More than 40,000 people will arrive in West Virginia Wednesday to spend 10 days hiking, biking, camping and giving back to local communities as part of the Boy Scouts of America’s national Jamboree.
Hosted at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve near the New River Gorge in Fayette County, Boy Scouts will be coming from all across the country, as well as a few from abroad, to learn about leadership, earn merit badges and explore the Mountain State.
“It’s really an opportunity to do something these kids may never get to do again,” said Glenn Ault, administrative group chairman for the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree.
BSA hosts a Jamboree every four years, and this year’s is the second to occur in West Virginia. Because of the facilities available at the Summit, Ault said there are many more “adventure” opportunities for attendees to take advantage of, like zip lining, mountain biking and kayaking, to name a few.
“By coming out here [to the Summit] it opened a lot of doors to us that weren’t open before,” Ault said. “There are more opportunities and activities here; we love it.”
Of the 40,000 people attending the Jamboree, 24,000 are Scouts, Venturers and Explorers ages about 12 to 18, while others are staff and volunteers. Registration for the event is about $975 per a person, which covers lodging, food and all activities during the 10 days. Ault said most local councils work together on raising money by fundraising and applying for scholarships when they’re available.
Throughout the 10 days, the local councils get to decide what their agenda looks like and what they want to do. In addition to the outdoor activities, there will also be several speakers and presentations given that focus on leadership and inspiration.
While there is freedom in the day-to-day activities, all attendees will be participating in community service projects across West Virginia either on their way to the Summit or during the Jamboree.
Ault said he expects they will complete at least 100,000 hours worth of community service on more than 220 projects across the state. According to a news release, BSA partnered with Citizens Conservations Corps to find these projects, which include working on flood remediation from last June’s fatal floods, historic preservation, trail work and brush removal, among others.
“This is one of the tenants of the Boy Scouts — service and conservation,” Ault said. “We need to respect the land we have and teach the young people — these Scouts — the value of giving back.”
For many of those coming to the Jamboree, it will be their first time visiting West Virginia. For some, Ault said, it could be their first time leaving their home states. Ault, who is from California and works at the University of Southern California, remembered his first time visiting West Virginia and the appreciation it gave him.
“You hear things, you read things [about West Virginia], but I really appreciated the beauty of this area,” Ault said. “There’s really no other way to understand it until you see it yourself.”
While the 40,000 visitors learn about West Virginia, they will also be learning about those around them and, hopefully, Ault said, gaining respect for each other and different perspectives.
“There [will be] 40,000 people together meeting from states they’ve never been to,” Ault said. “There is inevitably going to be some exchange — exchanging of ideas, cultures, lots of differences, but hopefully respect, too.”
Reach Caity Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5100 or follow @caitycoyne on Twitter.