Our family is into Boy Scouts in a big way. We recently discovered that my father and uncle were both Eagle Scouts, my older son was into Scouting for a while (but got busy with other interests and didn’t continue), while my youngest son Blake is thisclose to becoming an Eagle Scout. My husband and I both play a role as adult leaders in our Scout Troop as well. So I was quite delighted when BSA approached me and requested that I do a sponsored post for them on behalf of their BeAScout program.
Disclosure: I am being compensated by BSA for my participation in this program, but as always, my opinions and experiences are unique and are entirely my own.
We became involved with our current Scout Troop about six years ago when our youngest son Blake became old enough to cross over from Cubs into Scouts. Through the local Scout-o-Rama (now called the Scouting Expo), we discovered a really active and terrific Troop just a few miles from our house. So, we signed him up right away.
Photos: Top left: Blake as a Cub, Top right: Blake at his crossover ceremony, Middle left: I think this was in his rookie year, Middle right: his Order of the Arrow Brotherhood Ceremony, Bottom left: Blake coming home from Jamboree, Bottom right: Our Scouting family – my husband Tony (who also helps with campouts and a few merit badges), myself and Blake.
One of the big factors for us wanting to get him involved in Scouting was the fact that he was having a very hard time with bullying in school. I won’t share all the sad and ugly details, but from 4th grade to 6th grade, my son was the target of some fairly significant bullying. It wasn’t just one boy or two boys, it was about six different boys and a girl or two. It was almost daily and pretty intense.
If you’ve ever had a child in this situation, it is awful; because you feel totally helpless. We tried a number of solutions, but I think what worked best was putting him into Scouts.
Not long after Blake started with Scouting, the bullying decreased considerably. I won’t say the bullying went away completely – I don’t think it ever will stop completely, but it’s been much more manageable as he’s gotten older. One thing the books all say, is that confidence makes a big difference in making a kid feel less vulnerable. It also makes him less of a magnet for bullies. And I think Scouting really helps to build confidence in these young boys.
Since he’s been in Scouting, he’s had so many terrific experiences that I don’t think he could have gotten anywhere else.
Over the last six years, he has learned to:
- Pack for a campout, put up a tent and cook meals for himself and his patrol
- Manage numerous weekends and several full weeks away from home in all kinds of weather, different situations and different groups of people
- Earn merit badges and many other awards
- Lead or perform a flag ceremony with precision and competence
- Hold a variety of leadership positions and learn to get along with the other Scouts and adult leaders
- Shoot a variety of firearms and has earned several marksmanship awards
- He has developed a great group of male and female leaders and role models who care about him. They’ve helped him in many ways, both inside and outside Scouting
- He was invited into the invitation-only Scout Honor Society – The Order of the Arrow. He passed his ordeal and his Brotherhood requirements
- Attended Silver Moccasin – also known as NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) 3 years running – once as a participant and twice as a Quartermaster (Sidebar: this is a terrific program and I saw a noticeable maturity in him after just one week.)
- Went on a three-week tour of several states and National Monuments ending at the 2013 National Jamboree
- Planned and conducted his own Eagle Scout Project
He is currently in the middle of his Eagle Scout Project. I love that his project is one that directly relates to the topic of bullying. He is raising funds for a “Buddy Bench” at a local low-income elementary school. This creates a “safe” place where kids can go and sit if they are feeling left out or bullied and kids are supposed to leave them alone or hopefully, befriend and comfort them. This is a sample of the type of bench he is purchasing. We are so proud to see that he has compassion for other kids who are going through the tough times he went through.
My Scouting Journey
The story wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share how the Scouting experience has made almost as much difference in my life. My Scouting journey has been somewhat of an unexpected one. Usually, it is more of a father-son activity, but my husband was usually working or busy on Scout nights, so it fell to me. I started hanging around the meetings at first because I didn’t have anything else to do. But once I got to know some of the Scouters and kids, I really started to enjoy the Troop.
After probably a year or two of hanging around, I heard they were looking for help with their campouts. At first, I thought – I can’t do that. I’d only camped like twice in my life, and I know nothing about camping. But then I thought that maybe I could help with part of it. I could help collect the permission slips and the money easily enough.
So, I volunteered. And I’ve been doing it for three years now. I work in tandem with another leader who handles the on-site details. Even though I still know less than a Tenderfoot Scout about camping, I’ve discovered that I have great organizational skills. I help put together ten campouts per year for about 25 to 60 Scouts and adult leaders. It’s quite a bit of work and can be pretty challenging, but surprisingly, I just LOVE it.
I even go with them sometimes. They still haven’t gotten me into a tent – I only go on camping trips where I can be in a cabin or take a travel trailer along. But I like that at least in our Troop, they are willing to accept me exactly how I am.
I don’t fit the traditional mold of a Scout leader. I’m not a big, tough, burly guy who can hike for days and sleep out in the rain. I’m a grandmotherly accountant, who is pretty out of shape, and I’m not big on roughing it.
But I can still contribute in my own way. I can work with my son and the other boys. In addition to the camping gig, I teach six required merit badges, I help with fundraisers. I even put together our Eagle Ceremonies, and lately, I’ve been doing some writing for the Utah Scouts blog. And yes, once in a while this not-at-all outdoorsy Mom goes CAMPING with the Boy Scouts. And I think that’s pretty cool.
So yes, I think this has been a pretty amazing journey for both of us. And I think in our own way, we’ve discovered new strengths and a different way of looking at ourselves. I really can’t imagine how different my son’s life would be if he had not had Scouting to fall back on during that difficult time of his life. Also, I can’t imagine how my life would be different if I had just been the parent who drops the kid off at the Scout meeting and disappears. Sometimes you have to just step up and raise your hand, and then just see what happens…. Sometimes it turns out to be something really great.