LONDON (Reuters) - An ex-special services soldier who has climbed Mount Everest and led an expedition across the Atlantic Arctic Ocean was named as new Chief Scout on Monday and said he was looking for more adult volunteers to help out.
Adventurer Bear Grylls, voted the seventh coolest British man in 2008, was himself a scout and as part of his survival television show “Man vs. Wild” killed, skinned and ate snakes as well as drank his own urine.
Grylls said during his five-year term he aimed to increase the number of 90,000 adult volunteers offering over 200 activities from canoeing to abseiling and to dispel the image of scouts just singing around campfires in old-fashioned uniforms.
“There are 33,000 kids desperate to join the Scouts and there are not enough leaders. I want to encourage adults to get in there and volunteer. The best message I can get out there is that if you want to be able to do the things I do, join the Scouts,” Grylls told Reuters.
“People will not think scouts are as geeky as they did,” said 13-year old Elliott Tugwell, a scout from east London. “Some might think he’s crazy but it shows he is willing to do exciting things like we do.”
The movement was founded by the Boer War soldier Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 following an experimental camp on Brownsea Island off the south east coast of England. It has been emulated in many other countries looking for ways to offer a healthy outdoor life to children often from smoky industrial cities.
Grylls, 34, crossed the Atlantic Arctic Ocean in an open rigid inflatable boat and served three years in the elite Special Air Service (SAS) during which time he broke his back in a parachuting accident. He made a full recovery.
An author and public speaker, he will be the youngest Chief Scout in the organisation’s 102-year history.
He will replace Peter Duncan, former presenter of BBC children’s programme Blue Peter, later this year.
“I got a sense of identity and a sense of belonging from scouts,” Grylls said. “My love of the outdoors started with scouting. It was a real confidence boost for me and opened a lot of doors.”
Upon joining Britain’s largest co-educational youth movement, some from the age of six, boys and girls promise to uphold core Scout values such as trustworthiness, loyalty and to “do their best” while also having fun. It currently numbers around 400,000 members.
“Scouting For Boys” written in 1908 by Baden-Powell is the fourth biggest selling book in the world after the Bible, the Koran and Mao’s Little Red Book.