By Kathy Vilim Dagroomes
Photographs by John R. Fulton
The tubby tabby is generating excitement among youth and volunteers alike as the national Garfield Round-Up gets under way across the country.
Five and a half years ago, outside his hometown of Muncie, Ind., Jim Davis and his son, James, attended an Eagle Scout court of honor for one of James's friends. The elder Davis, creator of the internationally popular Garfield comic strip, came away moved.
"I was so impressed by the dedication, hard work, and tenacity it took to earn this honor," Davis recalled. "I thought at the time, if all young men and women were to go through a Scouting program and get this far, the world would be a truly wonderful place."
Two years later, in 1996, the cartoonist's life again intersected with Scouting, during a visit from district executive Dave Dominick of the Crossroads of America Council in nearby Indianapolis.
Dominick - a friend of Davis and a huge Garfield fan - asked if the cartoonist, through his company, Paws, Inc., would allow the council to use Garfield in its 1997 Cub Scouting recruitment campaign.
"We were thinking this would be a onetime thing that we could utilize and build on," current Crossroads of America Council President Mike Alley recounted. "But the Paws organization went a step further - actually donating all of the licensing of Garfield, doing a lot of additional artwork, and making a full commitment to the program."
Garfield © PAWS
Jim Davis observed: "What started as a modest idea with [council Scout Executive] Scott Clabaugh...and some of the folks over there, grew and grew until we had a full-blown, beautifully presented, and well-coordinated campaign."
To test the potential for a nationwide roundup, the BSA National Council then launched a pilot program in Indianapolis. The response to the Crossroads of America Council's 1997 Garfield-themed membership campaign was strong - a 13.9 percent increase in Cub Scouts, Tiger Cubs up 16.2 percent, and 6.4 percent growth in packs.
The successful results, in numbers and enthusiasm among volunteers and youth, were due both to Garfield's highly visible role and the efforts of Scout Executive Scott Clabaugh, said G. Richard (Rick) Williamson, outgoing national director of the Cub Scout Division (and just-named SE for Wisconsin's Bay Lakes Council). "Blending innovation with proven techniques, Clabaugh inspired his staff and volunteers to record achievements."
Said Davis: "We knew we not only had a campaign with legs - this program had whiskers and a fat belly as well."
Extending the impact of his generosity from Indianapolis to all Scout councils, Davis (through Paws, Inc.) then gave the BSA a license to use the Garfield characters in a national campaign.
The stage was set for the BSA's first nationally coordinated Cub Scout roundup, with Garfield, star of the most widely distributed comic strip in history, as official SPOKESCAT.
In ProSpeak, the national newsletter for BSA professionals, Chief Scout Executive Jere Ratcliffe characterized the campaign as "a very special Cub Scout recruitment effort" that "will do a great deal to support the Strategic Plan critical issue of traditional unit and membership growth."
"Garfield's witty mannerisms, coupled with the slogan 'Cub Scouting, because too much fun is never enough!' will be the driving force in delivering the Cub Scouting message of learning good values and having fun with friends across the nation."
The national Garfield Round-Up - a coordinated effort between the Cub Scout Division; Boys' Life; the External Communications, Supply, and Electronic Publishing divisions; and Paws, Inc. - kicks off this fall and continues through the year 2000.
Currently in his 21st year, Garfield is a classic, recognized worldwide and now sporting a sharp blue-and-gold uniform.
BSA councils received a two-part "Tools for Success" Program Package last December, including a Council Garfield Round-Up Plan and Garfield Round-Up Marketing Kit.
Also available to councils are many roundup resources such as television and radio public service announcements (English and Spanish), print ads directed at parents and youth, a Garfield promotional stand-up, billboards, clip art, a Boys' Life "postermag" (replacing the "mini-mag" of the last four recruitment seasons), and support materials from the Supply Division.
Garfield Round-Up unit marketing packets have been provided to individual Cub Scout packs through the local councils. These kits include a school "rally night" principal announcement cassette, yard sign, press release, Garfield recruitment flier and poster, Boys' Life promotion flier, plus ordering information for recognition and other items.
Among those having provided key leadership for the two-year national Round-Up are outgoing Cub Scout Division director Rick Williamson; associate director Gloria Atkins, staff adviser to the campaign; and Central Region Area II vice president Jon Graska of Grand Haven, Mich., chairman of the National Cub Scout Committee's Garfield Round-Up Task Force.
"The No. 1 objective is to recruit more youth and leaders so they can receive the values of the Cub Scout program," said Williamson.
Garfield's a lasagna-loving, Monday-hating, wisecracking, funny feline who loves naps - and being a Cub Scout.
Garfield © PAWS
"Garfield's familiarity and popularity with youth and adults will bring a new element of fun to inviting new boys and their parents to join a pack," he said. "But a by-product is to raise the awareness of Cub Scouting and the value of the four and one-half years we have those young people in the program. And Garfield is certainly doing that already. The calls that we're receiving are just amazing. Garfield adds excitement to the entire program."
Jon Graska says the chubby feline is particularly well suited for the program because of his popularity with all age groups. "Garfield appeals to you from the time you're old enough to read. He's just a fantastic character. Yes, he can be a scamp sometimes, but all cats have that mystique about them. I think kids are smart enough to know that's Garfield's on-screen persona - that, really, he's a 'good Scout' at heart."
Graska has another message for those on the front lines of the Garfield Round-Up: Remember that Garfield is still only a tool
"The biggest thing to keep in mind is to not sit back and expect the Garfield program to sell itself," he said. "Volunteers, local councils, districts, and individual packs all should understand that these [Garfield campaign materials] are terrific tools that are going to get young people and parents to that initial meeting. But all of us are going to have to follow up on that and make sure we deliver the promise, too."
The Round-Up features many sides - and sizes - of Garfield, from plush stand-up to a full-size costume at each region office.
Cub Scout Division's Gloria Atkins emphasized the important role of volunteers in the Garfield Round-Up. "They are the ones who are going to make this successful. We need their support - and we need to show them that they are appreciated."
Major promotional tools include four Garfield costumes - one for each BSA region - available for councils to reserve for "personal appearances" by the SPOKESCAT. Each regional office will designate a person for councils to call to reserve a costume. The appearance will then be cleared through Paws, to make sure "Garfield" is making only one visit at a time in a media market.
The Garfield Round-Up is a two-year campaign, so Cub Scout recruiting doesn't necessarily end with the roundup night, Rick Williamson emphasized. "Because of excitement created in the community by Garfield, recruiting might not just happen on that one night. There can be follow-ups in October, November, December, and beyond."
Garfield can be used as an icon for the blue and gold banquet, district day camps, and other special functions, Williamson suggested. An example of getting mileage out of roundup resources would be using the Garfield promotional stand-ups to hold placards at pack meetings, in the school principal's office, or at other events.
The Round-Up will take place again next year, with Garfield remaining with the Cub Scout recruitment program though Dec. 31, 2000.
"This effort is more than just the roundup," emphasized Williamson. "It's the start of the Garfield program."
Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine. In this issue she also wrote "Hams in the Family".
Key Elements To Success: Quality Leaders, Tiger Cubs
Cub Scout Division staffers stress two points as key elements in a successful Garfield Round-Up. (1) New adult leaders should be "selected" in advance rather than "recruited" on the same night parents sign their sons up for Cub Scouting. (2) The Tiger Cubs BSA program, which parallels the first-grade school year, should not be forgotten in the excitement over Garfield.
Selection of leadership
Leaders should be "selected" because of their qualifications. Cub Scouts deserve the best program possible, and they will get it from qualified and enthusiastic leaders.
Packs should conduct a unit leadership inventory early, to determine which leadership positions are needed, and then begin the selection process for those positions. Once the best leaders have been selected and recruited, they should immediately receive training in order to be ready to step in and fill the positions.
A folder, "Selecting Cub Scout Leadership" (BSA Bin No. 13-500), is available through council service centers and contains additional tips to aid chartered organizations in the selection and recruitment process.
Recruitment of Tiger Cubs
In the Tiger Cub/first-grade category, Garfield leads all other characters in "kid and parent appeal," so the Round-Up is an excellent tool to attract first graders and their parents.
Increasing the number of first graders participating in Cub Scouting benefits both families and packs. For families, the Tiger Cubs BSA program provides a fun, uncomplicated program for bringing boys and parents closer together. Packs gain by having one or more dens of boys excited about becoming Wolf Cub Scouts as second graders and having experienced parents available to assume leadership roles in the future.
Garfield's a 'Top Cat' in Literacy, Reading
As the BSA's national Round-Up SPOKESCAT, Garfield is hooked on Cub Scouting. But did you know that he's hooked on good reading, too?
Over the years, Garfield has served as mascot for several quality reading programs for kids. These have included the Literacy Volunteers of America's annual fund-raiser, the American Library Association's Summer Reading Program, and then-First Lady Barbara Bush's weekly radio storytelling hour.
Garfield's connection with literacy is appreciated by John Ingram, Boys' Life magazine's circulation director. "Good reading and literacy is something that Boys' Life has always been about," Ingram said. "In fact, the magazine was purchased by the BSA in 1912 for its good reading value for boys and not primarily for its Scouting value."
Boys' Life supports the Garfield Round-Up with a Cub Scouting/Boys' Life Garfield folder (BSA Bin No. 26-029); Boys' Life Garfield flier (No. 26-073); and a new, eight-page, foldout "postermag" (No. 26-835B), which features a 16-by-22-inch poster of Garfield under the headline "Good Reading Makes You Smart." In addition, Boys' Life plans a Garfield "interview" in its September 1999 issue.
Garfield/Cub Scout Award and Recognition Products
BSA Supply Division items in support of the Garfield Round-Up are available for recruitment nights, recognition of volunteers and professionals, and other occasions. They range from pencils, patches, and hat pins to a Garfield embroidered jacket. Below is a sampling:
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