THE SEEDS OF Wayne Perry’s investment with Scouting as an adult leader and supporter began when he was a Cub Scout in Seattle and his mother and father were his Webelos leaders. “Then I went on to Scouting,” he recalls, “and the troop disbanded when I was a Second Class Scout.” Wayne describes what happened as a failure of leadership. “The leaders basically stopped showing up after their kids got their Eagle,” he says. “It wasn’t the end of the world. But it always got me about the failure of adults letting kids down.”
Wayne, a retired businessman and part owner of the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team, has never stopped showing up for Scouting. His early experiences left him with “a great feeling for Scouting.” That feeling became more concrete when his wife, Christine, came home from church one day with the news that she had volunteered him to be Cubmaster. “And then when you have four boys, you just keep rolling,” he says. “You’re a Cubmaster, then they get to Scouts and you’re assistant Scoutmaster, and then you’re a Scoutmaster.”
Wayne went on to join the district committee and then became vice president of the council, area president, regional vice president, regional president, and a member of the National Executive Board. Wayne also spent three years as international commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, beginning in 2006, and as a member of the World Scout Committee. Currently, he is national president-elect of the Boy Scouts of America.
Brimming with passion for Scouting, Wayne tells an endless supply of stories—often punctuated with his trademark “By gumbo!” expression—about how campouts, merit badges, and challenging activities transform regular kids into dynamic leaders. “The program, which is teaching kids character and leadership skills—while kind of hiding it in a fun outdoor program—is a proven product,” he says. “It still works today.” Unlike organized sports, Scouting is suitable for any boy, from the least athletic to the born competitor. “Scouting offers things for kids who will not join athletics,” says Wayne, a longtime youth baseball coach. “And it’s great for kids who are the star quarterbacks of their high school teams.”
High-thrill activities such as riding zip lines and climbing rock walls irresistibly attract boys, he says. “And there’s virtually no kid in the United States who wouldn’t benefit from our program—the leadership skills they get, the values that are taught, the physical skills, first aid, how to tie a one-handed bow knot. Those are skills that stay with you forever.”
The durability of Scouting’s impact is matched by its significance. “When I’ve brought kids home from 50-milers, I’ve had parents come up to me and say, ‘What did you do to my kid? He’s changed. He’s more responsible.’ I say, ‘There’s something about hiking 50 miles. Nobody is going to help you. You have to do it yourself.’”
Though he says Scouting is great, Wayne believes it can be better. “The issue we have is one of attention. Kids today are extremely busy with school and other activities.” Many of those are powerful competitors. And Wayne’s appreciation of the competition shapes his vision of what comes next.
“The program has to be a little more fast-paced,” he says. “Move quicker. It’s got to be a little more exciting for the boys.” That’s why he wants to see action amusements like mountain biking play larger roles. “You don’t have to be a star athlete to have fun with a mountain bike. You can go out and challenge yourself, and it’s a great activity. We have enormous potential for that in our camps.”
Christine also points to the potential and importance of Scout camps for providing outdoor experiences to kids whose other options are generally indoor, sedentary activities. “A great example of that is the national jamboree site, which is going to be fabulous,” she says.
Optimistic openness to possibility is a distinct Perry trait, one that brings to mind a young Cub Scout getting his first exposure to Scouting. Wayne remains sensitive to a leader’s responsibility to his youthful charges. His troop may have disbanded before he made First Class, but the four Perry sons—Kevin, Gregory, Douglas, and Justin—all made it to Eagle.
The Boy Scouts of America National Foundation (bsafoundation.org) provides a full range of philanthropic and charitable gift services for donors and their advisors. Its primary mission is to support local, national, and international Scouting programs and initiatives.
WHY WE GIVE: AN IMMEDIATE RETURN ON INVESTMENT
While Wayne Perry has a remarkable record of volunteering his time and energy, he and Christine also are financial supporters of Scouting. As members of the BSA National Foundation, the Perrys have the opportunity to see how those who are able to make major gifts can have an impact.
“Donors are looking to make a difference today,” Wayne says. “They’re looking for a return on a philanthropic investment. They’re looking for measurable outcomes that can be tracked. They’re looking for a business plan of what’s going to be achieved.”
Scouting provides a nearly unmatched ability to adapt to donors’ varying needs. “There are very few organizations that are as flexible as ours,” he says. “You come up with a good idea and—By gumbo!—let’s go.” And today’s donors, who want to do more than write a check, will find a warm reception. “They’ll see we care about them,” Wayne says. “And they’ll see kids changed by the impact of Scouting.”
But Christine notes that without significant support from those who have the means, the impact won’t be as sizable. “It would be great to expand into lots of neighborhoods where young men and women need a good organization to help teach them all the things that Scouting teaches them,” she says.