does not belong to us. We simply have to take care of it for a temporary period, and we owe it to our children and those who will come after us.

What a great message for Scouts, Barnes thinks. Scouts, who spend so much time enjoying the Earth, also have a responsibility to protect it.

But the pope has one more message.

Oftentimes our young people get sidetracked in other things, Pope Francis tells the men. They become consumed with commercialism. It may be television, cellphones, all of these things. Those aren’t what is important. The values you teach in Scouting, that’s what’s important. Make sure you teach your Scouts the importance of the values that will stay with you for the rest of your life. The worldliness, the temptations of the world, the consumerism, the research of easy pleasures, the hedonism — in other words, all those things that try to persuade us that heavens are here right now.

And like that, the meeting ends.

Barnes, who says he would’ve felt blessed to have just five or 10 minutes with the pontiff, enjoyed a half-hour in his company.

“He’s very humble and down to earth,” Barnes says. “Talking to him you felt like you were talking to a friend you had known for a while.”

10 Times the BSA Changed Merit Badge Emblems for the Better


Posted on September 22, 2015 by 


If at first you don’t succeed — well, you know the rest.

Merit badges and merit badge requirements have been improved regularly through the years. So, too, have the circular emblems that represent those merit badges.

Sometimes an emblem doesn’t fully encompass the merit badge. Other times it just looks a little dated.

So today let’s look at 10 times the BSA changed merit badge emblems for the better.


Sure, astronomy includes the study of stars, but a simple five-pointed star seems to undersell this great merit badge. A ringed planet (presumably Saturn?) looks better and makes more sense.


Planes change, and so does the Aviation merit badge emblem. It started as a biplane and then became a single-wing propeller plane and a jet. The current emblem recognizes that aviation takes multiple forms, like ballooning.

Bird Study

Going from some sort of origami-looking bird to a realistic one? Yes, this is a great change.


The original emblem for Hiking included trail markings that were likely tough to interpret for many outsiders. The original emblem used Roman numerals: 5×10 miles and a 20-miler. (Thanks to commenter Cole for the clarification!) The current emblem depicts that transcendent moment of any hike: reaching the summit.


A jumbled emblem with a typewriter, proofreading marks and some items I can’t interpret was replaced with a snapshot of current-day journalism.

Personal Fitness

The Love merit badge? No, this was Personal Fitness merit badge, now Eagle-required. While the merit badge was great for the heart, that symbol probably raised more questions than it answered.


Changing from a hatchet and pick-axe to a pioneering tower better aligns the Pioneering merit badge emblem with the current requirements.

 Rifle Shooting

Lots of activities (and merit badges) use targets, so this change makes sense.


Probably the best improvement on the list. That said, it didn’t take much to improve on the single red line that at one time represented the Salesmanship merit badge.


The change acknowledges that Scouts swim in the water, not through midair.

“Vintage” Troop 883 Photos

Troop 883 is celebrating our 25th Anniversary in 2015.

Recently, we held a picnic to recognize all of the Scouts and Scouters from our Troop – past and present.  Here are a few photos from the “old days.”

The neckerchiefs are still the same (and the Scouts want to bring the “trucker” hats back!)

Walls, a Board Game Devised in Game Design Merit Badge, Now on Kickstarter


Posted on September 10, 2015 by 


Sure, Scouts play games. But there’s a point to it.


Scouts in Utah working on the Game Design merit badge created a fun family board game that employs strategy and luck in an addictive way. Now their Scoutmaster is turning to Kickstarter to bring their game to the world.The game is WallsAs described on Kickstarter, up to six players try to race through a maze toward the finish line. But here comes the twist: Your opponents are constantly moving the maze walls, blocking your path and clearing their own.

It looks like a ton of fun. And it all started in Scouting.

“We decided we wanted to do the Game Design merit badge,” Scoutmaster Dustin Fausett writes on the Kickstarter page. “After an hour of brainstorming, we came up with the basic concept of the game.”

As of the time of this writing, Fausett is almost halfway to his fundraising goal of $25,000. He still has 30 days to go.

Though the idea started as part of the Game Design merit badge, I should point out that the Kickstarter project isn’t affiliated with Scouting in any way. If you become a backer, you’re supporting the game (and getting some sweet rewards, including a copy of the game), but you aren’t donating to Scouting.

With that fine print out of the way, take a look at (links to a video about the game) Walls.


Bring your “A” game and be prepared to compete!  The OA’s one and only Carroll Chapter will be hosting a cornhole tournament during the month of September. This will be a night to remember as we determine who will be our next cornhole champion – and then gather to discuss upcoming business. Materials will be provided, and teams will be determined upon arrival.  It’s up to you to bring the enthusiasm and sportsmanship!  As always, this battle of throwing abilities will take place at the Carroll County Agricultural Center promptly at 7:30 PM on September 8th. Prizes will be awarded to the top two teams.  I hope to see you all there.
Any questions can be forwarded to  and please don’t hesitate to ask!
Also we need help at the Carroll/The Capital sponsored ordeal weekend, September 25-27.  At our meeting, we will have a sign up for the different duties you can help with. Please sign up online.
As we start to finish the year, just keep in mind that we will be having elections in November, and some of you should consider running for office.
Zach Betz
Vice Chief of Program
Austin Ford
OA Carroll Chapter Chief