OP-ED

Boy Scouting thriving, working better than ever

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For nearly 110 years, the Narragansett Council Boy Scouts of America (NCBSA) has provided experiences that build character while creating young leaders and good citizens for as many boys as possible in Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts and Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Although times have changed since 1910, the Narragansett Council is proud to report that scouting here is thriving and working better than ever.

Recently, we released our annual Impact Report highlighting the boys' achievements from the previous year. One notable achievement was a 24 percent increase in new youth recruitment over the prior year, with 13,041 youth served. This number is significant, as these young men have learned the values and character that are unique to Scouting.

At the Narragansett Council, we pride ourselves on making programs accessible to all boys. The Scoutreach program, designed to break down the barriers to membership for low-income, ethnically diverse families, served 1,217 youth last year. Going forward, we aim to serve even more of these young men.

Throughout the summer, thousands of Scouts had the opportunity to experience several of our camps. Camp Yawgoog in Rockville, R.I. celebrated its 100-year-anniversary in 2016 and hosted 6,400 Scouts. In Massachusetts, Camps Cachalot and Norse marked successful summers, as well. Many people reflect on their time spent at our camps as some of the best memories of their childhoods, and we're proud to continue making these memories for today's youth.

Meanwhile, nearly 50 Scouts attended a 12-day backpacking trek at the Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. Closer to home, 142 youth attended the STEM Day Camp we sponsored at Bryant University.

Scouts earned 10,743 merit badges last year. These badges signify hard work, motivation and dedication to learning various life skills and about different careers. We're pleased to see our Scouts learning new skills.

Exploring, the co-ed career exploration program for youth ages 14 - 20, also showed an increase in membership, with 417 teens participating.

Dozens of teens in the Exploring program attended the Police Exploring Academy to explore a career as a police officer. We're dedicated to helping our youth discover exciting career paths that are available to them, and we look forward to offering more opportunities for them in the coming years.

At the younger end of the age spectrum we serve, 266 Lion Cubs participated in scouting's new program for Kindergarten-age boys last year.

Community service is another crucial component of Scouting. 65,756 community service hours were recorded by Scouts last year. 38,000 of those hours were performed by Eagle Scouts conducting the community service projects necessary to achieve the highest ranking in Scouting. The Scouts also collected 215,992 pounds of food for local food pantries in our annual

Scouting for Food drive. Our Scouts are clearly making our communities better.

This year, we'll continue our mission of getting boys involved in our programs and providing them with opportunities to grow and reach their full potential. I'm proud of our Scouts - they are the driving force behind our success. Thanks to them, the Narragansett Council, Boy Scouts of America is thriving, and our community is better for it.

Tim McCandless is Scout Executive and CEO of theNCBSA.

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