Sophia Robertory, 10, was thinking how embarrassing it would be to trip and fall in front of 33,000 people.
Anatolia Madeline Jenson, also 10, was supposed to carry the American flag onto the field, but her hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
But then a booming voice at Nationals Park in D.C., home to baseball’s Washington Nationals, announced “Cub Scout Pack 873 from Annandale, Va.,” and the coolest thing happened. All that anxiety faded away. The girls had entered some kind of zone.
In April, for the first time in Major League Baseball history, an all-girl Cub Scout den led the opening flag ceremony. It was another shining moment in a year of history-making firsts for the Boy Scouts of America.
The Cub Scouts walked confidently onto the field, holding the American and pack flags as a choir performed the national anthem. The girls not holding flags bent their right hands in two-fingered salutes. The men and women serving as den leaders watched with pride nearby. The crowd went nuts. Nobody tripped.
“When you’re actually doing it, it’s pretty easy,” Matilda says. “And I felt a lot of relief when we were done. I felt really proud of our den.”
Later, den leader Luke Rose capitalized on a teaching moment — specifically point 10 of the Scout Law.
“We had a short talk about how they all were incredibly brave,” he says. “They knew they had practiced. They knew what to do, and so they did their duty despite their fear.”
As the Cub Scouts found their way to Section 407 to watch the game, people pointed and waved. Some even offered high-fives.
“Adults would approach to tell us that they are Eagle Scouts,” Rose says, “to which the Cub Scouts would say that they would be, too. Someday.”
Cub Scouting for Everybody
It’s a tradition as old as Cub Scouting itself. Every month, a Cub Scout pack meets — maybe in a church basement or the gym at an elementary school — and it’s not just the boys who show up. It’s the entire family.
Little sisters, older brothers, maybe even some babies. It’s awesome. And noisy.
The leaders, wisely, involve everyone in the crafts, the games, the snacks, the skits and the songs. Everyone learns how to use a compass or fold a flag or prepare for a hike.
By the end of the evening, it’s time to recognize those who have completed Adventure Loop requirements. Bring on the shiny belt bling.
But wait. The girls may stay seated. This part is for boys only.
That is, until now.
Cub Scouting has opened its doors to boys and girls alike. Dens must be single-gender, but packs may now include only girl dens, only boy dens or boy dens and girl dens in the same pack. Consult your chartered organization before proceeding, and then go have fun.
“What hasn’t changed is the program that Cub Scouting offers to youth and families,” Rose says. “The youth get the games; the families get the purpose behind the games. Every kid likes to play games, and every parent wants what’s best for their child. That is why Cub Scouts is for girls and boys and their families.”
Best. News. Ever.
Ten-year-old Rachel Istook remembers exactly what she was doing when she got the news that changed her life. She was eating chicken curry.
It was October 2017, and Rachel’s mom, Joanne, saw the news on her phone that the BSA was welcoming girls into all programs. Thanks to an opportunity called “Early Adopters,” this meant select councils and packs could begin welcoming girls into Cub Scouting right away.
“I squealed and jumped up and down and jumped all the way into the kitchen,” Rachel says. “My parents told me to calm down and that they would try to find me a pack. I had already been planning to join a Venturing crew when I turned 14, but learning that I could join now was so exciting.”
Rachel joined Pack 641 of Beaverton, Ore. So did her brother, 8-year-old Zachary.
“Logistically, the best part for me is having a single meeting time and place for both children,” Joanne Istook says. “Being in the same pack, but separate dens, is the perfect combination because it gives them lots of shared experiences that have helped them grow closer as siblings, while still providing adventures and activities that are aimed at their different ages and abilities.”
Hooked on Scouting
When Lora Panepinto of Staten Island, N.Y., was in the first grade, her older brother, Marko, was working on the Fishing merit badge. Lora had been joining her brother at every Cub Scout activity since age 2, and she wanted to be part of his Boy Scout experience as well.
While she couldn’t go on the Boy Scout campouts, she learned the same skills. So when Marko learned how to tie fishing knots, identify lures, and clean and cook a fish on his own, Lora did, too. Lora even filled out her own paperwork for the Fishing merit badge and gave it to her mom.
“She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to get the badge since she was a ‘better fisherman than Marko,’ ” mom Snazzy Panepinto says with a laugh.
Lora, now 13, couldn’t earn that merit badge before. But she’ll be among the first to join Scouts BSA in February. When she does, she wants to earn the Fishing merit badge and at least 20 more. She plans to be an Eagle Scout.
“You could say we were doing family Scouting before it actually existed,” Panepinto says. “I am ecstatic and relieved because girls like my daughter are finally able to participate in the program and get recognition for their achievements.”
Let’s Hear It From the Boys
And what do boys think of their sisters joining their Cub Scout pack, albeit in separate dens?
“I was like, now my sister could be a Cub Scout? That’s so cool!” Colin says. “It is really nice to have your family around.”
After all, why wouldn’t Colin want the largest possible audience for his favorite skit, “The Invisible Bench”?
“It’s where this guy starts out pretending he is sitting on an invisible bench and then some other guys join him,” Colin says. “And then a guy comes and says, ‘I moved that thing two years ago,’ and they all go like, ‘Aaah!’ and fall down.”
For Colin’s parents, Sean and Jodie, the benefits of enjoying Scouting as a family are no joke.
“It gives Jodie and me a common set of values to refer to as we raise them,” Sean says. “Besides that, it was hard to explain why Marin was excluded from certain activities just because she wasn’t ‘officially’ a Scout.”