New Affinity Group Targets Wood Badgers
For nearly seven decades, Wood Badge has been Scouting’s premier training course for adult leaders. In every BSA council, Wood Badge-trained Scouters are known by their beads, their tartan neckerchiefs, their theme song (“Back to Gilwell”), and their commitment to providing the best possible program for Scouts.
Now, 69 years after the first American Wood Badge course, Scouting Alumni and Friends has created an affinity group, American Wood Badge Alumni (AWBA), to connect Wood Badgers with each other and with the BSA. Its mission is to build a network of alumni for the betterment of American Wood Badge, the Boy Scouts of America, and especially local Scout councils.
“Two of our most prominent and largest affinity groups, Eagle Scouts and members of the Order of the Arrow, already have a well-defined alumni program,” says SAF Senior Vice-chair Rick Bragga. “What better group to go to next than Wood Badgers?”
One advantage of creating the new network is that Wood Badgers tend to be among the most spirited and committed of Scouters. Another advantage is that they’ve all had a similar experience, no matter when or where they took the course. Bragga knows that firsthand. He took Wood Badge in Wisconsin in 1970, even though he lived in Illinois. He then reconnected with the course in Oklahoma, where he attended law school, and Virginia, where he now lives. “The spirit and the purpose of it I think transcend course and place,” he says.
As the AWBA mission statement says, a key purpose of the group is to support local councils. To that end, the group’s website, www.americanwoodbadge.org, offers information on how local councils can engage with and re-engage Wood Badgers. Ideas include everything from planning service projects at local camps to promoting upcoming courses to holding Wood Badge reunions. “As with all of our alumni programs, we want the opportunity to have them tell their story, and then we want an opportunity to tell the BSA story,” he says.
Bragga thinks reunions will be a key entry point. “Are we going to have a feast? Well, we’re going to have a mini-feast. Are we going to sing the song? You bet. Are we going to have a fire? Absolutely. Are we going to swap stories? Oh my gosh, the stories that will be swapped!" Bragga says. “But all of that leads to an ending which is purposeful: to allow people to feel good about it and to find ways for them to stay connected or to reconnect with a local council.
To join AWBA, a Wood Badger must first join Scouting Alumni and Friends at www.scoutingalumni.org, either as a Hiker (free) or Pathfinder ($35) member. From there, they simply set up a profile and choose the appropriate Wood Badge patrol critter.
For more information, visit www.americanwoodbadge.org or www.facebook.com/WoodBadgeAlumni/.