Sunday, April 18, 2010

Scouts prepare for National Jamboree

By Marshall White

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boy Scouts with a dream of attending the 2010 National Jamboree, which will celebrate 100 years of scouting, gathered Saturday at Camp Geiger.

The 29 Boy Scouts and their leaders set up camp this weekend to get to know one another. The scouts are divided into three patrols, and Seth Heronemus, a Savannah High School student, will lead one. The jamboree will be an opportunity to complete a merit badge requirement or two, as he’s working toward a personal goal of becoming an Eagle Scout.

But Saturday was to be a day of challenges. These Scouts got to use the new Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience, or COPE, course created at Camp Geiger, which includes a $100,000 activities tower that casts a big shadow over the campgrounds.

Twelve-year-old Nick Hanlan was the first Scout to climb up the 65-foot tower to use the zip line. Hooked on to a wire rope above his head, he’d notified the catch team he was ready to leave the relative safety of the tower, and 10 seconds later he was climbing down a ladder about 500 feet away.

“It felt like I was flying,” Nick said.

“How high the tower is, is irrelevant,” said Tony Sasso, a veteran climber who volunteers as a trainer for the Scouts. “It’s all a matter of self-confidence.”

The community’s generosity makes it possible for each boy to build his self-confidence and abilities with something he won’t do anywhere else, Mr. Sasso said.

Before anyone uses any part of the tower, the staff makes sure that everyone wears a safety helmet and climbing harness. The climbing harnesses are similar to the parachute harnesses used in flying, said Mark Hummer, a volunteer staffer who also is a member of the 139th Airlift Wing. The harnesses and ropes used on the COPE course are strong enough to pick up a truck, Mr. Hummer said.

The boys would climb and re-climb to participate Saturday in one of the tower challenges.

“I couldn’t believe I did that,” said Andrew Becker. The Scout had climbed out onto a series of swinging wooden steps away from the tower to what appeared to be a far-away telephone pole, crawled around the pole, grabbed two ropes for hand support and then, like a trapeze artist, walked across a wire rope to another challenge.

With parental support, each of the Scouts has raised the $2,000 it will cost for this year’s jamboree, which will be held in July at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

Some mowed lawns, some did additional chores, but they all got the job done, said John Clawson, the adult leader in charge.

After the Scouts finished any part of the COPE course, you could hear words like “sweet,” “cool” and “neat” being said. Each knew they’d overcome a challenge.

Marshall White can be reached at