Search ‘UK Scouting’ online and you are immediately directed to the website and ‘what we do’. We provide an opportunity for young people to enjoy new adventures, experience the outdoors, to interact with others, gain confidence and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. I’m not convinced that everyone appreciates just how lucky we are to have the Southern 50 on our doorstep. It is in my opinion, the greatest opportunity provided for our young people to enjoy ‘what we do’ and it is also the best supported event on anyone’s scouting calendar year in, year out.
This is the reason why I push and promote it so much to you and I hope that all of you who were there this year enjoyed it just as much as those who have in years gone by. Personally, it was one of my favourite Southern 50s. Seeing team after team of Hatters walking up to collect certificates on Sunday morning makes me incredibly proud and although the attention on us started to get a little embarrassing… you all made a big impact. If we look at numbers alone; 10 out of 112 teams at an event open to the whole country – that is pretty special. We in fact, made up 10% of the walkers who started the event this year.
But it isn’t just the numbers that makes you special.
A couple of weeks ago at a DofE night, Virginia asked me “am I going to die?”… a tad dramatic and then on a Monday I was also asked “what have I got myself into?” I offered Virginia, Talia and Kellie a way out but they ignored it and went beyond their expectations to complete the 30km event – I hope that has eased your DofE nerves, too! When I met ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’ at checkpoint 18, I thought that SLK might ask to get in the bus but it didn’t even come up in conversation, I don’t think giving up crossed her mind despite the agony. These are just a couple of examples but you were all fantastic, not least of all when you worked so hard after the event to get the school clean and tidy.
The commitment and dedication you show is always outstanding; with the exception of one team who are veterans at the 50km event now, every team were represented on the practice weekends we’ve organised. I’m willing to admit that out of all of the training hikes, it was me that made the biggest mistake in forgetting my waterproof on one occasion. Although Brian did find a whole in his boot, one person who will remain nameless had problems holding the map the correct way and there may have been a few tiny hiccups along the way, I think that my waterproof failure probably wins the award for biggest mistake.
Each year, the Southern 50 provides heart-warming stories and emotional tales; in 2016 one of our teams went looking for a lost group who they had met earlier on. Another of our teams shuffled kit around to help a struggling member in order that they could finish together – very literally carrying each other over the finish line. One of that team was running the info desk at the school this year because that’s what you all do; you support each other and want to be part of everything even if you can’t compete.
Teamwork, friendship, problem solving, leadership, determination, courage and selflessness are the lessons that the Southern 50 teaches. Unlike most activities, the lessons are not passed down by leaders, they are demonstrations that the explorer scouts give us and we learn from them. It was one of my favourite Southern 50s (and I’ve been to most of them since my first in 2004); all of you were brilliant, I didn’t break myself, the committee saw you for how great you are and provided glowing feedback, some of you overcame big personal challenges, I just that hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
I think that this one of the weekends that brings us closer as a unit, it was actually the 2015 event and an email I received just afterwards from one of the current parents (though at the time of the email, it was another child of his int he unit) that gave me the confidence and belief that I could lead the unit – I might not be doing it, otherwise.
It’s a great event, and you are part of what makes it so great – you heard the County Commissioner say on Sunday morning that it’s the young people who make the Southern 50. You had a massive part to play this year (10%…) so thank you!