boy scouts

Our Favorite Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

Our Favorite Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

One of the keys to online popcorn sales is connecting with your customers. Letting them know why they should buy popcorn from your scout. Letting them know what their purchase will help your scout do. Not only are they getting a pretty tasty product (my wife just brought home some caramel corn from bought at a show and sell outside our local Walmart), but they’re supporting a young person getting a life-changing program. Ideally, you’re looking to make sales to friends and family who live in areas where delivering product to them yourself isn’t practical. Creating great Cub Scout popcorn sales videos can really help increase your sales.

Here are a few of my favorites to give you some ideas to get going.


The Commercial

If this young man ever winds up as a news anchor, you’ll see where he got his start. This one takes a little more technical skill to pull off, but a picture of a Tiger and some popcorn is always a winner.

The Straightforward Ask

This one takes a lot less technical know-how, but can be just as effective.

The Campaign Video

Here’s another cute one. It starts with a lot of great program pictures and ends with a good sales pitch. The campaign message at the end is very endearing.


The Behind-the-Scenes Video

Sheldon’s pretty awesome. The soundtrack reminiscent of “This Old House” helps too.

Sing a Song

These two Cub Scouts (and their little sister) will amuse and entertain you in a video where the cuteness jumps off the screen. They’ve also got a pretty awesome popcorn website.


Movie Trailer

If you’ve got an iPhone, then you’ve got a movie studio in your pocket. This video was made using the iMovie app. You don’t need a lot of technical skill to pull off something like this, just a lot of imagination.

Make Your Own Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

If you’ve got a cell phone with a video camera, you can make a pretty good popcorn video. They also make lavalier microphones that will hook right up to your cell phone, so that your Cub Scout’s words can be heard clearly.

If your phone doesn’t take great video, you can get the video cameras that won’t break the bank. Or, if you’re going for a little more advanced, you can opt for a video camera with an external microphone.


If you’re just doing a plain, scout looks into the camera video, then you probably won’t need any special video editing software. But if you’re looking to be a little more elaborate. They also help if you need to do more than one take.

If you’ve got an Apple product, you can use iMovie. Unfortunately, on a PC, the good ol’ Windows Movie Maker has been discontinued, but there are some good free alternatives out there, of which Shotcut is probably the best. If that doesn’t work for you, I use Movavi Video editor, which is a paid software. Use promo code “SCOUT” at checkout, and you’ll save 10%.

Once you’ve got your video complete, make sure to share it with friends and family on Facebook.

Make Sure Your Video Includes

  • The link to your Scout’s online selling page (also in the description)
  • Some of the activities your Scout does during the year
  • A brief description of some of the products your Scout likes
  • Make sure to follow the BSA’s social media guidelines.
  • As tempting as it may be, don’t use copyrighted music in your videos. Audio jungle will give you royalty free music for as little as $1.

Creating great Cub Scout popcorn sales videos can help your scout increase their sales, and help to grow your pack’s revenue. You can reach customers you would otherwise miss, and the best part is, you can have a lot of fun with your scout while doing it!

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting, 0 comments
The Cub Scout Recruiting 30 Day Rule

The Cub Scout Recruiting 30 Day Rule

So now that you’ve recruited an excited group of brand new Cub Scouts. The key now is to retain them in the program. So how do you go about doing that? By following the Cub Scout recruiting 30 day rule:

You need to get them outside within one month of joining!

Why did they sign up?

You’ve recruited these boys with a flyer that tells them about the outdoor adventures you’re going to have as Cub Scouts. They’re excited to go exploring, go camping, shoot guns, launch rockets, and that’s just for starters.

Think in your mind what it’s like to be an eight-year-old boy. Think about how excited they are about your program. Consider what they think they signed up for.

Then think about how disappointed they’ll be when the first few months of meetings they go to are nothing but arts and crafts. So, you can’t very well then just have meeting after meeting in the church basement and expect them to be anything other than disappointed.

Remember that the odds that you’ll retain your new scouts go down dramatically if you don’t have some sort of big, fun activity within 30 days of them signing up.


Council or District Activities

It could be a council activity. The Connecticut Rivers Council, for example, is doing a Scout Expo where the boys can do all sorts of fun activities. Councils and Districts all over the country are doing Cub Fun Days, Family Weekends, Spooktaculars and Haunted Hay Rides. Find out what your activities are available in your council, and take advantage of them!

Or Plan Your Own…

If your council isn’t putting anything on like this, or if it’s inconvenient for you to get there for distance or scheduling reasons – hold your own.

It could be a fall overnight campout. If you think your new families aren’t ready to camp out overnight in the great outdoors, most Boy Scout camps offer some form of cabin camping that would be a great first step. You’ll need to make sure someone in your pack has completed Baloo training first.

Hikes is my new favorite app

You could also opt for a short hike. You don’t need to travel a great distance for one of these. Plan a Saturday morning for a few hours, and take the boys for a walk in the woods. Nothing too elaborate. Leave the mountain climbing for another day. But find a trail that’s fun, and accessible for the boys and new parents. Try it out yourself before you do the same trail with 20 or 30 boys.

There are great apps now, like Alltrails that will give you a pretty good overview of the available trails in your area. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s pretty good. It gives you distance, reviews, rating, and the app itself will help you stay on the trail. Getting lost while leading Cub Scouts on a hike isn’t a great first impression.

Take the time to learn about your local plant and animal life. You have the chance to show your scouts the world in a whole different way. Let them know that if they’re quiet in the woods, and paying attention, they’ll see far more animals than they otherwise would.

Rocket Launches

Obviously, you want to put safety first here, so you need to pick an appropriate location and do a test run before you do your main launch event, but launching rockets is a great way to get your new scouts’ imaginations fired up. The other great thing about launching rockets is that, like Pinewood Derby, it’s by nature a “parent and me” activity. They’re going to be working together as a team, and that’s what the program is all about. You may be able to find rocket kits at your local scout shop, or you can get them from Amazon in the links below.

Other activities

Stay within the rules of the Guide to Safe Scouting. But use your imagination, just make sure it’s fun. Maybe you could plan a field day of carnival style games. Get in a game of Gaga Ball. Perhaps a fishing derby. Think about the resources available in your area. Consider the resources available to you in terms of the skills of your leaders and parents.

But have fun with it. Remember, as good as your marketing is, it’s fun, exciting program that’s going to keep kids in your pack, and program that’s going to get them to bring their friends.


Photo by woodleywonderworks

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting, 0 comments
5 Simple Things You Can Do To Grow Scouting This Fall

5 Simple Things You Can Do To Grow Scouting This Fall

Percentage-wise, most people in Scouting aren’t Cubmasters. They aren’t in charge of fall recruiting campaigns this fall, but they can make all the difference when it comes to the success or failure of fall recruiting campaigns. Recruiting Cub Scouts is an exhausting endeavor, so they can use all the help they can get. If we’re going to grow Scouting, we need all hands on deck.

Are you a Scout parent who’s not volunteering with the pack, but wants to help make a better program for your son? Even if you haven’t been involved in Scouting for years, you can be a helper. You can make a difference. Even if your kids are long since grown and out of the house, you can make a difference. You can make sure that kids will get a program that will change their lives for the better.

So, if you’re a camp person, and you want your camp to be filled and vibrant over the years to come, you can’t ignore the recruiting of new scouts. You can’t just assume that someone else is going to do it. If you’re a Boy Scout leader, and you want kids in your troop in five years, then your help is needed to grow Scouting right now.

There are a lot of really simple things that you can volunteer to do in just a little bit of your spare time in the coming weeks that can make a huge difference in getting more families involved in Scouting. Here are just a few things you can do to help get the word out.

Like and Share Scouting Content on Facebook

Okay, if you’ve got an internet connection, a few Facebook account, and a pulse, you can help grow Scouting. If you’re not familiar with the way Facebook decides what shows up on people’s newsfeeds, the number of likes and shares has a great deal to do with it. So, if you’d rather see more scouting stuff in your newsfeed, and less stuff about the eclipse,

Are there community Facebook groups that you’re a member of? Share an article about Scouting in there. Share more than one. I wrote my 10 reasons you should sign your kid up for Cub Scouts. Feel free to share mine or write your own. Sharing content in popular groups is the best way to make sure

Check the local pack Facebook pages for Joining Night Events in your area. Share them on your Facebook Page, or better yet, invite your friends who have Cub Scout-aged kids or grandkids.


Talk about Scouting with your Friends

Have conversations with your friends about Scouting. If they’ve got kids or grandkids, let them know why they should sign them up. Find out when your local pack is having their joining night, and shoot off an email about it.


Volunteer to Do a Boy Talk

Some schools don’t allow Boy Talks, but many others do and don’t get covered because of a lack of volunteers to take the hour or so off work to go and actually do so. I’ve done lots of these, and they’re really a lot of fun to do. If your local public school won’t allow them, then check with your local private and parochial schools. Can you take a couple of hours out of your September to help grow Scouting?

Don’t just limit yourself to schools. Think about after-school programs, Sunday schools, day cares, rec leagues, PALs. Where can you go to talk scouting?


Put Up Yard Signs to grow Scouting

Does your yard have a “Join Scouting Sign” in it? Does your business? What about your church? Contact your local council or your local Cub Scout pack and ask them for one. Pay particular attention to the major routes in town, particularly to schools and major employers.

yard signs

The yard sign across from the school is always a big win.

One of the Cubmasters in a district I used to cover lived at the intersection of the road to the local elementary school. Right smack dab at the stop light. So every year, we made sure there was a Join Scouting sign on his lawn so that everyone who drove to the school would see it. When his family crossed over to the troop, I asked if he’d mind if we put a yard sign on his lawn whenever we were going to do a Joining Night. He, of course, approved.

We also had a church that chartered one of the local troops that agreed to let us put up a yard sign directly across from the driveway of the elementary school.

I’d also be thinking about the roads along the way to the busiest beaches and playgrounds in town. Where’s the traffic?

The more people see the message, the more likely your going to be to grow Scouting in your community.

Deliver Flyers, and Put up Posters

Do you have a business? Can you put a flyer or poster up in your window? What about the businesses around you? What about the lunch room at your office?

Even in the smallest of towns, there are places where you can hang flyers. Every ice cream shop should have a flyer on the bulletin board. Can you take a handful of flyers and put them up in storefronts around town?

Think of the places that parents and kids go in town, and make sure that there’s a flyer taped or pinned up there.



Photo by b0jangles

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting, 0 comments
My Top 10 Reasons to Sign Your Son Up For Cub Scouts

My Top 10 Reasons to Sign Your Son Up For Cub Scouts

This September is a great time to sign your son in Kindergarten through 5th grade up for Cub Scouts. All over the country, Cub Scout packs will be welcoming new members. They’ll be holding joining nights where you can sign up your boy for an adventure that will prepare him for life.

My mom signed me up as a Cub Scout in 1985, in the basement of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Putnam. The program changed my life. Next June, I’ll be signing my now 4-year-old son up for the program. Now, you might be on the fence as to whether or not you should register your son. Here are my 10 reasons why I think you should. There are thousands more.

To listen to this as a podcast, click here.


10. He’ll Try New Things

The first mountain I ever climbed came during my time as a Cub Scout. My mom, who was also my den leader, climbed it with me. Mount Monadnock is the second-most climbed mountain in the world (because it’s easy to get to, and not terrifically difficult.) But when you’re 10, it’s a big deal. I remember getting to the summit. You see the world differently from up there. It’s a perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. You see that this really is a great big world, but you also see that if you keep working, you can get just about anywhere.

Cub Scouts launch rockets. Sometimes they’re model rockets. Maybe they’ll be water rockets. Sometimes air powered, but they launch stuff. It always gets oohs and aahs. There’s a certain amount of awe and confidence gained when the model rocket that they built shoots into the sky.

There will be lots of life-changing experiences like this. It could be the first night ever staying over in a tent. Maybe it’ll be the first time cooking their own food (with supervision, obviously.)

Cub Scouts is like the weather in New England. It always changes. One week they’re building birdhouses, the next, visiting the local firehouse, and the next they’re doing a community service project.

As life is varied, so is Cub Scouts. Nobody just does one thing. Throughout our lives, we play many roles, and in Scouting, you get to try out a lot of those roles.


9. You’ll Get to Experience Cub Scouts With Him

Cub Scouting is a family program. For kindergarten and first grade boys, it’s a “parent and me” program. You get to jump in with your boy. You get to be silly. The two of you will get to work together, going on adventures, and play together. You’ll probably learn things at the same time he does.

You get to be there when he does this impossible. You were there for his first step and remember his first word. Why wouldn’t you want to be there when he spends his first night in a tent, catches his first fish, or is awarded his Bear Badge? How much fun will it be to work with him building that Pinewood Derby car? Or baking that cake together?

Our kids grow up really fast, and these are moments that only come once in a lifetime.

cub scout photo

Photo by jillccarlson


8. He’ll Learn By Doing

There’s an old Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

Scouts get to try things. They get to experience being a leader. He’ll get to build things. There will be exploring. He’ll see what it’s like to go to the TV station. Through “Go See Its” he’ll discover how things work.

He’ll learn to help his community by… helping in his community. Scouts in the US do over 13 million hours of community service each year.


7. Cub Scouts will Help Him Overcome Shyness

I think on some level, everyone has some level of shyness. Maybe you remember the old Jerry Seinfeld joke about people being more afraid of public speaking than death? Well, there’s really only one way to get over that fear, and that’s to actually get in front of people. Cub Scouts get to try out performing songs and skits in front of their whole Pack.

Now, this video may not be the same as acting on a Broadway stage, but it takes a great deal of bravery to get up in front of your friends to perform like this.

6. He’ll Make New Friends

A Scout is Friendly is a point of the Scout Law, but Cub Scouts learn to make friends. In Cub Scouts, the kids from the country get to meet and play with kids from the big city. As they get older in the program and go to more events, they more they’ll meet.

Through scouting I’ve made friends from all over the country, and all over the world. In the course of my time in Scouting I’ve made friends from all over the country, and all over the world. One year on camp staff I roomed with an exchange scout from Egypt. The biggest thing you get isn’t how different people are, but how similar they are. Sure, the climate and landscape of Egypt and Connecticut are different. The cultures are vastly different – but Shicco was amazing at working with the kids. He also got a lot of text messages from his friends who I don’t think realized he was on the other side of the world, so his phone buzzed at 3 a.m. rather often.

When you’re six, your world is pretty small. You know your family, your friends, your teachers, and the kids at school. And that’s about it. But through Scouting you can meet people you otherwise would never come in contact with. You’ll get to realize that while, sure, there are lots of things that make us different, at the end of the day, we’re more similar than we aren’t.

While in school he may learn about other countries, but it’s a far different experience to actually meet them.

5. He’ll Lose at Pinewood Derby (And Build Character)

Cub Scouts build Pinewood Derby Cars with their parents or grandparents. They learn some basic physics. They see that the streamlined car goes faster. That weight distribution on the car matters. But more important than that, they learn sportsmanship. They learn how to be a good loser when things don’t go their way, and a gracious winner when they do.

I jokingly say that physics don’t apply to Pinewood Derby cars. So he’ll learn how to lose, and try again next year. In life, lots of things go wrong. Some of them we can control, and some are beyond our control – but either way, we need to be able to deal with it, and move forward.

From failure, we learn resilience. We learn to keep trying. We learn from our mistakes, and we learn that some things are the end of the world… and some things are not.

Scouting is a safe place to fail – and more importantly, to learn from that failure to succeed.


4. It’s Remarkably Safe

The Boy Scouts of America has a remarkable record of safety and abuse prevention. Their Youth Protection Policies work. No adult is ever one-on-one with a child that is not their own. Every leader undergoes a full background check when they register. Each and every leader is required to complete Youth Protection Training every two years – and you can take that training online yourself right now.

There’s a whole guide to tell leaders what activities the kids should and should not be doing, and at what age – that you can read yourself. Leaders are required to complete specific training before they take youth on outings, and it’s not just specific to the activity, but to the age of the youth. There’s a vast difference between taking a 7-year-old and a 17-year-old camping.

3. They’ll Get Great Role Models

You might be the most impressive person on Earth, but in this mortal coil, we are limited. Everybody’s good at something, but nobody’s good at everything. Through scouting, your child can meet (and learn from) adults from all walks of life.

It’s amazing the range of volunteers you find in Scouting. It may not be obvious at first (because the leaders are usually in uniform), but you can have lawyers and business leaders, construction workers and farmers all leading the same Pack. They’ll get to see great examples of productive people, and community leadership.

But it will be in an informal, silly, and comfortable environment. They’ll see that the firefighter they look up to isn’t all that different from them. At some point, they’ll make the connection that the people they look up to used to be just like them.


2. Cub Scouts is Fun

Cub Scouts giggle. A lot. The one thing you can be sure to see at just about any Cub meeting you go to is kids having fun.

I’ve always thought of Cub Scouts as a big magic trick. A good magician shows you what he wants you to see while hiding what they’re actually doing from view. This is how your grandfather made the quarter appear behind your ear.

The kids see the fun. They see the games. They see the pinewood derby cars, the rockets, the hikes, the swimming, and the other activities. What they don’t realize until later is what they were actually learning. Character. Citizenship. Fitness. Self-confidence. Empathy. Leadership.

They just think they’re having fun.

1. Cub Scouts will Improve His Life

It will prepare him for life. A Tufts University study tracked over 2,000 scouts and non-scouts in the Philadelphia area over the course of two-and-a-half years and studied the changes in their behavior and their attitudes. They did this so that they could control for the attitudes and values of the young people over the course of the study – to counter the argument that “Scouting merely attracts better young people instead of helping make them.”

The study found that scouts had huge increases when compared to non-scouts when it came to cheerfulness, kindness, hopeful future expectations, trustworthiness, helpfulness, and obedience. Scouts in the survey were more likely to respond with answers like “helping others” or “doing the right thing.”

The study shows us that the program actually does what it claims to do. It does improve lives. It does build character. The values that Scouting teaches actually do improve the lives of young people. As it turns out, repeating and reflecting on the values contained in the Scout Oath and Law has an impact.

The point of Cub Scouting is not to make the world’s best 9-year-old, though that’s a nice side-effect. The point is to prepare them to have well-rounded, successful lives.

To find a pack near you for your son, go to

If you didn’t see your favorite reason, feel free to list it below.

Scouting units and districts, please feel free to copy this material for your website, I just ask that you link to the original when doing so. Thanks.



Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting, Volunteering
GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

If you’ve been to a scout camp in the last four years or so, you’ve probably seen kids playing a lot of GaGa Ball. It’s been the hit of our day camp for the past five years, and it seems like the pit at every resident camp I’ve visited is in near constant use. There’s even a “Gaga Center” on 93rd Street in New York City.

It’s a great game that will keep kids moving, and entertained for hours. It’s painfully simple to learn, and as kids play, they’ll start to develop strategies. Teenagers can play a fast, exciting physical style, and yet the game can be played effectively by kids as young as four or five.


The Origins of GaGa Ball

According to Stephen Silver of Tablet Magazine, the inventor of Gaga Ball is Steven Steinberg. Steinberg was a 17-year-old camp counselor at a JCC camp in Maryland, Camp Milldale.

One rainy day in 1975, Steinberg took the six-year-olds in his care to a covered, wall-less shelter. There they started playing a “form of dodgeball”. In order to stop the ball from rolling down a nearby hill, he laid some benches along the sides to contain the ball. And Gaga Ball was born?

And what about the name? Gaga Ball? It’s been said in some places that it’s from “touch touch” in Hebrew, but according to Steinberg, it isn’t quite so cultural. Apparently, during a moment of frustration with the children, he called his six-year-old charges, “a bunch of babies”, and they responded by making baby sounds. Goo goo, ga ga.

The name stuck. And when the activity became scheduled, it was written down as “ga-ga.”


Gaga Ball Rules

While the rules seem to vary by location, here are a set of “official rules” according to the Gaga Center in New York, here:

  • All players start with one hand touching a wall of the pit.
  • The game begins with a referee throwing the ball into the center of the pit.
  • When the ball enters the pit, the players scream ‘GA’ for the first two bounces, and ‘GO’ on the third bounce, after which the ball is in action.
  • Once the ball is in play, any player can hit the ball with an open or closed hand.
  • If a ball touches a player below the knee (even if the player hits himself or herself) he or she is out and leaves the pit. If a player is hit above the knees, the play continues.
  • Using the walls of the octagon to aid in jumping is legal as long as the player does not permanently sit on the ledge of the octagon.
  • If a ball is caught on a fly, the player who hit the ball is out.
  • Players cannot hold the ball.
  • If needed, a second ball can be thrown in the pit to expedite the end of the game. The last player standing is the winner of that round.

Making Your Own Pit

So, if you’ve got the time and a suitable permanent location, you can build your own Gaga pit. You’ll just need twelve 2x12x16′ boards, six 1x6x12′ boards, sixteen 3″ hinges, and two pounds of 2″ deck screws. And some tools. And it would help to be a much, much better carpenter than I am. But if you this kind of person, or you know somebody who is, you can find a complete set of instructions at


Or… you can buy an inflatable portable one

As you can see below, Gaga pits are on the expensive side. Probably out of the price range for most packs. But if you’re a council or district representative, you might want to look into investing in one. I know of at least one council that has one and lends it out to packs and troops as needed. They’re great for joining night activities.

The nice thing about it is that it’s portable and relatively easy to set up. It’s a little on the heavy side, but a couple of adults should be able to maneuver it. You will need an outlet to power the pump.


Photo by Camp Pinewood YMCA

See larger image

Additional Images:

Gaga Ball Pit

Easy and quick to inflate, this portable Gaga Ball Pit is a huge hit with kids and adults. Interior playing area of 15′ x 15′, this Gaga Ball Pit entertains lots of people for hours. When the game is over, it stows away neatly and frees up the space for other activities. The FunAir Gaga Ball Pit is made with top quality materials and workmanship and backed by a 1 year limited warranty. Includes 2 FunAir Gaga Balls, FunAir electric pump, PVC repair kit and manual pump for inflating the ball.
New From:$2,495.00 USD In Stock

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Scouting
An Eagle Scout Letter from Bill Belichick

An Eagle Scout Letter from Bill Belichick

I’ve been to a lot of Eagle Ceremonies. Probably hundreds. It’s customary for dignitaries to write letters to Eagle Scouts. Eagles get letters of congratulations from current and former US Presidents. They get them from members of Congress, governors, mayors, and state legislators. Mike Rowe’s Eagle Scout Letter is quite popular. But for the most part, they’re pretty standard. Generally, the boy’s parents or the leadership in the troop writes away to people the boy admires to request the congratulatory letter.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Bryan on Scouting has a great article on how to request Eagle Letters. But every once in a while, you see one that sticks out. This one came across my Facebook feed tonight from a very proud mom.

An Eagle Scout Letter from Bill Belichick

New Eagle Scout Adam Tripplett got one he’ll certainly never forget. His mom Cheryl went big. She wrote to Coach Bill Belichick requesting an Eagle Scout letter.

Recently, Adam completed his Eagle Project. He raised money to provide a local Veteran’s Home with exercise equipment (also building a jump box) for rehabilitating servicemen. He also installed a flag pole and solar light in the front yard; and if that wasn’t enough, he created new doors for an old storage shed out back to keep the equipment and weight set in. With the remaining funds, he bought them a grill and grilling utensils. That’s an impressive project, to say the least.

So Cheryl included a description of his project in her letter to the coach. She let Belichick know what a big fan Adam was, and put an Eagle sticker on the outside of the envelope. And dropped it in the mail, to:

Bill Belichick
Gillette Stadium
1 Patriot Place
Foxboro, MA 02035-1388

And two a half weeks later, they got the letter below back in the mail from Patriot Place and the Five-Time Super Bowl winning coach.

As with anything, you never know what you’ll get, until you ask. So the next time you’re getting ready for that next Eagle Ceremony in the troop, think a little bit outside the box and see who you can get.


bill belichick eagle scout letter



Belichick Photo by Keith Allison

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Scouting, Social Media
7 Life Skills You Learn from Backpacking

7 Life Skills You Learn from Backpacking

One of my favorite Scout leaders passed away last month. He could be a little gruff – in a good way. If the troop hadn’t been backpacking in a while, he’d notice that the boy’s discipline on campouts would start to break down a little. They’d take a little longer to get going in the morning. “We haven’t hiked them in too long,” he’d say.

He was right, of course. There’s a lot to be said for summer camp and you can learn quite a bit at a Scout meeting or a campout. But there’s something about a backpacking trek that just can’t be duplicated anywhere.

Backpacking experiences are life-changing. When you get back you see the world differently. You see yourself differently. There are things you can learn on the trail, and nowhere else. These are things that can’t be taught. They have to be experienced and learned. I can tell you about what it’s like to put your foot on the summit, but until you actually do it for yourself, you can’t understand.

Backpacking teaches Goal Setting

mount washington summit photo

Summits are easily identifiable goals. Photo by Willeke_igkt

Mountains are wonderfully clarifying things. When you set off to climb a mountain, the summit is an easily identifiable goal.

You know you have to keep hiking until you reach the summit. Getting to the summit is a success, anything less is a failure. And you’re not competing against anyone but yourself, and I suppose, the mountain.

But you can’t climb a mountain in one step. It’s a series of little victories. Get to the end of each section of trail. Pick a tree in the distance, and hike to it, and when you get to it, pick another tree – until there are no more trees.

Then go for the summit.

Getting to the summit always gives you an amazing feeling of accomplishment. You’ve set yourself a goal, and you’ve met it – and you’re literally on top of the world.

When I used to be an instructor for Camping Merit Badge, we’d always make the last requirement the one where the scout would have to “Hike up a mountain where, at some point, you are at least 1,000 feet higher in elevation from where you started.”

When they reached the summit, I’d shake their hand, and congratulate them on completing the badge.

And when I proposed to my now-wife, I did so on the summit of Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire. Because while the summit of a mountain is a goal, it lets you see for miles, and lets you see all the other goals you have still in front of you.


Appreciating Nature

I live in Eastern Connecticut, which I think is one of the prettier parts of the globe. It’s hilly, but not mountainous. So you don’t get the amazing views you get from summiting a mountain.  You don’t get to look down on a cloud. There’s a perspective about the world you can only get from a mountaintop, where you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction, and see the curvature of the Earth all around you.

You can see the trailhead you started from, and you realize that even though it’s a great big world, you can get just about anywhere if you keep going forward, and don’t give up.

mount washington photo

You can’t get an education like this in a classroom. Photo by InAweofGod’sCreation


The temptation is always there to stop. To find a comfortable spot on the side of the trail, and take a nap. (I must admit, some of the rocks on the Appalachian Trail are extremely comfortable, napping-wise.)

But you aren’t going to get to the summit by napping. You aren’t going to get to your goals in life by taking constant breaks and hoping something comes along. Nobody’s going to carry you to the summit, and there’s never a bus when you need one. You need to rely on yourself and prove to yourself that you can keep going.

And you have to keep your stuff together. You only have so much daylight to get from where you are now to where you’re sleeping tonight, and if it’s 15 miles, you’d better get a move on. No time for messes. Dawdling in the morning doesn’t cut it.


When hiking alone, or in small groups, you wind up with a lot of quiet time. The distractions are all gone, and you’re left alone with your thoughts. It’s a wonderfully clarifying thing, especially for young people in an age of nearly constant stimulation. Hiking leads pretty naturally to reflection and self-contemplation.

I find, even now, that my best life choices aren’t made sitting on the couch, but on a hiking trail.

You also learn that you if you’re quiet, and you pay attention, you’ll see a whole lot more. As Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching.”

When I was a kid, I was always amazed at how my dad always managed to see so many animals while we were walking in the woods. Now that I have kids of my own, I find myself pointing out the animals to them.

Backpacking teaches Planning and Self-Reliance

What do you really need when you go camping? How do you pack your backpack for efficiently to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible, whilst keeping your pack under 70 pounds? Do you need three magazines? How many pairs of socks do you actually need?

You learn each time you go what you need, and what you don’t need. Good socks are a must, but you can probably leave the Dutch Oven at home.

Have you got enough water for the trail? Can you get water along the way, or do you need to need to fill your bottles for the journey? Will you need a water filtration system?

When it comes to life, the specifics are all different, but the thought process is the same. A wise man once said, “planning is the art of living the experience in advance.”

Another just said, “Be Prepared.”

Perseverance and Character

Hiking is difficult. It’s challenging to carry 40 or 50 pounds on your back up a mountain, even for the fittest among us.  And the only way to get there is to keep going, keep moving, keep pushing forward. Whatever happens in life, like on the trail, you have no real choice but to keep moving forward.

satisfied hiker photo

Photo by Ken Lund

You learn a great deal about yourself by challenging yourself. I honestly think that if I hadn’t completed my first 50-miler through the White Mountains of New Hampshire as a teenager, I would have dropped out of college during my sophomore year. But if I could survive on the trail with a 50-pound pack, that I knew could manage in Boston.

Of all the great treks I’ve ever done in Scouting, my favorite may have been the one in which everything went wrong. We were climbing a mountain in western Connecticut. We’d done it a few years before, so we thought we knew the trail pretty well. Unfortunately, the school that owned the trailhead had cut a few more trails in the intervening years – and our maps were outdated (ah, the time before Google.)

A little while after lunch we reached the mountain’s summit. We took out our maps to see how much further we had to go to get to our campsite. To our great dismay, we noticed that none of the landmarks seemed to be where they were supposed to be on our map.

We had climbed the wrong mountain. And there was no trail between us and our campsite.

So the 12 scouts and four leaders had to navigate through a few miles of dense, even undergrowth. It was hard work, but none of the kids complained. They worked together, helped each other, and were even making jokes along the way. I’ve never been prouder of a group than I was of those boys that day.

And this group of teenagers was all asleep before 5 pm.


Once you get past the initial shock of backpacking and it starts to become fun, trails become puzzles. How are you going to get across this stream? Where do you put your feet on this rocky part of the trail?

How do you react when your equipment breaks? What do you do someone in your group breaks an ankle?

All manner of unforeseen challenges come up on the trail. Being prepared isn’t just about having the right stuff in your pack, but being mentally ready when everything goes to seed.

Of course, the biggest challenges in life don’t come when we’re backpacking, but in our regular lives.

It’s what we learn on the trail that gets us ready for them.

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Scouting
The Campfire Defender Keeps Your Fire Safe and Contained

The Campfire Defender Keeps Your Fire Safe and Contained

Campfires are useful and fun. They keep us warm, cook our food, and give us light. But they can also be dangerous, and susceptible to the weather. That’s where the “Campfire Defender” comes in.

It’s a campfire management tool – essentially a fireproof tarp you stake down over your fire. And it allows you to control your fire in ways you couldn’t before.

So let’s say you’ve had a great evening campfire, but now it’s time for bed, and to be responsible you need to douse your campfire. This leaves you with two problems in the morning. One, you need to restart your fire, and two, your fire pit is still wet from the night before. The campfire defender solves both of these problems, safely. Instead of dousing your fire, you cover it securely. The vents in the blanket allow the fire to get air but don’t allow any sparks to escape.

In the morning, you’ll have a much easier time getting your fire going again from the dry coals. Just take off the tarp, add some more fuel to your coals, and you’ll have a fire in no time.

It’s also a great tool for protecting your fire from the rain, wind, or snow. Most campfires will probably withstand a light drizzle, but be extinguished by a downpour. This obviously will put a damper on your attempts to cook on that fire. The campfire defender solves this problem. It also can help you control dangerous flying embers.

It’s also got the nice feature of being a heat reflector that can be used to deflect the heat from small fires.

The Campfire Defender in Action

It comes in two versions. The “lite” version weighs about four pounds and covers an area 34 inches by 30 inches. The “pro” version weighs 16 pounds and covers an area 68 inches by 60 inches.

For more camping recommendations, check out our guide to summer camp essentials for new leaders.

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Scouting
Treasure Valley Camp Staff Goes the Extra Mile

Treasure Valley Camp Staff Goes the Extra Mile

Here’s a story that’s not going to make the front page of the paper. It’s not going to lead the evening news. But it says everything about what Scouting produces – character. The Treasure Valley Camp Staff went above and beyond the call of duty to help a young Scout.

Troop 159 from Brookfield was attending summer camp at Treasure Valley Scout Reservation in Rutland, Mass. just outside of Worcester. This past Thursday, one of their Tenderfoot scouts, Donald Parkes, a 13-year-old scout with special needs, forgot his bathing suit for his Swimming Merit Badge class. There just wouldn’t be time for him to get back to his site, get his suit, and return to the waterfront to get changed. This would prevent him from completing the final deep dives that he needed to finish off requirement 6 and finish up his badge.

Here’s what Donald would have to do to complete his badge:

6. In water over your head, but not to exceed 10 feet, do each of the following:

a. Use the feet first method of surface diving and bring an object up from the bottom.
b. Do a headfirst surface dive (pike or tuck), and bring the object up again.
c. Do a headfirst surface dive to a depth of at least 5 feet and swim underwater for three strokes. Come to the surface, take a breath, and repeat the sequence twice.

The weather on Friday looked like it would prevent Donald from getting back in the water, so the staff suggested he come back that evening to finish up his requirements during the Open Swim after dinner.


All Hands on Deck

Of course, the weather in New England is what it is, so by the time Open Swim came around, the temperature had cooled to 56 degrees. As you can imagine, this greatly reduced the number of people in the water… to just Donald and the hearty staff.

That 13-year-olds can be forgetful is something that camp staffs, leaders, and parents have come to expect. Especially anxious ones nervous about completing a challenging merit badge. So Donald, who had previously forgotten his swim trunks, this time forgot his dry clothing to change back into once he got out of the water.

So his Scoutmaster, Tim Kane ran back to the campsite to get them. Upon his return to the waterfront, Scoutmaster Kane was amazed by what he saw:

“Not only was Donald and his instructor in the cool water, but the entire aquatics staff here was coaching and cheering Donald on from the dock.

“An hour later, Donald earned this Eagle rank required merit badge because of his own perseverance despite his special challenges, and also because of a staff who refused to give up on him.”

These are moments that you feel privileged to get to see at camp. It gives you goosebumps, every time.

The Treasure Valley Camp Staff Comes Through

One doesn’t work on a Boy Scout camp staff to get rich. You do it because you want to make a difference in people’s lives. The Treasure Valley Camp Staff proved that in spades. But these amazing thing is that they don’t surprise us. We expect these things. What this staff did for Donald they’ll do for many other scouts over the summer.

In the end, it was Donald who did the work. He didn’t get any shortcuts to his merit badge. But it was the dedication and encouragement of the camp staff that he and his scout leaders won’t soon forget.

Hopefully, someday, Donald will have a chance to pay it forward and help a younger scout the way he was helped. The biggest lesson learned at Browning Pond had little to do with surface dives, and a lot more to do with life.

Mr. Kane put it best, “God Bless Treasure Valley Scout Reservation, our home away from home. Thank You.”




Do you have a great story about Scouts doing amazing things? Send me a message, and I’d love to help you tell their story.

Have a child who would benefit from the Scouting program? Find out more at

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Scouting, Social Media, Volunteering
Doing a School Recruiting Talk

Doing a School Recruiting Talk

Over the years I’ve done hundreds of school recruiting talks or “Boy Talks.”

They’re a great tool for bulking up your recruiting numbers. On average, it’s estimated that a good school recruiting talk can triple the number of families who will actually show up to your joining night.

Let me start with a little story about one of the first Boy Talks I ever did, or rather the result. That year I did around 20 Boy Talks in schools around Aroostook County, Maine. We had a great recruiting season and increased our membership as a district. But that seemed a little abstract to me.

It stopped feeling abstract when I was walking around Camp Roosevelt for one of the Cub resident camps the next summer. A boy who looked to be about eight stopped me on the trail and said, “You’re the man from the school.”

Those few words made my whole summer.

It probably took me about 25 minutes round trip to drive from my house in Presque Isle to his school in Mapleton. Probably another two hours to talk to all the kids in the lunch waves that day. But that brief bit of time got him to join Scouting, got him to camp, and changed his life for the better.

The biggest reason that kids don’t join the program is that nobody asked them. Getting a flyer is not an ask. A personal invite from you is an ask.

Getting the Boy Talk

I think the first question I think of when someone talks about something like this is, that’s great, but how do I get in the door?

You don’t want to overcomplicate this. In my experience, the best way is to just ask them. Go to the school, talk to the secretary, ask to speak to the principal, and tell them what you want to do. You want 3-5 minutes during each lunch period to talk to the kids about Scouting.

Ideally, the person doing the ask is a person with kids in the school, who knows the secretary, knows the principle, and is involved with the school community.

I’ve found that late July / early August are the best times to stop by schools to ask about doing a talk. There’s not a lot going on at the school, so they’re usually in a pretty good mood, and much more likely to entertain your request. If you go the first week of school in September, it’s going to be hectic, and you’re much less likely to get a “yes.”

You want to be prepared for possible objections. You appreciate that they don’t want to take away from the kids instructional time. Let them know that you’re on the same page here. You should also let them know that you’re going to stick to your 3-5 minutes in the lunchroom.

Each school is different and getting to know the people is usually the key to success.


Don’t Forget Private Schools

In over a decade of doing these, I have never, ever, ever been turned down when asking a Catholic School to do a school recruiting talk. My success rate at all private schools is nearly perfect. These schools tend to be extremely supportive, and receptive to your message.

Also, don’t overlook Day Cares and other afterschool programs. If you’ve got a tough time getting school access to do a presentation, these can be the next best thing. Also, don’t overlook the possibility of making presentations at Sunday Schools or other religious organizations.

Who Can Do a School Recruiting Talk?

So in just about every district, there’s a math problem. Packs tend to think that only their District Executive can do Boy Talks. But most districts have a lot of elementary schools and only one DE. Combine this with a limited number of days before your joining night, and you can see how a lot of schools won’t get covered.

So who else can do Boy Talks? The short answer is anyone. Of course, you want someone who’s pretty good at public speaking. Someone friendly and warm, who’s going to get the message across soundly.

You want someone who’s not going to fall apart at the snarky comments of fifth graders.

So what types of people should you consider?

  • Cubmasters and Den Leaders
  • Committee Members
  • Pack Parents
  • Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters from your local troop
  • Commissioners
  • Nearby District Committee Members
  • Eagle Scout Alumni

Types of Presentations

Lunch Talks

This the preferred method of school recruiting talk right now. You show up at the school before the first lunch wave. Someone from the school takes you to the cafeteria. When the kids are done eating, you give a 3-5 minute talk on what Scouting is.

These are probably the most exhausting type for you to do, as in some bigger schools you might actually be there for 4+ hours.


These are most common in private schools, particularly Catholic schools. Usually, they send someone with you to escort you from room to room. The teacher stops class for a few minutes, and you talk about Scouting.

School Assemblies

These used to be the most common. The kids are called from class to the auditorium, or cafeteria, or cafetorium. You then get 5-10 minutes to tell them about Scouting.

You can also get some schools to let you do brief assemblies at the end of the day, right before the kids get on the bus.


Doing Your School Recruiting Talk

There are lots of ways to actually do school recruiting presentations. No matter what you do, you want to keep it short, to the point. And you absolutely positively have to end it with a memorable call-to-action. “Come to the School Cafeteria at 6:00 pm tonight, bring a parent or guardian and be ready to have fun.”

My own school recruiting talk was pretty simple.

“Who here likes fun?”

Wait for the kids to raise their hands.

“Good, because Scouts have fun. They do fun things. How many here think it would be fun to go camping? (wait for hands) And put up a tent with mom or dad? (wait) How many think it would be fun to go swimming? (wait)”

And I’d list off a bunch of different activities that Cub Scouts do. If you’ve got girls in the room, make sure to talk a little bit about Girl Scouts. Better yet, have a Girl Scout representative with you.

Also, I usually steer clear of talking about shooting sports. You have plenty of other exciting activities you can talk about, that aren’t as likely to cause you trouble with a school administrator.

Make sure you have something to give them. A sticker with a phone number and a website. Maybe a pencil? Perhaps the flyer. I used to have pretty good success giving the kids their flyers and telling them to fold them up and put them in their socks to show to mom when they got home.

When you’re done giving your talk, you can “work the room”, going from table to table answering questions.

Here are a couple of other examples of a school recruiting talk.

You can find a lot more examples of Boy Talks on YouTube.

Take from them what works for you. Make it your own. And have fun with it.
Other Recruiting Articles

7 Things to Do Right Now To Get Ready For Fall Recruiting

9 Summertime Recruiting Opportunities

23 Great Places to Hang Flyers


Looking for great deals on camping supplies, check out our guide to Amazon Prime Day.

Photo by USDAgov

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting