Cub Scouting veteran shares her advice for Cubmasters

This Cub Scouter is a big deal in the Big Apple.

MANY CUB SCOUT LEADERS move on to Boy Scouting the minute their sons do. Maureen Riley might have done that, too, but her four sons were born across a span of 13 years. Since she always had another son coming into Pack 422, she never left the pack. Now, 12 years after her youngest son crossed over, she remains with the pack she first joined in 1982.  Maureen Riley

For her first decade or so in Pack 422, Riley served behind the scenes, helping with tasks like transportation and fundraisers. But around 1994, she began taking on bigger roles: den leader, treasurer and — for most of her tenure — Cubmaster. Since the pack boasts a membership of 105, that’s no small task.

How do you keep up with a pack of 100-plus boys? Almost every day, I will spend at least one to two hours just reminding people of upcoming events. Also, Facebook is wonderful. I have two dads who handle the Facebook page.

You didn’t have Facebook in the ’80s and ’90s. I had to type letters — it sounds like a dinosaur era now — and it was phone calls, phone calls, phone calls. The computer is an amazing, amazing thing.

It still must be hard to keep up with advancement, especially when boys miss meetings. When boys miss, I send out an email to the parents: “This is what your son missed. If you want your son to get this pin, you have to complete it and let me know you completed it.”

How do you support den leaders? I do the entire den meeting programming, and then I email it to the den leaders. I just find that people don’t want to take on that responsibility. I have parents that don’t actually get home from work before they walk in our door at 7 o’clock.

You try hard to have engaging den meetings. Why is that? If you’re not creative and you don’t think differently, you just won’t retain the kids.

What’s it like to do Scouting in America’s most cosmopolitan city? We’re only 20 blocks from the United Nations, so we get a lot of families that come from there. In every single rank, there’s something about cultures. It’s really nice because the boys can talk about how life was in the country that they came from. But when it comes down to it, they’re just another little boy.

I assume you have plenty of program options to choose from. We do. We have done the Intrepid sleepover, the American Museum of Natural History sleepover and the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk sleepover. We have annual camping trips. We participate in a food drive to benefit City Harvest. We conduct a toy drive for The New York Foundling. We participate in planting and cleaning at our local park. I even found an amazing restaurant owner who sponsors us. The kids go in and learn how to cook; each Scout gets two hours and memories that will last forever.

That’s a lot of activities! The variety gives families the choice to maybe participate in one or two of the trips instead of being pressured from their sons to participate in the only outing on the calendar.

How does Manhattan’s commuter culture affect you? Some families work in the city, and some have their children go to school in the city but live in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn. Some families come from different boroughs and then go home after Scouting. It’s more convenient.

All 35 kids who came to your last open house joined the pack. How did you pull that off? It’s got to be exciting for them. That first meeting is going to make or break you. We did a breakout session where the boys made first-aid kits. Also, each year we purchase a pack T-shirt, and I have those prepared for our open house. If you commit that night, your son gets his shirt immediately.

What’s it like not to have a son in the pack you serve? It’s much easier. When you have to work on making sure your kid is advancing and that his homework is done, it’s really hard. It’s easier when you don’t have children in the unit because you have more time to be able to work with everything that needs to be done.

Does the program start to feel stale after three decades? Each year, I make the program a little different. You have to constantly change so that you can get the boys to come back the following year.

How do you stay motivated after so many years? There are times that I’ve felt really burned out. What keeps me going is the boys. I really do love the kids. If I can offer them a program that they can’t get anywhere else, it’s all worth it to me.

FACT SHEET: Maureen Riley

Years as a Scout Volunteer: 32

Current City: New York City

Current Positions: Cubmaster, Tiger leader and treasurer, Pack 422; district committee member

Day Job: Bookkeeper, SMP Digital Graphics

Favorite Camp: Alpine Scout Camp in Alpine, N.J., on the Palisades. “The campsite is kept so beautiful, and the programming is amazing. The staff is top-notch. It’s also really convenient; it takes us about 20 minutes by car to get to the camp.”

Proudest Moment in Scouting: Watching one of her former Cub Scouts become an Eagle Scout despite having muscular dystrophy. “He had everything against him, and nothing stopped him. It was just amazing.”


  1. With over 100 hundred scouts in Pack 422 I am surprised Maureen Riley must take on the roles of Cubmaster, advancement chair, tiger den leader, district committee member and treasurer. I believe she and her pack would be better served to train other adults to take on some of these roles. What will the pack do, if she must leave? Furthermore, other adults are being robbed of the blessing of helping out.

    • First I applaud Mrs. Riley on her years of service in scouting. What an awesome thing to witness when someone dedicates that much of their life to making sure boys have a great time in scouting. Consistency is KEY and Mrs. Riley is making sure that this happens. In todays world few people have the time left in the day to even make it to meetings much less plan them and although from the outside it appears she might be taking on a bit much she is ensuring the packs longevity. I’m sure although no one might step up to wear the shirt and take on those positions she covers she undoubtedly receives a great deal of support from parents when they can. Speaking from a very similar background, training parents to take on roles is not the problem, getting them to agree to those roles is. Forced leadership has terrible results, you have to want to do it. Many families work two and three jobs, have split households, divide time between multiple children and sports and simply don’t have the drive and ambition to take on leadership. The question will always be what will happen when Mrs. Riley moves on, but the answer is the same as if you were trying find a replacement for her now. Sure you always keep an eye out for those individuals that show a greater interest in the program, but finding leaders such as Mrs. Riley has become increasingly rare and in my own district many of our leaders hold multiple positions to ensure scouting is alive and well.

  2. Maureen is a dynamo and a brilliant leader. I’ve known her for a few years, but this story sheds a bit of light on some of the ingredients in her recipe for success. I hope it helps her inspire even more people. I know it inspires me. Thanks for featuring this article on our beloved Maureen.

  3. To jscouter. I have been in our pack for 11 years and getting parents and leaders to take the role of Cubmaster is really hard to do. It’s not robbing them of these positions. If you have the knowledge of getting this position filled please share it with us. I am more than happy to give mine up to anyone who wants to do it.
    Cubmaster 2nd time around and
    My boy left scouting 6 years ago

    • Here some ideas for finding volunteers…

      1) Our charter organization requires that all new parents take the BSA’s Youth Protection Training (YPT) and the church’s YPT and background check. This eliminates one excuse some adults have for not volunteering.

      2) ‘Volunteer’ the parent that stays for the den or pack meeting. “Jane, can you help with snacks tonight at the Pack Meeting?”

      3) Start with individual tasks, versus filling a position. “Mrs. Baloo, can you be our bleeding victim?” “Mr. Smyth, we could use as part of the pit crew for the Pinewood Derby?”

      4) Make the request for help, face to face. Most of our general pleas for help go unanswered.

      5) Require each scout to run a den meeting with the help of their parent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.