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PATCH TRADING—LITTLE PIECES OF HEAVEN “It’s amazing what skating


can do for the development of character for kids,” Birt said. “There’re some kids that team sports work really well for. For other kids, that doesn’t work as well. Especially kids with disabilities.” That point isn’t lost on Birt.


If you watch him skate from afar, all you’ll see is a confident man showing Scouts a third his age how it’s done. Step closer, though, and you see just how remarkable the man is. He points to his artificial leg, the result of a birth defect that left him missing part of his tibia on the right side. After a series of surgeries, Birt was skating by age 8. Four decades later, he’s no


longer performing flip tricks or 360 spins, but he still glides around the skate park effortlessly. Scouts at the Shakedown took notice, and many stopped to gawk at his skills. Then, they lined up to try it themselves. “I think it’s really inspiring to see somebody that has a physical disabil- ity just out here killing it,” Birt said. “Like, ‘Oh gosh, that guy can do it. Maybe I can, too.’” Birt’s insistence on disability


awareness affects other aspects of the Summit as well. He and other volun- teers examined every activity for next year’s jamboree to find ways to make it accessible to Scouts with physi- cal and mental challenges. Scouts with Asperger’s, autism, dyslexia, or other learning differences will feel at home with staff trained to provide individual attention when they spot a Scout struggling. And staff also will accommodate Scouts who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices thanks to special zip-line harnesses, custom-built mountain bikes, and other need-based equipment.


“THE SUMMIT’S a very challenging place,” Birt explained. “There’re lots of mountains and hills and so forth, so


ONE LITTLE PATCH started a revolution. Spencer Haberman (left) was a bright- eyed Cub Scout when a leader gave him a patch, a three-dollar shoul- der strip from the Sam Houston Area Council in Texas.


That Scouter couldn’t have known that 10 years later, Spencer’s passion for patches would turn into a peaceful protest designed to preserve roadside trading at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. Never mind that the entire protest was based on a misunderstand- ing—more on that later. Scouts welcome any excuse


to swap patches. Which is why Spencer, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout, and his friends trudged from campsite to campsite advertising the protest and personally inviting everyone at the Summit Shakedown to bring their cots and set up their patches on the road leading to the headquarters tent. These Scouts will trade


patches whether they’re told to or not—all in clear view of the jamboree decision-makers. This was trading with a purpose. “A lot of people wanted to hear what it was for, and so I told them,” Spencer said. When it comes to standing up for what you believe in, “it doesn’t hurt to try.” It didn’t take long for the news


to spread, and the event grew from three to 300 Scouts in less than an hour. At the protest’s peak, with the sun sinking behind the mountains, at least two-dozen green cots lined the road—each blanketed with patches. On one side, Scouts sat on


paint buckets, camp stools, and yellow wagons in front of their collections. On the other side, Scouts with zip-top bags stuffed with patches made offers. “I’ll give you all of these for that,” one Scout said, handing over his


bag and pointing at a Marvel Comics patch popular at the 2010 jamboree. No deal. In some respects, Spencer’s


demonstration worked. It got Scouts interested in swapping patches and in learning more about the policies for next year’s jamboree. But as Russell Smart points out, Spencer’s information was a little off. Smart, chairman of the jamboree program group, said roadside patch trading—the impromptu swaps that have been a part of jamborees since the beginning—isn’t forbidden. Nobody will come by, roll up a Scout’s blanket, and tell him to leave, Smart said. Instead, jamboree plan-


ners have created a designated patch-trading area at the stadium (known as the “arena” at past jamborees). “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to allow trading anywhere else other than at the stadium,” Smart said. “It does mean that we’re going to suggest that there are appropriate times and places to trade, and that there are other places and times that are not appropriate.” Smart cites several benefits


to trading in the designated area: enhanced security to prevent theft, opportunities to learn from International Scouting Collectors Association representatives, and an easier time finding must-have patches. “Once the popular patches bubble up to the surface, kids spend an inordinate amount of time walking to try to find those patches,” Smart said. He mentions the Yoda patch


from California’s Marin Council as a recent example. The Star Wars -themed patch was like gold at the 1997 and 2001 jamborees, meaning some Scouts walked miles and miles to the Western Region campsites to trade for one instead of spending that time doing program activities. “The hope is that if we can congregate them in the stadium, every patch is going to be there,” Smart said.


“If he really wants to find a Yoda patch, there’s one place where he can definitely find one.” Jim Bancroft, a Scouter with


the Connecticut Rivers Council, approves of the “everything in moderation” approach to patch trading. “I’ve been to a lot of jam- borees and [National Order of the Arrow Conferences], and patch trading is just part of the Scouting culture,” Bancroft said. “The designs are just incredible, beauti- ful. I can see the attraction. But patch trading shouldn’t take up an entire Scout’s jamboree. You can’t stop it, but certain times of the day it’s appropriate.” Spencer, who admits he


spent the whole 2010 jamboree trading patches, is unconvinced. He’s hooked. “For me it’s fun. You get to meet people. I feel I almost talked to every person in the camp. I met people from all over the country,” he said. “I don’t know that I’d trade that for anything. And it’s all because of patches.” Over the years, most of


Spencer’s patches have come and gone, but there’s one he’ll never trade: the Sam Houston council patch, the first one in his collec- tion. It has a permanent place at the front of his patch book—a reminder of what started it all. Spencer said he hopes to


inspire the next generation of patch traders the way he was motivated as a Cub Scout. That’s why he gives away more than half of his patch fortune to younger Scouts—sort of the Warren Buffett of the patch world. “Earlier I saw little Scouts that


came up to us upset,” Spencer recalled. “‘I don’t have any patches to trade. Can I buy one from you?’ I told them, ‘I can’t sell you a patch, but here’s a patch. Go start.’ You gotta help ’em out and give them a chance to start somewhere, and I hope it sparks the patch trading in them.” Sometimes one patch is all


it takes. NOVEMBER•DECEMBER 2012 ¿ S COUTING 27


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