Kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sailing at Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree was a lot of fun for Troop 108 Boy Scout Devon McGonigal of Peabody, but none of those activities had the biggest effect on him.
The 15-year-old said disability awareness was his favorite activity, and he learned a lot from it. For the activity, he and other scouts performed normal scouting activities, but they did them with limitations faced by disabled Americans. He played basketball in a wheelchair, went through an obstacle course on crutches, played baseball blindfolded, and tried his hand at one-armed archery.
“That was pretty hard,” Devon said of the archery exercise. “I bet you’re wondering how you shoot a bow one-handed.”
The bow was held in place by a stand, and he pulled back the bowstring, he said. The activities gave him a new appreciation for the difficulties many Americans deal with every day.
“It kind of makes you think how hard some people with disabilities have it,” Devon said.
The jamboree marked the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouts of America, and was the final jamboree held at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
He was at the jamboree July 26 through Aug. 4. He also spent a few days touring Washington, D.C., before the jamboree. The group he attended the event with included two scouts from Marion — Justin Barr and Dylan Goebel — in addition to many scouts from the Wichita area.
Devon said he liked seeing the sights in Washington, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument.
“The big old tower, that thing was huge,” he said of the Washington Monument. “That reflection pool is pretty cool.”
Trading patches was a popular activity at the jamboree, and Devon tried his hand at it. His favorite that he traded for was a patch from Penn’s Woods Council depicting a jeep and a skull wearing a Boy Scouts hat. Other patches he added to his collection included one from Japan and a set of guitar-themed patches from Central Florida Council.
The jamboree was attended by about 45,000 scouts, he said. He had never seen that many people in one place for the same purpose before.
“It was kind of hard but cool,” he said. “I was kind of nervous being around so many people.”
The logistics of feeding that many people seemed complicated, Devon said. Every morning trucks brought food to lunch kiosks, where scouts could turn in a ticket for what amounted to a sack lunch. For dinner, groups picked up packaged meals to cook at their campsites.
“What they give you is what you get,” he said.
Washing clothes by hand was another new experience for Devon.
“We had a 5-gallon bucket with a hole in the lid and a toilet plunger,” he said.
Weather didn’t cause many problems during the jamboree, but it was hot most of the time, he said. The last night of the jamboree, his group decided to take down their tents and sleep under the stars. Devon said he didn’t think it was a good idea, and he was proven right when it began raining about 2 a.m.
He said he enjoyed the entire experience of the jamboree and would recommend it to any scout.
“I thought it was really cool to go to National Jamboree on the 100th anniversary,” Devon said. “I wish other kids from my troop could have gone.”