Being a Boy Scout can take you places. It can even take you to the inaugural season of a new Fox TV reality show called “Kicking and Screaming.”
Spokane Scoutmaster Terry Fossum is a contestant on the show, appearing in his Scout uniform on every episode. The show pairs survival experts with outdoors novices as they survive in the jungle of Fiji and compete in challenges, with a team sent home each week. There are only four teams and two episodes left, but Fossum can’t say a word about whether he wins the $500,000 prize.
Fossum, 52, is the only Boy Scout on the show. The other experts included military survival instructors and members of the military special forces. “I was billed as the underdog,” he said. “It’s basically casting in a play. I’m the token Boy Scout, and I’m the token old guy. So I don’t stand a chance.”
He was paired with Natalie Casanova, who Fossum described as a tattooed and foul-mouthed video game player with pink hair. But despite an early disagreement, Fossum said he really liked her.
“We talked, and we got over it,” he said.
By the end of the show the two had developed a bond. “She’s called me her jungle dad out there,” he said.
Fossum’s claim to fame as a survival expert comes from his 45 years spent in Scouting. But he’s also been on “adventures” over the years, including a solo winter snowshoe backpacking trip in North Idaho as well as trips to the Arctic Circle and Africa.
The Texas native came to Spokane with the Air Force in 1988 and was the executive officer of the base’s B-52 squadron. After a second career in direct sales he’s now an author and motivational speaker.
Fossum said he never applied to be on the show, but a man who went through one of his leadership courses applied on his behalf. He was surprised to see an email from the casting company land in his inbox, but said he felt like this was something God was asking him to do.
“I don’t really want to do this but I feel like I’m being called to do this,” he said.
He had to send in a video of himself demonstrating survival skills like starting a fire, making a fish trap and making a solar still to collect water. Before he even found out that he’d been selected he took a two-week trip to Guyana to work on his jungle survival skills.
Soon he was in Fiji with nine other teams and dealing with cameras pointed at him 24 hours a day. He said he’s used his opportunity to be on the show as a way to present the positive message he gives in his motivational speeches. He’s also hoping to draw attention to Scouting and inspire people.
“I wasn’t backstabbing,” he said of his time on the show. “You don’t have to bring others down to pull yourself up. It’s given me the opportunity to promote Scouting across the nation, to help everybody understand scouting is cool, scouts are tough.”
Fossum has been hosting watch parties every Thursday night in the Max Lounge at the Mirabeau Park Hotel on Sullivan Road and last week was no different. The lounge was packed with a crowd that cheered on Fossum and his partner like they were right there in the jungle with them. During commercials Fossum answered questions and gave out behind-the-scenes details.
He describes filming the show last May as a crazy experience. “I love adventures,” he said. “I’m just looking at this as one really cool adventure.”
He noted that most of the survivalists that left the show before he did were younger than he was and had better survival skills.
“You can bill me as the underdog,” he said. “I’m okay with that. If we had any strategy at all, it was to stay under the radar.”
At the end of the most recent episode, Fossum and his partner survived the elimination challenge, much to the delight of the watching crowd.
“I guess we’re going to be here next week,” he said.
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