By Shawn Kitchen
It was a buggy, overcast day when we arrived at Camp Woods three years ago for the 12th Canadian Jamboree, located at Sylvan Lakes, Alberta. Exhausted, cranky and slightly bruised from a hailstorm the night before, we unloaded the vehicles and set up our tents. Although none of us said it, it was clear that we were all glad to have finally arrived.
Three days now we had been on the road. Over 2100 kilometers of weaving patchy highways filled with endless, unbroken scenery. We stopped only for food, gas, sleep, the famous Liard Hot Springs and, of course, Costco. With every passing mile, the excitement that had built-up in the preceding months seemed to dim slightly as is often the case with long road trips.
Although still suffering from “road trip lag,” we were eager to explore the campsite when we arrived. It didn’t take us long to get lost. As Offers of Service (OOS), we had arrived a couple days early to prepare our stations for the forthcoming week. As we walked along the deserted pathways, we discussed the years of Scout Popcorn sales, grocery bagging and sandbagging we had put into fundraising for the trip. Although seemingly pointless at the time, it was now clear that it would all be worth it.
We soon ran into someone I had previously met at another Scouting event. At the time, she was known to me only as “that Scouting girl I am friends with on Facebook.” As someone who had only ever met a handful of Scouts outside my own Group, I was eager to meet the other members of her Company/Crew and start making friends; a decision that unknowingly would soon alter the course of my Scouting life.
Soon after, the participants began to arrive. The wave of excitement and the sense of adventure was enough to knock you off your feet. Everywhere you went, participants discussed the exciting days to come; some were pumped for the great programs, such as zip lining and kayaking, while others began teaming up to seek out the hottest badges.
As a member of the OOS team running CJ Radio, 88.1FM, I often found myself in the heart of the action. There were fascinating and adventurous programs, such as rock climbing, archery, swimming, snorkeling, hiking and a “free day in town.” Drop in activities included sumo wrestling, paracord bracelet building, live concerts, games, and an array of activities dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Everywhere you went, you could hear the sound of memories being made.
Jumping back to the present, I can’t help but wonder why Canadian Jamborees are such a big deal. Why would so many people travel so far for so long for just a week of activities? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to camp closer to home or more interesting to travel abroad? Wouldn’t exchange trips create stronger personal bonds? Possibly… It is true that camping closer to home would be cheaper, and yes, traveling abroad has the potential to be more interesting. However, this doesn’t change the fact that thousands of Scouts are drawn to the Canadian Jamboree when it’s held. So what’s the big attraction? What do CJs offer that everything else can’t?
The experience of Canadian adventures. Canada’s largest Scouting event is really all about the experience and adventure. You see, CJs are not just any old Scouting event. It’s not about what you do at camp. It’s about what you take away – the stories, the memories and the friendships. Think of a jamboree as a large Scouting party, where everyone gets together simply to have a great time. It’s a great way to remind ourselves that we are part of a larger entity; a worldwide movement comprised of over 40 million members worldwide.
It’s about what you take away – the stories, the memories and the friendships.
As with every great event, CJ’13 eventually came to an end. We packed our cars and headed home. And although we travelled the same distance home as we had coming down, the trip appeared to pass by much, much quicker. Tired, smelly and considerably more tanned, we arrived home two days after leaving camp. The adventures were done and the excitement was beginning to subside; however, the experience still has yet to fade.
I personally took away more than just memories and experiences from CJ’13. Approximately one year after CJ had ended, I moved away for school and became a member of the Crew I had met on my first day at CJ. The Canadian Jamboree set me up with a whole new Scouting family, who welcomed me with open arms.
National Youth Spokesperson
Discover how you can participate in CJ’17. Visit the CJ’17 website: scouts.ca/cj17.