This Scouting couple supports the relevance of Scouting to at-risk youth.
CRAIG FENNEMAN’S family involvement with Scouting stretches back nearly a century, to the dawn of the Boy Scouts of America when his grandfather founded a troop in 1914 in Evansville, Ind. Since then, Craig, his father, three brothers, and a son all have become Eagle Scouts. And like his grandfather before him, Craig is the recipient of the Silver Beaver award, recognizing his service as an adult volunteer to the Scouting movement. He also received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
“It’s been a great adventure,” Craig says of his Scouting experience. Today, he leads Southern Bells Inc., one of the country’s largest franchisers of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC restaurants, and serves as a member of the BSA’s National Foundation Board. He also serves on the board of trustees for Butler University, his alma mater, and takes leadership roles in other youth-oriented organizations. He credits much of this life of extraordinary achievement to what he learned from Scouting.
“One of my first opportunities to be in a leadership position was in Boy Scouts,” Craig says. “After that, I became president of student government in high school and president of student government in college. It gave me a confidence that has taken me through my life.”
Now as significant supporters of Scouting, Craig and his wife, Mary, work to ensure that other boys benefit from the same opportunities he had. While a lot has changed since his grandfather was organizing his first troop, Craig believes Scouting is more relevant than ever. “All youth are at risk these days,” he says.
With challenging and educational experiences outdoors and opportunities to explore their own abilities as patrol leaders and senior patrol leaders, Scouts from all walks of life develop abilities and self-reliance they might not otherwise have, Craig says. “The skills you learn, whether it’s camping or canoeing, give you confidence that you can handle yourself in this world.”
And that, in turn, helps create the foundation for a life of accomplishment like the one he has led. Craig says time and again he has found that high-achieving men tend to have Scouting experience—many are Eagle Scouts like him. “That’s not an accident,” he says. “The discipline and character that builds people often come from a Scouting kind of background.”
Craig has seen the effect Scouting has had on his family over three generations, and his hope and confidence that many more boys and families can experience similarly positive influences represent why he’s involved and supportive. “It’s been a well-developed, wonderful program for 100 years,” he says, “and it will continue that way.”
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MARY AND CRAIG FENNEMAN’S son, Brent, is an Eagle Scout and a veteran of the Peace Corps. “We feel Scouting has given him a sense of confidence and leadership skills,” Mary says. “It allows all boys to develop leadership skills and confidence to become speakers and leaders, and the patriotism is unbelievable.”
A desire to help other young men get the same benefits Brent received is one of the reasons the Fennemans support Scouting. “I just feel that the Boy Scouts of America is such a great foundation for our young men, and to give to the Boy Scouts is an assurance that boys are trained to become great leaders and pillars of the community,” Mary says.
Craig agrees with Mary about the positive effects of Scouting on Brent, as well as on other boys who experience it. And he also likes the flexibility of the new BSA donor recognition programs (the Second Century Society and Presidents Leadership Council), which offer a broad variety of options for major gift donors. The Fennemans were recognized as Presidents Leadership Circle members in 2011 after establishing their donor-advised fund with the foundation. The couple give ongoing input regarding charitable distributions from the fund, and they use it to facilitate family discussions that allow Craig and Mary to pass on their philanthropic values.
“There’s no organization in this world that doesn’t need money,” Craig notes. “We can’t deliver the programs we want to deliver; we can’t provide the kinds of services to youth and adults we want to provide if [the organizations] don’t have money. The new donor programs of the BSA offer an easier and better approach that people can invest in for the future.”
Craig also sees a strong personal benefit to supporting Scouting. “It’s great fun to give, to see the fruits of your labor go to helping youth around the country and in your neighborhood,” he says. “And that’s where I start, from a selfish perspective. It makes me feel better, as well as helps other people.”
LEARN MORE about how you can contribute to the BSA National Foundation at bsafoundation.org.