Meet the Parents
By Mark Ray
Cub Scouts at the Daniel Boone Council's Spring Fling encounter BBs, owl pellets, and lots of moms and dads they didn't know they had.
As raindrops splashed around her, Joan Street studied the small tent she and her son, Hunter, a member of Pack 605 in Edneyville, N.C., had just erected at Camp Daniel Boone in western North Carolina.
“I told my son that I’m glad we love each other,” she said. “These are close quarters.”
Those close quarters would be the Streets’ home during the Spring Fling, one of three annual Cub Scout family camp-outs hosted by the Daniel Boone Council. The event brought together more than 300 Cub Scouts, parents, and other relatives for a weekend of family fun and Scouting activities (and very little rain after the morning showers). Participants shot arrows and BBs, made crafts, competed in relay races, and learned about nature. There was plenty of free time for hiking and fishing, as well as an evening campfire program to cap a busy day of fun.
Many of the participants, like Joan Street, had never been camping before, while others were veterans of countless Scouting adventures. All were united by a single purpose. As Street put it, “My son is a Scout. It’s important to him, so it’s important to me.”
Scout Executive Steve Taylor expanded on that theme during the Spring Fling’s opening ceremony.
“Scouting is important to your family, and your family is important to Scouting,” he told the gathered crowd. “It takes all of us working together to make Cub Scouting the very best thing that can happen for your son. We have wonderful leaders who are working with your child, but they can’t do it all.”
Connecting with parents
Getting more parents involved in Scouting is a key goal of the national ScoutParents initiative, which has been piloted in the Daniel Boone Council and Georgia’s Flint River Council over the past two years.
The brainchild of Gerald Lawhorn, a longtime Scouter from Georgia, ScoutParents actively engages parents, guardians, and mentors in the Scouting program. A new adult position, the ScoutParents unit coordinator, helps facilitate parent involvement.
According to Spring Fling participant David Rickman, getting parents involved can be easy. “I think if you set the standard when they first come into the pack, it’s easier to get parents involved,” said Rickman, a Webelos Scout leader with Pack 73 in Arden, N.C. “If you let them drop kids off for meetings and get into that habit, then they usually don’t get involved.”
Rickman said he has excellent parent participation in his den, in part because the adults get to have fun, too. He recalled a previous pack outing to Camp Daniel Boone that included a hike through the adjacent Shining Rock Wilderness.
“All the parents who went on that outing had a ball,” he said. “Some of them hadn’t been on a hike since they were kids.”
The value of community
At the nature lodge, Cubmaster Chalayne Love of Pack 72 in Asheville, N.C., was watching her Scouts dissect an owl pellet. As the boys marveled at their gruesome discoveries (including tiny femurs and jawbones), she agreed that Scouting is a fun social activity for parents but said the value runs deeper.
“If somebody gets hurt or if somebody gets lost, you work together as a team, as a community, and take care of each other,” she said.
Through Scouting, Love’s twin sons, Matthew and Michael, have acquired lots of new aunts and uncles.
“If they act up, I have no problem with another parent saying, ‘Boys, that’s enough. Quit swinging that stick,’” she said. And she said she’s happy to return the favor.
Many parents need that sort of help, according to Scout Executive Taylor, and Scouting can provide it.
“You can’t be everything to everybody. The smart parent is the parent that understands, ‘I need some help, and here’s a resource that can help my son,’” he said.
Four generations and counting
Bethann Harwood knows better than most how well Scouting supports families. She was attending the Spring Fling with her grandson, Ethan, whom she’s helping to raise. The 10-year-old Cub Scout represents the fourth generation of his family to participate in Pack 15 in Weaverville, N.C. Harwood’s father and brothers were members of the pack, and she participated here with her son in the 1980’s. Now, she’s back with Ethan.
“It’s really affected all of our lives,” she said. “Last year, when I brought my grandson out here, I just looked and thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’”
That wasn’t her first reaction to rejoining Scouting, however. “As a grandmother, you’re sort of thinking, ‘I’ve already done all this, and I’m over it,’” she said. “But I’m not. It’s really brought me back to life, too. I never would have been out here walking in the mountains if I hadn’t been in Scouts. I’d be shopping or something.”
Shopping, in fact, was on Russell Ferguson’s mind as he prepared for Spring Fling, which he attended with his 6-year-old son, Kaden. Ferguson’s wife and daughter were on a Girl Scout outing the same weekend and had claimed all of the family’s camping gear.
“We hit every pawn shop in Hen-derson County trying to find a little bit of camping gear that wasn’t too expensive,” he said.
Kaden, a Tiger Cub from Pack 617 in Hendersonville, N.C., was having a great time on his very first Scout camp-out. He especially enjoyed kite-flying, hiking, and archery, where he proved to be something of a prodigy. “I hit five out of five,” he said. “I shot all five, and they all hit the target—whoosh!”
For Kaden’s dad, the Spring Fling brought back cherished childhood memories. Ferguson’s mother, Lynn, had been Camp Daniel Boone’s cook from 1980 to 1992, so he’d spent every summer here starting at age 8. Surveying the camp from the porch of the dining hall, he saw much that had changed but much more that had stayed the same.
“The trails got shorter, but the hills got steeper,” he said.
Ferguson said he can trace changes in Cub Scouting by studying the patches on his old uniform that now hangs in Kaden’s closet, along with a bag of Ferguson’s other Scouting memorabilia.
“My mom’s a pack rat. She put all that stuff up,” he said. “When he got into Scouting, she gave it to me. I hope we’ll do the same for him.”
That idea of passing on Scouting memories—from father to son, from grandmother to grandson, from mentor to child—is central to the vision of ScoutParents.
So, too, is the idea that Scouting benefits adults just as surely as it benefits kids. As the program’s tagline reads, “Scouting makes great parents, too.”
It takes a village
ScoutParents primarily focuses on the kids, though. In describing the program, Scout Executive Taylor mentioned a familiar proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Nowhere is that village more evident than at events like the Spring Fling, where every child has a hundred aunts and uncles, all of whom stand ready to help him learn and grow.
Russell Harrison spent some of his free time at the Spring Fling flying a kite with his son and some other boys.
“I had 10 kids down there, each of them taking turns on the end of the string. I don’t even know who the kids were,” he said.
But they knew who he was. They knew he was a ScoutParent.
Frequent contributor Mark Ray lives in Louisville, Ky.