From New York’s steel towers to the bayous of Louisiana, these five Scouting families make their world a better place. In the process, Scouting helps them become stronger together.
The Castle family
Pack 68, Charleston, W.Va.
Dianna and Shawn Castle describe themselves as “just your average little West Virginia family.”
As kids, each spent as much time outside as possible.
“I grew up camping, building fires with flint and steel,” says Dianna, who now leads a Tiger den.
When their 6-year-old daughter, Shelby, showed an interest in the outdoors, Dianna and Shawn knew exactly what to do.
“I genuinely do not think she would be happy elsewhere,” Dianna says. “I mean, there are a million programs for kids, but Scouting is so diverse. She’s like a little sponge and she just soaks it up.”
Shelby enjoys bringing her unique style to Cub Scouting. At a camporee last fall, for example, she wore a fluffy rainbow unicorn tutu.
She loves swimming, archery, camping and hiking. She’d rather dig earthworms from an old, busted cooler to go fishing than do anything else. And she has a pretty clear goal in mind.
“I can’t wait to be an Eagle Scout,” Shelby says.
Dianna and Shawn have noticed that Shelby is happier than ever — and more confident.
“The change in her demeanor is remarkable,” Dianna says. “She’s opened up so much, and learned to trust people outside her immediate family, which is awesome.”
In past years, she was timid at the playground, sticking close to her mom’s side. Now she’ll say, “Mom, I’m with my Scouting family. I’m safe.”
The Lamberti family
Troop 19, Staten Island, N.Y.
The phrase “salt of the earth” might have been invented for the Lambertis.
Ralph Sr. was borough president of Staten Island in the 1980s. With classic New York humility, he describes it as, “like being the mayor of a small town.”
That’s true — if, by “small,” you mean a population of 240,000.
Ralph became involved with Scouting out of respect.
Scouts “were trained right,” he says, “and they knew what they should be doing in the community to give back.”
Ralph has received the Silver Beaver Award and countless other accolades for his service to the Greater New York Councils.
“I tried to unite people,” he says. “The Scouts know that when you get together with all the different nationalities, colors and religions, maybe you find that you have more in common than you have different.”
Ralph’s wife, Susan, is a Scouting champion, too. A Silver Beaver recipient and retired special education teacher, she got her students into Scouting during school hours. She later became one of the first female Scoutmasters on Staten Island.
“I really bought into Scouting, because I love the values it teaches,” Susan says. “Just to be able to talk about being trustworthy and cheerful and helpful. In this day and age, I think it’s wonderful that the focus is on helping others and working together.”
Ralph and Susan have been delighted to watch their grandson, Ralph III, continue the family’s Scouting tradition.
For his Eagle Scout project, Ralph III coordinated 30 volunteers to revitalize a community garden at a local church.
“It made me really happy to see the impact,” he says. “There are more people eating healthy, local green foods, and the garden is getting more awareness. It made me proud, because we made it happen together.”
The Piatt family
Troop 22, Lake Charles, La.
Colby Piatt, a 16-year-old Eagle Scout, will never forget building Pinewood Derby cars with his dad in Cub Scouts.
“We built two that won first place,” he says.
Colby, his sister, Kassie, and his parents, Lisa and Mark, were always a tight-knit family.
“We just really love being outdoors,” Lisa says. “We enjoy nature and what Scouting has provided to us.”
Four years ago, Mark died suddenly. Soon after, Colby’s Scout leader left. Lisa saw the best parts of their lives slipping away. Unwilling to let that happen, she took action.
“I stepped up and took over the troop,” Lisa says.
As any Scouter who has led a pack or troop knows, that wasn’t easy.
“I didn’t have anybody to show me what to do. I had to learn from other Scoutmasters,” she says. “I did a lot of reading on the computer.”
“It was tough at first,” Colby says, “but now she’s one of the best Scoutmasters the troop has had in a long while.”
Lisa’s decision helped the family in unexpected ways.
“Over the past few years, some of the best help I’ve received has been through Scouting,” Lisa says.
“My dad isn’t there to help and guide me,” he says. “So Scouting brought in other role models.”
Colby has found a passion for serving others, including helping hundreds recover from flooding after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Kassie is a 14-year-old Venturer. Together, the family thrives.
“We’ve always been a camping family,” Lisa says. “Scouting provides that for us at a cost level we can afford, especially going to high-adventure camps like Swamp Base or Sea Base. It’s been a way for us to continue to be a family and keep traveling and see the United States.”
The Bryant family
Troop 1315, Detroit, Mich.
Marcus and Darian Bryant are building their own cars.
The 14-year-old twins, both Life Scouts, have been camping since age 5 and working on cars since they were 8. Their dad, Damon, is a police officer whose first job out of high school was collision repair.
“I taught the Crime Prevention and Automotive Maintenance merit badges to their troop,” Damon says. “But by then, the boys already knew a lot.”
Damon bought some car parts and had the twins work on them. Darian is rebuilding a 2004 Jeep Cherokee that had been rear-ended. Marcus’ project is a fire-damaged 1988 Chevy Scottsdale. It needed a new hood, fenders, grill, motor and wiring harness.
“They’re not afraid to get out there and learn,” says their mom, Felishia Ming-Bryant.
Scout leaders Sue and Dave Laabs agree.
“They were two of our original Scouts,” Sue says. “They both stepped up to lead the troop, always setting a good example, always in uniform, and helpful in teaching others the Scout Oath and Law.”
Together, the Bryant family has traveled by RV to Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Felishia goes on almost every Scouting camping trip with them and is heavily involved with troop activities.
The couple even spent their 15th anniversary on a Scouting campout — at 40 degrees. Is that kind of dedication worth it? The Bryants say, “Yes.”
“Scouting has taught the boys so many things,” Damon says. “Problem-solving, swimming, first aid, building fires and teamwork. It’s preparing them for the adventure of life.”
The Sivalingam family
Troop 2000, Johns Creek, Ga.
When Kenga Sivalingam fled Sri Lanka, he had no idea he’d have a son one day or that that son would return as a Scout to help his war-torn nation.
“I completed my education in Finland and got a job with Nokia,” Kenga says, “then took an internal transfer to Dallas, Texas.”
There, he met Chelvi, another Sri Lankan. They got married and had two sons, Cheran and Deepan.
“One day, Cheran came to us and said he wanted to join the Cub Scouts,” Chelvi recalls.
But there was a problem: Kenga worked full time as a telecom engineer, and Chelvi was a special-needs teacher. Between work and caring for Deepan, who has autism, they didn’t have time to drive Cheran to the meetings.
A year later, Cheran asked again.
Chelvi told her husband, “I don’t want to deny Cheran the things he wants because of little Deepan.”
She offered to drive Cheran to meetings and do some volunteering for the troop.
“Now I’m seeing him grow into a different kid,” Chelvi says. “He and his friends are getting 360 degrees of exposure and learning.”
Scouting has made Cheran a leader. For his Eagle Scout project, he built two therapy rooms for The Ark, a school for special-needs children in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The project fused the two most important aspects of his life: Scouting and helping people with special needs.
“The Scouts and my brother, Deepan, have both affected my life in extremely positive ways,” Cheran says. “This project is immensely personal to me.”
Chelvi sees the benefit, too.
“I love this program,” she says. “I love seeing these boys grow. This Eagle project isn’t just a way for him to get his Eagle rank. It’s changing and enhancing his abilities.”