A Boy Scout since first grade, Evan McPherson will put all his skills to the test when he goes the 100th Anniversary of Scouting National Jamboree in Fort AP Hill, Va. The event runs from July 26 to Aug. 4.
McPherson, a 17-year-old who will be a senior at Billings Senior High School this fall, is one of two youth senior patrol leaders who will be leading the Montana delegation of about 60 scouts to the national jamboree. McPherson and Drew Burkenpas of Bozeman, also a youth senior patrol leader, will be keeping track of the scouts.
As a senior patrol leader, McPherson said his job is to make sure the kids, ranging from 11 to 17, get dinner and breakfast and are safe and in camp for the night.
The rest of the time McPherson and more than 40,000 other scouts from across America and other countries will get to participate in a variety of activities and “to have fun,’’ he said. Some of the activities include scuba diving, climbing and BMX motorcycle riding. And, of course, camping.
In June, 69 Montana Boy Scouts and their adult leaders had “a shakedown’’ campout in Great Falls to prepare for the national gathering. The shakedown, McPherson said, was to plan how to squeeze everything into a 100-foot by 80-foot plot that will be their camp site at the Jamboree. Xboxes are out, but cell phones are OK, McPherson said.
The scouts worked on making the gate to their camp enticing so other scouts will say, “Oh, that’s a cool camp’’ and come in and trade patches, McPherson said. He figures he has enough Montana patches to trade with scouts from every state.
The Montana scouts want to show others “we are nice people’’ and that they strive to be “the best we can possibly be,’’ McPherson said.
The Montana contingent also wants other scouts to know “we do not go to school on horses,’’ McPherson said. But just for fun, he’s planning to tell some that they do.
A member of Troop 10 in Billings, McPherson got into scouting through his parents. His mother, Judy McPherson, works at the Boy Scout office in Billings.
McPherson worked his way up from being a Tiger Scout to Eagle Scout, which he accomplished last year with a project for Senior High. McPherson built a shed for the Bronc Boosters, which uses the shed to store posters and gift shop items. The project took about four months to plan and two days to install in the school’s courtyard with help from other scouts and students.
“I just like scouting, so I stuck with it,’’ he said. “I had fun.’’
McPherson has earned 62 merit badges. He needed 21 to be an Eagle Scout. “I have gone a little bit above and beyond,’’ he conceded. He said he enjoys learning about different jobs, everything from aviation and dentistry to space exploration, and getting the opportunity to try different activities.
While back East for the Jamboree, the Montana scouts will do some sightseeing before and after the event. The group will visit Gettysburg, the Smithsonian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other sites.
The national Jamboree is held every four years and has been at Fort AP Hills for 20 years, said Craig Haynes, the district commissioner for the Black Otter District, which encompasses Billings and six surrounding counties. The last Jamboree was held in 2005, with the current event postponed a year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the organization, he said.
Haynes, who volunteered to help set up the event for the Montana Council, also is going to the Jamboree and will help drive the gear to Virginia while the scouts will fly. In addition, eight other adult leaders will be spending their vacations to go to the Jamboree, he said.
Since 1910, scouting has helped mold future leaders by combining educational activities and values with fun, the organization said. Through programs and outdoor skills, scouting helps youth in building character, lifelong learning, mentoring, values, service to others, faith and healthy living.
McPherson will finish with the Boy Scouts when he turns 18 but wants to stay involved with scouting. His plans for after high school are still “iffy’’ he said, but he will be enlisting in the U.S. Navy. The whole idea of scouting began with preparing boys for entering the military by teaching outdoor skills like making fire and shelter, he said. The military has many of the same principles as the Boy Scouts, he said. “The military is a nice idea.’’