SPECIAL REPORT: Changing Faces of Boy Scouts of America

Published: Jan. 28, 2019 at 2:22 PM CST
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Boy Scouts of America -- it's one of the country's most enduring organizations for youth. Founded nearly 110 years ago, the national organization has seen changes, especially in recent times, while still maintaining much of the values it has held dear for so long.

For Cub Scout Pack 705 in Warren County, these changes become very apparent when visiting their weekly meeting held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

"About a year ago, we kind of got the official word that it was going to happen, and so she was super excited that she was going to get to be a part of it," said den leader, Christy Givens.

She's referring to the fact that girls are now able to be admitted into Cub Scouts, after the organization voted and approved of the change back in 2017. Girls were officially admitted to the scouting organization in the fall of 2018.

"Since my daughter was dying to be in Cub Scouts, I decided to be a den leader," Givens said.

This is the first group of female Cub Scouts in the Warren County pack, something many leaders and adults were in favor of.

Their den has six members.

"This is the first year, so we thought that was a really good turnout considering I think a lot of girls probably don't even know that they can join Cub Scouts," Givens said. "So we're hoping to get the word out that more girls can see how Cub Scouts may be something that they would love to do."

The girls follow along the units and modules in the book just like the boys.

Some parents say that it's like giving recognition for what many kids had already been doing.

"We have siblings that are always there. My daughter is always there," said Genevieve Cook, the pack's advancement chair, and mother to two boys and two girls.

Her sons are both scouts, and her husband, also an involved leader. This is indication that family scouting runs true for them and that includes their daughters.

"She's done everything that she would've done, whether she joined Girl Scouts or not," said Cook. "Now she can actually get an award for it; she can be recognized for it."

"It's hard for me to understand why people wouldn't want girls to be in Scouts, just from all the things that they're learning. I mean, it's just life skills, it's leadership, it's so many practical things that we would want all of our children to know, not just our boys," Givens added.

The range of Boy Scouts of America in South Central Kentucky is great. The Wapiti district covers 13 counties in our area, and accounts for 1,200 kids.

"Certainly, there's a lot of people that talk about [incorporating girls into Boy Scouts]. 'It takes away from the traditional value of Boy Scouting.' I personally think it's a good thing," said Dave Knoche, a committee member for the Wapiti District.

The dens are still separated by gender, so typical meetings and activities are not co-ed. Last year, the organization began phasing in girls through Cub Scouts.

Next month, Boy Scouts will be considered Scouts BSA, as the organization begins an additional girls program that has the same Boy Scouts curriculum. It's so that older girls can work towards achieving an Eagle Scout rank.

"The ultimate goal is, we're here to serve youth. We're here to make sure they learn core values that carry them through their lives," he added.

Boy Scouts of America, an organization over a century old, is still Boy Scouts. It's the activities like camping, attaining new merit badges, fishing, community service. Much of it is oftentimes alongside your family.

"I think that we push the fact that it's supposed to be family-involved, and now it's family scouting," said Cook.

In recent years, the national organization has come under scrutiny, for things like allowing in girls; whispers of potentially filing for bankruptcy after sexual abuse lawsuits; and membership not being as high as it once was.

"There have some things that have happened that were not good, and has brought negative press upon our organization," said Sid Baker, another committee member of the Wapiti District. "But I think if we can just hang in there, and weather the storms, that we'll still be there for the kids."

"If scouting were to just dissipate, which sounds completely -- like it would just probably never happen -- I think that we have, kind of a group of people that would still do something to interact with these kids, to keep them going, to teach these skills that they would not get otherwise," said Cook.

For this pack, leaders say the numbers of those involved are steady, and there's new excitement to see what another group of youth will be able to achieve.

"I'll be excited for the day, in the not too distant future, that we've got our first young lady in this district that earns Eagle," Baker said.

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