The latest in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide.
Is Scouting Accessible to Everyone? It Should Be!
Perhaps the first concern in the minds of many families is the potential cost of Scouting. To be sure, there are new member joining fees, pro-rated membership fees for the remainder of the year and looming rechartering fees, dues or fees assessed by the Pack or Troop, the cost of summer camp and other outings, and of course the purchase of handbooks and uniforms. Each unit should have access to the forms to apply for financial support for membership expenses. Thanks to those who participate in the annual Friends of Scouting campaign, the Bay Lakes Council has set aside funding to help families with the cost of joining. In most cases, funds supplement what a family is able to cover on their own with the goal of making Scouting affordable. Funds are also set aside to support participation in summer camp. Campership applications are usually due in April and funds are distributed to those in need to supplement what a family can afford. Adult leaders should know how to access those request forms and make them available, and can reassure prospective families that support is available.
Families should also be informed about the annual Popcorn sale, a great way to earn funds to support their involvement in Scouting. Some units set aside those funds earned by an individual Scout for his or her Scouting involvement while others pool those funds to reduce costs for all members of the unit. Packs and Troops should not only participate in the Popcorn sale, but should consider other fundraising activities and encourage family participation. Fundraising can often cover all of the costs of membership.
The cost of uniforms can seem daunting to many. Uniforms can sometimes be found in thrift stores, Goodwill store locations, and other community clothes closets. Many units ask those families with growing Scouts to donate the uniforms outgrown by their Scouts or those from families that elect not to continue in Scouting to donate uniforms to the unit to share with new families. This is an excellent way to provide support and get full use out of uniforms. Units may also consider asking for handbooks to be donated as well, again saving new Scouts some money and getting more use out of those materials.
Another potential cost concern in the minds of some may be the time it takes to join Scouting. It is important to listen to the parents and offer support and perhaps a different perspective. Units can help organize families to provide transportation to meetings and outings to help those families with transportation concerns. Point out that participating with their Scout in unit activities, particularly at the Pack level, is a wonderful way to spend meaningful time with their child. The years go by so quickly and many of the activities open to children put parents in the role of spectator. Scouting allows parents to engage with their children as they work through the program. As Scouts move into Scouts BSA and become more independent, parents move to a supportive role and foster the growth of their children in a natural way. While parents certainly have an opportunity to serve as adult leaders, they are not expected to take on those roles unless they are interested and ready to do so.
Scouting is also accessible to youth with special needs. Units can provide accommodations to families to allow special needs youth to participate in outings, meetings, and summer camp. Scouting provides ways to accommodate special needs in the advancement program and there is no reason a Scout cannot advance through the ranks and if dedicated, earn the Eagle Scout award at the end of his or her Scouting experience. Units looking for support in working with special needs youth can reach out to the staff for suggestions, resources and help.
As we navigate the membership recruitment process, it is important to spend enough time with interested families to understand their concerns, needs and situation and to provide them with the support and information they need to make good decisions regarding membership for their youth. It is incumbent upon all of us to help make Scouting accessible and available to our youth. As I’ve said all too often and will reiterate here, we offer support to Scouting by lending our time and talent, volunteering to help lead an event, Den or unit, providing support and encouragement to our Scouts and their friends. In all that we do, don’t forget that it is really for our youth, for their life-shaping, life-changing Scouting experience. Scouting matters! For all you do to help make Scouting a reality in the lives of so many young people, thank you.