As a boy I was fortunate enough to have a positive experience with Scouting. My father worked as an executive for the Tecumseh Council in Springfield, Ohio and I often “tagged along” to campouts where Boy Scouts were active and welcoming to me.
I recall the Scout Camp where a Troop was building a rope bridge over a rapidly moving stream and watching patrols lash together poles with knots that amazed me when they were complete. I remember a Winter Jamboree where the snow was knee deep and the wind was bitterly cold so I stayed in a cabin built by Scouts 75 years earlier out of used power poles. And of course I remember the assembly that was called on the parade ground as the Scouts raised the flag over the green grasses of Camp Hugh Taylor Birch. And ultimately my experience with the 1976 Bicentennial Campout on Wright Patterson Air Force Base where I learned the lesson of sunscreen and second degree sunburn.
As a teenager, I joined Trooped 27 in my hometown and at the age of 16 I worked at the very camp that I grew up with in a hard job making and serving food in the historic dining hall. I learned about “bug juice” and that you could make scrambled eggs in an oven in a big aluminum pan but they tinged a bit green. In my second summer as a councilor I helped run Tecumseh Island, the program that welcomed new boys to Scouting and helped them earn the rank of Tenderfoot. One of the earliest accomplishments of my life was helping a young Scout with Cerebral Palsy pass the Scout swim test. He was elated when he received the rank of Tenderfoot and I was proud of what he accomplished.
I have watched Order of the Arrow inductions, Webelos crossing over and Eagles taking flight. Scouting has been with me the majority of my life and I lived in places where Scouting thrived.
As an adult, living in a large city with a diverse neighborhood, it was with some dismay that I realized I would have to travel to take my young sons to Scouting. And Scouting in a large city seemed dramatically different from when I was a boy. It felt like boys were “going through the motions” to earn an award that has been historically revered. Eagle Scouts who could not tie knots, or who could not remember their Oath or lived by their Laws. Scouting was looked down upon as “geeks” and a “funny thing to do.” The Oath lost its luster in a push to build children as athletes and the myth that sports builds “leaders.” It’s not that sports are not important, but no sport lives by an Oath and Laws as Scouts do. A commitment to be better, to be good citizens, to help others at all times, to stay physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
In 2017, after having been a Cub Master for a few years, I was sitting at home when news broke that a young man of the age of 13 was shot and killed three blocks from my home. Shot by police for fleeing and having a toy gun. What could I do to prevent that from occurring again? Scouting teaches boys to be men, men who respect others, they respect the first responders and they respect our flag and our country. But more importantly, they respect themselves and they are mentally awake.
Starting a Scouting Unit in 2017 is a difficult thing. A Scout Uniform now costs over $125, a Cub Scout uniform costs $99 and participating in Scouting costs close to $1000. Summer Camp for Boys is now $300 and Cub Scout camp is $100. A Scout is Thrifty, but the program has gotten pricey. It’s our job as leaders and volunteers to bring the program to youth and to make it accessible. And the boys, as they grow, learn how to value the things they have earned including ranks and participating in Scouting.
So we started in 2017 with Cub Scouts and a public that was skeptical of Scouting. Our boys are exceptionally good kids, eager to have fun and looking to grow in Scouting. This week we begin the process of building our unit, expanding to Boy Scouts and engaging a neighborhood to join us on a journey that is rewarding, builds character and protects our youth by giving them the tools to respect others and themselves. I hope you will join us as we build something special, something you will always be proud of and something you and your children will always cherish and remember. Join us in Scouting.