National Scouts leader: Scouting has great future

A national Boy Scouts of America leader said during a visit to Wichita on Saturday night that the organization is poised to "reclaim our brand" as it celebrates its 100th year.

"We have 3 million kids in this movement, and we ought to have 10 million," said Tico Perez, the Boy Scouts' national commissioner. "And we're determined to do that."

Perez was the keynote speaker at the Quivira Council's annual recognition dinner at the Wichita Marriott.

He said the Boy Scouts offer hope for a nation that is starved for leaders.

"We make men," he said. "We make fathers. We make leaders."

Perez said that national Boy Scout leaders didn't know what to expect recently when they sent out requests for proposals in anticipation of building a permanent national Jamboree site. He said the group hoped to get 25 replies.

"We weren't really sure where America was with the Boy Scouts," he said.

Perez said the group was encouraged when the first batch of mail brought in 14 responses that were quickly followed up by eight others that arrived by UPS.

"Then there were 35," he said. "Then 45, then 60, then 70, then there were 80 responses from around the country."

He said the leaders had "an incredible Sally Fields 'they-like-us' moment" when they realized that 36 states were competing for the Jamboree site.

They eventually selected a site in West Virginia will open 2014. It will feature rock climbing, rappelling, whitewater rafting and mountain bike riding.

"It's going to be extraordinary," he said.

During the dinner, the 2009 Class of Eagle Scouts was honored, and Perez urged all of them to stick with scouting for as long as they can.

"Now is when scouting really gets great," he said. "Stay with it now. Stay with it through college. Stay with it the rest of your life.

"Twenty years from now, you're going to say, 'It's a big deal.' It is a big deal."