The National Summertime Pack Award program features all sorts of prizes. There’s a streamer for the pack flag if the pack holds an activity during each summer month. There’s a streamer for the den flag if the den gets at least half its members to each of those activities. And there’s a pin for each Cub Scout who attends all three activities. (It goes on the right pocket flap.)
Pack 3842 in Stillwater, Okla., gave out plenty of those prizes last summer, assistant Cubmaster Toni Presley Beyl says, but the biggest prizes went to the pack itself. At the summer activities, pack leaders successfully recruited a new treasurer, a new advancement chair and all the Wolf leaders they needed.
“Since the leaders get to be a little more relaxed and kind of play in the summer, there’s a little bit more of an opportunity to actually visit with parents,” Beyl says. “It’s hard to visit with parents when you’re running a den meeting and your focus is on the Scouts.”
Recruiting isn’t the only way packs benefit from summer activities, says Rick Craven, Cubmaster of Pack 3805 in Stillwater. Because pack leaders stay in touch with each other over the summer, they’re able to get up to speed quickly when school starts in the fall.
“I don’t think we would have that core cohesiveness and that success if we didn’t function all year round,” he says. “I think we would lose that over the summer.”
Of course, planning 12 months of activities is harder than taking the summer off. Craven and Beyl offer some tips on making the planning as easy as possible.
Craven recommends getting summer activities on the schedule as early as possible — even at the beginning of the Scouting year. That makes it more likely that families will keep those dates free.
“I know from my wife’s standpoint that she’s a planner and wants to know things well in advance,” he says. “When we get that Scout schedule out to parents in August, it has everything listed on it for the year.”
Spring isn’t too late to schedule summer activities, however. Beyl’s pack typically sets its schedule in March after they finalize popcorn sale results. (The pack covers the cost of all summer activities out of popcorn profits.) The important thing is to publicize dates before families scatter for vacations and other activities.
Keep It Simple
If you think summer activities have to be complicated, think again. Craven likes to piggyback on existing community events, such as outdoor expos put on by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. The pack has taken a field trip to see a World War II submarine at Muskogee War Memorial Park. (Dens that sold the most popcorn this year got to camp aboard the submarine.)
“We’ve been real fortunate in that we kind of revamped the ideas that have been in the pack for a long time and just made them bigger and better,” he says.
Beyl recommends holding simple activities that require little planning and no RSVPs. Her pack actually does two activities each month over the summer, including things like museum outings, visits to splash parks and family cookouts at a nearby lake.
“The only reason leaders are not stressed about the activities in the summer is there’s virtually no planning,” she says. “They don’t have to have a den meeting; we’re just going to come together as a pack to play.”
Another way her pack keeps things simple is by requiring parents to stay at events where release forms are required, like trampoline-park outings.
“They have to be there to sign those, and then they stick around,” she says. “And we always have our health forms with us.”
Set Your Standards
The requirements for the National Summertime Pack Award are pretty clear, but they do offer a little wiggle room, so you should clarify the rules up front. For example, some packs count Cub Scout day camp if they attend as a group. That’s not something Beyl is in favor of.
“I realize we’re all busy and sometimes you want to cut corners, but I think that cheapens the program,” she says.
Her pack did, however, give credit to a Cub Scout who missed a pack event because he was at Philmont Scout Ranch with his family. Craven’s pack, meanwhile, had a Cub Scout participate in an activity via Skype because she was in Asia visiting relatives.
“I gave her that one,” he says. “She was still participating, and it meant that she was dedicated to Scouting.”
And maintaining such dedication — among Cub Scouts and leaders — is worth more than all the pins and streamers you can give out. When your pack remains active over the summer, Beyl says, “Everybody is being reminded that they’re Scouts and are part of something bigger.”