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Patch trading a big part of annual gathering

Jamboree
Jul. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. -- The official visitors center at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve is still under construction, yet Boy Scouts now attending the National Jamboree there have turned its covered porch into the unofficial patch-trading hub.

Patch trading goes back about 80 years, according to the International Scouting Collectors Association, and is one of the most popular events at jamborees. This first one at the new, 10,600-acre Boy Scout property in Mount Hope, W.Va., has been no exception.

Scouts and other adult collectors have been lining the large shaded pad of concrete where they display their patches. Many talk about their collections with great pride, including 17-year-old Jake Sulkosky from Blairesville, Pa. He attended the 2010 Jamboree, the final one at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, which is where his passion for the patches started.

"I got hurt on the third day, and all I could do was trade patches," Sulkosky said. "I accidentally got into it, but I've been trading ever since."

On Thursday, he displayed World and National Jamboree patches he's gotten online or through bartering -- some that go all the way back to 1969. He even had a patch from Sweden, which he traded to a scout who came to West Virginia from Sweden for the jamboree.

Neal Sarvis from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a scout and set up his collection at the future visitors center as well. He said patch trading is exceptionally popular at jamborees because scouts are able to trade their unique council patches with others from around the country and world. Some patches, Sarvis added, are made for different scouting events, while still others are given upon the completion of a task, such as a 30-mile hike, which can only be earned once.

That means some scouts hold patches in high regard and are reluctant to break up a set. That was the case with Braden Moss from Beaumont, Texas. The 15-year-old was approached by Brandon Stuhlemmer from Dayton, Ohio, who was hoping to get a Texas patch for his uncle, who is serving as his scoutmaster for the jamboree.

They couldn't strike a deal, but the two teens exchanged names and patch stories -- which is part of the social aspect that makes it so popular and important at the big Boy Scout gatherings.

Stuhlemmer said he realized how big a deal it was on Wednesday night, when scouts were out trading with flashlights and headlamps. About 5,000 of the estimated 40,000 scouts there also were expected to gather Thursday night at the arena to trade patches.

"This gets you out there meeting new people," said Stuhlemmer, who only recently got into patch trading.

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