MARION -Thirty-four Boy Scouts bid farewell to their friends and family Thursday, as they became the first Southern Illinois-based group to head to the national scouting Jamboree since 1993.
Chuck Wiese, scout master of Troop 42 in Marion, will lead the scouts on a journey to Washington, D.C., and ultimately to the celebration in Virginia. More than 40,000 scouts from all across the country attend the event every four years.
He last attended a Jamboree in 1997, as an adult, but said the experience appealed to him and especially to the young scouts he took with him on that trip.
"It's enough that I wanted to go back again, especially with the centennial celebration," he said. The Boy Scouts of America organization celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, which Wiese said will make the event even more special for the local scouts, all but one of whom are first time Jamboree at-tendees.
The group that departed from Marion Thursday represents more than a dozen Southern Illinois troops and is one of six groups representing the Greater St. Louis Council. Participants will take part in a number of activities and programs, as well as have an opportunity to network and earn scouting merit badges.
Nicholas Rauback, 16, of Marion and Michael Kartje, 17, of Murphysboro were helping Wiese rally the troops and ensure things ran smoothly at the departure ceremony. Both boys said they were excited for the opportunity to attend Jamboree.
They hope to use the lessons and experience from Jamboree to help attract peers to scouting. Kartje said scouting remains strong in Southern Illinois and he hopes to see it continue.
"We have a lot of really active troops, a lot of active people," he said. "I could definitely see activity increasing. Troops are growing."