Boy Scouts program sees first growth in 15 years
In the last year the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America has experienced a 3.9 percent growth in the number of participants with more than 11,000 in its programs.
It’s a statistic that Tim McCandless proudly reports. In an interview Monday, McCandless, Scout Executive and CEO of the Narragansett Council, called it the greatest growth in Scouting in about 15 years. He attributed the growth to less controversy over gender issues and greater recognition of scouting values as well as improved marketing that reaches young families.
Johnston and North Providence have a total of 13 Cub Scout and Boy Scout Troops with 253 youths and 105 volunteers. That number is consistent with totals for 2016, said McCandless who is hopeful the upward trend will continue. “It looks very positive,” he said of recruitment efforts, “we’re up year over year.”
He said the council is prepared to kickoff its campaign to recruit volunteers, adding, “I think we’re right on track for 2,000 [kids registered as scouts] in the fall.”
Joseph Tumminelli founded Troop 20 Johnston with the late John DiMizio in 1981, at nearly 90 years of age still serves as an Assistant Scoutmaster. He also serves as a Deacon at St. Robert Bellarmine Church on Atwood Avenue, and the church has been the scout’s meeting place since its inception. During its peak in the late 1980s and early 90s, troop membership grew to a high of about 75 scouts.
We lost out as a troop when changes were put in place and we couldn’t recruit at the schools. Now we’re back up to 15 scouts this year, and we have the potential next year to have six more scouts joining us from the Cub Scouts, so we’ll be over 20 scouts as a troop,” said Tumminelli.
Strength in the program today comes from Cub Scouts, according to Tumminelli, which is growing. He believes starting kids young helps them stay with scouting.
“Right now, it’s usually a friend of a scout that joins with them, or through our Cub Scout program,” said Tumminelli of recruiting efforts. The troop recently sent 15 scouts to Camp Yawgoog, Rhode Island’s largest Scout camp, who were very successful.
“This year, with all the first year kids we had, they earned 24 Merit Badges, two of them were major badges- Swimming - which is required for Eagle Scout, and I was pleased, I said ‘Oh my gosh, first year kids, they did great,” said Tumminelli. “All the activities and things that they can learn through Scouting is unbelievable. Going on to make Eagle Scout, every time you hear an individual has made Eagle Scout, that’s like getting a degree.”
McCandless also shared his enthusiasm for scouting Thursday at a Rotary Club of Warwick meeting.
“Kids want to be scouts. It’s translating that to their parents,” he said.
“How do you reach the 29- and 30-year-olds?” he asked.
To that end the council has initiated a campaign across a spectrum of media including a concentration on social media. The message is that not only will their kids have fun and be engaged but they will also gain skills.
“If they are Scouts they have an advantage through the rest of life,” said McCandless.
McCandless moved east from Spokane, Washington last year. He opened his talk with information on the Ponderosa Pine, showing pictures of the majestic 100-foot high trees and in particular a tree living in an arid area with an extensive, deep roots. He then turned to photos of wind ravaged campus of a Whitworth University in Spokane with scores of Ponderosa Pines scattered like match sticks. The trees had been uprooted. Their root systems were shallow and tiny compared to the earlier tree displayed.
McCandless’ point was that the trees that had been felled had had it easy. They were watered and fertilized. They didn’t need to sink deep roots and they were in no condition to standup to heavy winds.
“We’re in the business of helping young men grow deep roots,” he said.
McCandless said camping is often “the bait” to bring kids into scouting. From there the program is directed at building teamwork, whether it is whitewater rafting or camping and leadership.
“It is causing young people to do hard things, to go a little bit further…so they can withstand turbulent times,” he said.
He turned to a two-and-a-half-year study performed by Tufts University of about 1,800 Cub Scouts and 400 non-Scouts in the Philadelphia area. Scouts and non-Scouts were interviewed at separate times during the time period. Initially, there was little difference between the Scouts and the non-Scouts, but in successive interviews researchers found Scouts were more likely to embrace positive social values than non-Scouts. When asked what was most import, a Scout was more likely to say, “helping others” whereas the non-Scouts answered, “being smart” or “being best” or being good at sports.
The study showed boys in Cub Scouts became significantly more cheerful, helpful, kind, obedient, trustworthy and hopeful about their future than non-Scouts.
McCandless points out additional information on scouting and locating the nearest troop or pack is as easy as going to beascout.org. The annual fee for being a scout is $24. Those interested in joining Troop 20 are encouraged to visit a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, except for the third Thursday of the month.