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Jamboree Scouts head back home

By Laura Reston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sixteen-year-old Josh Sheridan loves everything about West Virginia -- the rolling hills, the whitewater rafting, even the humidity.

He comes from Berkeley Springs, but he moved across the country to eastern Washington several years ago.

Sheridan had somewhat forgotten why he loved the Mountain State, but the National Boy Scout Jamboree, which concluded Wednesday, refreshed his memory.

Over the past 10 days, Sheridan has hiked, gone rafting and mountain-climbed. As other troop members wilted under the sweltering temperatures last week, he thrived in the humidity.

He plans to come back four years from now as a staff member or Venture Scout.

Sheridan was among the Boy Scouts who swarmed Yeager Airport on Wednesday to catch flights home after spending 10 days at the Jamboree. The Scouts spoke somewhat nostalgically about leaving West Virginia.

"I'm kind of glad to be going home, but I'm also sad," Sheridan said. "We made a lot of friends this week."

A.J. Nickels was one of the friends Sheridan made. The pair had become close buddies during the Jamboree and, on Wednesday, they joked and laughed as though they had known each other for years.

Nickels said his experiences at the Jamboree helped him develop people skills. He ended up befriending many Scouts he said he usually would have avoided.

On Wednesday, he was completely at ease around the other Scouts, who, still wearing sweaty uniforms, hollered as they nudged and dragged stuffed duffle bags closer to the check-in counters at Yeager Airport.

Despite blazing heat and heavy rains since the Jamboree began, the Scouts at Yeager seemed to have enjoyed every minute they spent at The Summit.

They listed the adventure activities as highlights of the trip.

Sheridan said he particularly enjoyed the massive climbing wall, while Nickels enjoyed zooming above the treetops on the zip lines that crisscross the Jamboree site. He fired a shotgun for the first time last week and went whitewater rafting.

Assistant Scoutmaster Bill Merk also took advantage of those adventure activities.

For the past few days, Merk has explored the campsite. He was particularly impressed by the STEM Initiative projects and the sustainability work the Boy Scouts offered during the Jamboree.

For instance, Scouts at the Jamboree took on service projects and embraced robotics, computer science, smartphone apps and social media.

Those programs expose the boys to important career opportunities and instill valuable lessons on the youngsters, Merk said.

"It's all about leadership," he said. "It's teaching them teamwork in an outdoor setting."

After 10 days, though, many Scouts have had enough of the outdoors. Cain Aronson, for example, has been looking forward to not living in a tent.

"I miss having real amenities," he said.

Despite the rustic facilities, though, Aronson said he enjoyed the days he spent on a West Virginia mountaintop and he cherishes the friendships he's forged with Scouts from around the world.

Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5103.


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