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Lessons learned & shared about getting 16 teenagers to Europe and back: on time, within budget, and without loss of life (or sanity) Read more

Utica, NY Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on February 15, 2014.

Lessons learned & shared about getting 16 teenagers to Europe and back: on time, within budget, and without loss of life (or sanity)

Utica, NY Documentary
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About this project

We Made It!  (but there's plenty more to do)

We made our initial goal - Yahoo! But, being adventurers, there's always another peak to aspire to.  (In KickStarter lingo, this is known as a "Stretch Goal".)

As you can see in our budget plan below, the trip is very expensive (~$40k), and we've heard all sorts of requests to do even more with the trip and the documentary.  For this reason, we've set our new sights on (hopefully) raising a few more bucks.  Based on the encouragement and interest in the community, we think we can do it.

The more money we raise, the more we can do, both on the trip with the boys, but with the resultant documentary.

  • If we can get the pledge total up to $7,500, we'll have custom "Challenge coins" made that will commemorate this trip, and let us give special thanks and recognition to the many people that have made this possible, especially the fine military people at Garmish that have already been a wonderful friend to this effort.
  • Between now and the end of the campaign (at 11:45 Saturday morning), every new donor that gives $50 or more will get one of these coins.  AND... any present donor that increases their existing pledge by $10 or more will also get a coin!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (full original post is below this dashed line)

The "Big Plan"...

In August of this year, our Boy Scout Troop is going to take the biggest adventure we’ve ever attempted; we’re going to take the boys to Europe!  Specifically, we’re heading to Germany, and we’d like to share what we learn along the way with as many others as possible.  (more about the trip below)

 Our goal is to make a documentary that has two distinct parts to it...

  • We want to share what we go through to pull this off.  We’ve already learned a lot about how to coordinate large numbers of families, how to come up with budgets, how to do fundraising, how to navigate all the trials and tribulations the flesh is err to for an undertaking like this.  We may as well share all of this with others in the hopes that it will be easier for the next group.
  • We want to show the impact something like this can have on kids.  What’s it like to go to a completely foreign place? ... to meet and talk with kids from another country? ... to see and understand a place as horrible as Dachau, or as amazing and wondrous as the Bavarian Alps or a king’s castle?  ... to be well outside your comfort zone and come away with a broader perspective on the world and your place in it? Maybe this documentary will help inspire other groups to take the plunge and try something of a similar scale.

If we get the funding and the opportunity to do this the way we’d like, the result will be a very pro Boy Scout movie that can be used to help educate and inspire other scout troops and youth organizations to pull off a trip of this magnitude.  If we can do it, so can others.

Backstory

For those that know, Philmont in New Mexico is considered Boy Scout mecca, but it’s become increasingly difficult to get reservations.  Jamborees are fantastic, but not every kid has the resources to go to something like that.  So, several years ago, we started organizing our own “big trips”, and that began something of a trend. 

With lots of effort from the scout families, we’ve taken the guys on some amazing adventures.  Each trip had its own challenges during the planning and execution, but it’s always resulted in fantastic memories for everyone involved... many of these trips have been turning points for some of the boys in their development, and have helped create some wonderful parent/child memories that could not have otherwise happened.

Deliverables

It's all about the results, right?  Here's what will come of all this...

  • A 35-40 minute documentary, as described above, detailing what it takes to pull off trips like this, and the effect that it has on those involved.  The hope is that this will inspire and educate, so other youth groups can try things of a similar scope.
  • A screening event at local theater.  This will help celebrate the availability of the documentary, provide some closure for the many families that are involved, and give credit and thanks to those that helped us pull it off.
  • DVD’s for the above for distribution (we'll also make this available via some sort of on-line download mechanism).
  • For the scouts involved in the trip and the making of the documentary, they can earn three separate merit badges... Citizenship in the World Merit Badge (required for Eagle), Cinematography, and Photography.

Benefits

We see payoff at three different levels...

  • Broadest Case: we will have created a resource that demonstrates to other youth organizations nationwide that “big trips” like this are possible, how to approach them, and the impact they can have on the kids and adults involved.
  • Scouting Specific: Make no mistake about it... this video will help promote the Boy Scouts of America program, and focus discussion towards what is good about the program and the people involved in it.
  • Closest to Home: This project will help the boys in our troop obtain merit badges, but more importantly, help them better appreciate all the aspects of the trip itself.  By having a project of this scope, one that makes them focus a lens on themselves and their actions, they might better understand some core concepts about creativity, accountability, and opportunity.

The video below is a brief condensation of just a few of the adventures we've undertaken in the past decade or so.  Every scene was shot by somebody from Troop 14 while on a scout trip.

The Team

There will be at least 16 scouts going on this trip, as well as one or two young men who are Eagle Scout Alumni from the troop.  The boys will range in age from 11 to 17, and come from a very diverse set of backgrounds. This group has kids that are home-schooled, as well as ones coming in from 5 (!) different schools in our area.  Some are just first year scouts, and some have already obtained their Eagle Scout badge.  Almost all of them have never left the country.  Some have never even flown in a plane.  All are high energy, and fully committed to making this trip a success.

We'll be breaking the boys into two (maybe three) patrols to better keep things organized, especially during the travel phases.  This makes the lives of the adults a bit easier, but more importantly, it helps develop leadership skills in the boys... one of the main purposes of Scouting.  Key scouts are already engaged by helping with some of the plans for the trip (which will be discussed in the documentary). 

We're well covered for adult supervision.  John Koslosky, the Troop Master, has been the leader of T14 since 1985... about 29 years now.  He's been to Philmont EIGHT times, and received the Silver Beaver Award for his service in 1999. His dedication to the program helped inspire myself and other dads to stick it out as assistant leaders long after our boys received their Eagle ranks. All the leaders will have taken child safety training, and many of us will be certified in Wilderness First Aid and Hazardous Weather training.

We also have several parents / assistant troop leaders coming along to help transport the guys around while there, and give supervision and insight into the things we'll be seeing and doing.  A requirement for any adult going as a chaperone is that they must have joined us for at least three overnight trips in the preceding 10 months.  This insures that everybody knows everybody very well, long before we leave the country.

Some of the fine young men from Troop 14
Some of the fine young men from Troop 14

The Budget

We're taking every opportunity available to us to keep costs down, but this will still be an expensive trip.  As you'd guess, the major component of this will be airfare.  We found that Iceland Air (!?) provided the best prices - who knew? 

Finding an affordable place to stay was the next challenge, and we went through a LONG list of variations here.  The bottom line is that we were able to make arrangements to stay at Garmish Army base, at the southern border of Germany.  They are very scout-friendly, and have been fantastic people to work with.  We can't wait to meet them in person, and we would not be able to afford this trip if it weren't for their assistance and generosity.

As for actual numbers and a full breakdown... we're going to hold off on providing all of that to be part of the documentary itself.  Suffice it to say that the first pass estimate has this trip coming in at over $40k.  But, from experience, we're confident that we'll be able to pull this off (and hopefully get the funding here to be able to show others how to do it as well via the documentary).

The funds received via KickStarter will help pay for...

  • ... production costs (to include tripods, microphones, and editing software, all of which will remain as troop equipment).
  • ... access to a local theater for the screening party (tbd).
  • ... costs for the web hosting, and DVD creation and shipping.
  • ... to help offset some of the expenses for the trip and provide us options.  The better the trip, the more interesting the result.

The Trip Itself

During the early stages of putting this trip together, we created a page on our web site that explains a lot of the details. It's a little bit dated, but it does provide a bigger picture than what's summarized below.

We're leaving from NYC on Sunday, Aug. 24, changing planes in Iceland(!), and arriving in Munich early the next morning.  We'll drive down to Garmisch, and will be using that as our base of operations until our return home on Tuesday, Sep. 2.  That's 10 days of travel.  (We'd love for this to be more, but we are limited by costs and schedules.)  As is, this gives the boys only 1 day to re-coup before heading back to school that Thursday.

Garmisch is at the edge of the Alps, so we'll have plenty of opportunity to hike and enjoy the outdoors.  It's also a reasonable drive time to many other places of interest, as shown in the map below.  Our final itinerary is a work in process, and the scouts will help lay this out as we balance our budget with our available time.  Even so, some of the things we HAVE to do include...

  • Visit Castle Neuschwanstein
  • Visit Dachau (just outside of Munich)
  • Get to the top of one of the peaks in the Alps (Zugspitze?)and hike back down, hopefully on a route that takes us through Austria (singing optional)

Things that we WANT to do (pending planning and budget and schedule ) include...

  • Meet with a local scout/youth organization for some fun and "cultural exchange" (we're wide open here)
  • Spend a night at Stuttgart.  Why Stuttgart?  Because it's a great jumping off point to then visit Strasbourg in France, and Zurich in Switzerland.
  • Visit the Marienplatz in Munich for an afternoon.
  • Check out the Olympic Village in Innsbruck, Austria, as well as see everything else we can in this amazing town.
  • Visit Luxembourg, because we can! What the heck, right? How many people can say they've been there (or even know where it is)? It's one of the tiniest countries in the world.

While staying at Garmisch, we'll be preparing our own meals as much as possible to save on costs.  We'll have full use of a large kitchen, and our guys have a lot of practice cooking their own food.  That's the easy part.  We'll have to drive into town and navigate local grocery stores... even just this will prove to be a huge adventure, as we're going to make the boys front and center for the effort, including figuring our how much we need, navigating the store, and doing the checkout.

More About Troop 14 and Our Scouts

Our troop was originally chartered in the late 1930's, making it one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in the US.  We normally have about two dozen boys enrolled with our program, +/- as the seasons roll by. Although we're associated with Washington Mills, we bring in boys from quite a radius, presently with kids from New Hartford, Rome, Utica, and Westmoreland (as well as some home-schooled kids).  We have one of the highest retention rates for the Upstate NY region, due in no small part to the involvement of the parents, and our willingness to go on really challenging/interesting trips like this.

Over the years, our scouts have done numerous projects to support our area.  We've built picnic tables for the local zoo, relocated flower beds for the city, built a break area for Hospice Nurses, made handicapped entrances for local historical attractions, and sponsored drives to help local homeless shelters and veterans groups. Every year, we team up with a troop from Poland NY to clean the streets after the Boilermaker. Most recently, we created a video to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, spot-lighting local memorials and grave sites to those that "gave their last full measure of devotion."

(We've also received some fame and notoriety for our approach to cooking Turkey in a Trash Can, and were highlighted in Men's Health magazine!)

We've no doubt that our scouts benefit from the program.  One of our guys saved his sister's life by doing the Heimlich Maneuver.  Only a couple of years ago, a couple of our scouts received the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms for their actions following a tragic car accident.  (This is the highest heroism award provided by the Boy Scouts of America.)

We're located just outside the Adirondacks, and do our best to go camping nearly every month in the year (like this trip in November as an example).  This past summer though, we took the troop to Maine, where many of the boys spent the entire week canoeing from place to place, far from civilization.  Other trips have taken us to NYC, Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania... all sorts of places.  We've seen eagles snatch fish from a lake, had bears walk through our campsites, watched moose as they splashed out of rivers and graze on the grass.  We've had rattlesnakes on our foot paths to the showers, tumbled down snowy mountains in August, gone swimming with barracuda, sharks, and jelly fish, and met 3 Star Generals on the streets of New York City. 

But, amidst all that adventure, we've never, met a foreigner on their own soil or have had to speak anything but English.  This is our chance!  If you've read all the way down to here, I'm impressed, excited, and encouraged.  Please check out the different rewards for pledges down the right side of the page above.  With your support, not only will we have a better trip, but you'll be making it possible for others to learn how we pulled it off and maybe do something similar themselves.

The fine print...

  • Pledges made to this project are not charitable donations, and can not be treated as such at tax time.  (sorry)
  • The resultant documentary and web pages will not be an official product of the Boy Scouts of America.  It's just going to be a cool travelogue made by bunch of really neat boy scouts and their leaders.

Want to know more about us?  Please check out our web pages at http://www.Troop14bsa.com.  Thanks so much for your time.  :-)

Risks and challenges

Remember the Boy Scout Motto? "Be prepared!" Well, that certainly comes into play here. You never know what you don't know, but here are some of our potential challenges and how we plan to address them.

Getting there --- It's always possible that something will happen... a delayed or canceled flight, a flat tire with a rental car... who knows. But if it does, that will just make for a more interesting movie when we're done. We have plenty of adult backups, so even if one of the leaders encounters a last minute problem, the trip is still happening.

Production --- To help avoid any last minute crushes, or have to deal with distractions from school and work AFTER the trip is over, we will work steadily over the course of the coming months leading up to the trip to document our effort. We will have a time-line and schedule for each of the major section of the documentary. The only thing that will have to wait until the end are the parts about what we did when there (obviously), but by then we'll have a pretty streamlined process for turning footage into final video. We'll have already ironed out most of the nit-picky stuff (general format, how to use the software, fonts and transitions, etc.)

Completion of merit badges --- Ah... this is always the tricky part! It comes down to the boys themselves actually DOING the work required by the badge. In this case though, we (myself and the other adult leaders) will be leaning in heavily to make sure that the scouts AND their parents are on-board with getting the requirements met. If possible, we'd like the badges to be 80% complete before we set foot on the planes.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    2 backers

    WEBELO Donor: You'll have your name listed as an honorary Webelo at the end of the movie, and will get a custom thank-you card, signed by all the scouts going on the trip.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    21 backers

    TENDERFOOT Donor: In addition to the awards given a Webelo donor, you'll be given one of the special commemorative patches that we're having custom made for this trip. There will be only one manufacturing run for these, so they are sure to become collector items.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    6 backers

    2ND CLASS Donor: How about a CD full of high resolution images from our trip, suitable for use as computer backgrounds and screensavers, or for custom printed calendars! (You'll also get the stuff from the lower level contributions; a custom signed card from the boys, movie credit, and collectable patch, all of which will be shipped right away.)

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    4 backers Limited (8 left of 12)

    2ND CLASS BONUS: This offer is limited to the first 12 people who sign up at the 2nd Class level... In addition to the 'normal' 2nd Class rewards, we'll hide a Geocache in your honor some place during our trip, and you can brag all about it through your own Geocache account! It's almost as good as being there yourself!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    1 backer

    1ST CLASS Donor: Just like a 2nd Class donor, but BETTER! You'll get a custom T14 t-shirt instead of a patch, you'll get highlighted recognition in the movie credits, and you'll get special permanent recognition on our troop web site! Now we're talking!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    25 backers

    STAR Donor: Who's a star? You're a star! And as such, you get a DVD of the final documentary, and TWO tickets to join us for the screening party! You also get special recognition in the movie credits and web site.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    2 backers

    LIFE Donor: It's everything the Star Donors get, and more! You'll receive FOUR tickets to the screening party, and each of you will be given a Troop 14 t-shirt from the trip (shipped immediately). We'll do our best to keep that paprazzi out of your way at the screening party.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers

    EAGLE Donor: Our appreciation will have almost no bounds... SIX tickets to the screening party, you each will get one of our t-shirts AND a patch, featured recognition at the end of the movie and on our web site, and (best of all) a framed photo of the troop in front of an iconic scene in Germany with your name on a banner proclaiming our thanks; suitable for home or office.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)