A few years ago, rain drenched my family’s campsite in Mount Solon, Virginia, soaking everything that wasn’t inside our tent.
“What are we going to do?” my son, Evan, asked my husband. “The fire pit is wet. How will we cook our dinner?”
“It’s going to be fine,” my husband reassured him. “Come with me. We’re going into the woods to find some birch. It will burn even when it’s wet.”
“It will? How do you know that?”
“I was in Scouts for several years,” my husband said.
Evan watched in awe as his dad collected wood and started a fire in what he thought was an impossibly damp situation. As the smoke rose from the kindling, Evan asked, “Do you think I could join Scouts one day and learn how to do that?”
“I do,” my husband said. “You can learn the skills I learned and much, much more.”
The Boy Scouts of America (Scouts) has undergone quite a few changes since my husband earned his merit badges in camping and fire safety.
The executive board established a Venturing program in the late 1990s, and in 2017 females were permitted to join single gender Cub Scout dens and Boy Scout troops.
However, the mission of Scouting has not changed. “Scouting’s mission globally, and here in America has always been to educate and guide young people to make ethical and moral choices,” said Chesapeake resident Kate Sklat, who’s been involved in Scouting for years. “What has evolved are the many varied programs available to youth—now available to all youth—as methods to meet that mission.”
Let’s talk with a few parents, community leaders, and Scouts about their involvement with the organization and why Scouting is such a great fit for their families.
Scouting Encourages Personal Growth
Plus Scouts Build Leadership Abilities
Kate Sklat has held various leadership positions within her district, council, and her daughter’s Venture crew since 2015. She appreciates that Scouts teaches young people to be accepting of differences and aware of injustices. She also likes that it cultivates an attitude of curiosity for things we don’t understand.
“Basically, Scouting reiterates the beliefs we encourage at home—that you should attempt to do things yourself and generally be a nice person,” Kate said. “It provides education and activities and room for personal growth that are in line with our values.”
Kate has already witnessed growth in her children’s leadership abilities and camping experiences in that they are nearly self-sufficient in terms of food preparation and cleanup. Scouts has also taught her children that on trips and in life, things often don’t go as planned and they must learn to prepare more thoroughly for future situations.
While Kate appreciates the long-lasting benefits of her children’s participation in Scouts, her 14-year-old son is happy enjoying the outdoor activities that are synonymous with Scouting. “His best experience so far was his trip this summer to Nelson Rocks in West Virginia. This is a 2.2.-mile via ferrata climb (Italian for ‘iron path’) over a 1062 feet elevation change,” Kate said. “He cannot wait to go back and do it again, despite my mom-panic!”
Learning First Aid Skills Can Save Lives
Scouts Also Learn How To Cook and Help Others in Need
From mountain-scaling adventures to summer road trips out west, Scouting offers many opportunities for travel. David Robinson and his son, Tyler, have taken trips to the Bahamas and Wyoming. “We drove the northern route out to Wyoming and the southern route back,” David said.“To this day, Crazy Horse Memorial is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.”
A resident of Suffolk, David serves as a community member on the Colonial Virginia Council and as a Merit Badge Coordinator. He enjoys educating youth and helping them work toward and realize their goals in Scouts and in life.
“Scouts is empowering for youth,” David said. “They learn to set up camp and cook independently. They make phenomenal meals in the Dutch oven. I could give them any recipe, and they could cook it. We eat really well in the woods.”
Of all the skills his son has learned through Scouting, first aid has proved to be the most valuable. “We were first on scene of an accident and pulled a man from a burning vehicle,” David said.
On another occasion, David and his son were skiing when they happened upon a girl with an injured leg. David reminded his son that he was trained and prepared and capable of handling the situation. Tyler stabilized the girl’s leg and helped her remain calm until medics arrived. Carrie Mokry, a Newport News mother of two Scouts, also appreciates of the skills her children have gained in recent years. Parker and Travis, ages 16 and 13, have learned first aid, knife safety, cooking skills, knot tying, personal finance, and emergency preparedness.
“Not too long ago, a tree fell and broke our neighbor’s fence,” Carrie said. “They just jumped in and started helping. They knew exactly what to do.”
Carrie is beyond impressed with the dedicated adult leaders she has met throughout the years. With many of the positions being volunteer roles, it’s clear the adults enjoy what they do. “They are creating a community where youth can succeed and fail in a safe environment,” Carrie said.
“They believe in the power of the Scouting impact.”
Problem Solving in the Face of Adversity
Scouting Scholarships Are Available
While there is often a shortage of adult volunteers and leaders, the pandemic has also caused many Scouting professionals to lose their jobs or become furloughed. Being unable to hold in-person summer camps resulted in decreased revenues and forced many Scout troops to think outside the box. Luckily, that sort of problem solving in the face of adversity is exactly what Scouts is known for.
“We’ve encouraged our youth to stay focused on what they can do within the limitations of quarantine and distancing, rather than dwell on what is not permitted,” said Kate Sklat. “We do activities at home and then use social media to share what we have accomplished and what we have learned and experienced. I think in most cases we have shown the youth—and ourselves—that we can be creative and adapt.”
While Kate is a staunch supporter of Scouts in all seasons, she believes that getting involved in Scouts is more important now than ever before.
During an isolating and uncertain time, a Scouting network can provide what founder Robert Baden-Powell envisioned: a game with a purpose.
Scouting programs are located in nearly every part of Hampton Roads, but it is not necessary to Scout within one’s city of residence. Carrie Mokry’s family lives in Newport News, and they scout in Smithfield. Also, financial status should not deter a family from considering Scouts, as there are many opportunities available for scholarships. “If someone wants to scout, there are people who will make that happen,” Carrie said. “There is always someone willing to help.”
For additional information about Scouting, visit www.beacub.com.
Melissa Face is the author of I Love You More Than Coffee, an essay collection for parents who love coffee a lot and their kids...a little more. Her essays and articles have appeared in Richmond Family Magazine, Sasee Magazine, and twenty-one volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Read more at www.melissaface.com.