Forming new units is how we reach more youth, which is the mission of Scouting. Like many things, however, it is easier said than done.
I have helped form two new units, one in Venturing and the other in Cub Scouts. Some things went right in those efforts. Venture Crew 2526 is in its 11th year. Pack 3526, however, folded during the COVID-19 pandemic and struggled from the beginning with formation missteps.
When I thought of reducing my direct unit involvement, an opportunity to form a special needs Cub Scout pack leaped onto the road. This time, I am doing things differently based on experience. I thought writing about this Cub Pack formation as it goes might help other Scouters.
So begins Episode 1 of the story: Key 3 Commitment.
Notice the title here is not Charter Organization Commitment. Although that is a critical part of a new unit foundation, you need more. A team of three committed people, preferably with Scout experience, is critical.
Terrence Gotz and I have been friends since he was the District Executive of Mountain Valley District. We share coffee and the experience of having special needs children. Terrence is an Eagle Scout and loves Scouting. His daughter struggles with similar things that challenged my son, Max. Especially lacking a peer group.
About six months ago we began talking about how great it would be to have a special needs pack. I suggested to Terrence that if his daughter was interested in Cub Scouts, we should make it happen. After looking through the Cub Scout Handbook, she is ready to be a founder of a new unit.
Why is this relevant to Episode 1? Terrence is a committed and experienced Scouter, and he is going to be Cubmaster. Why am I giving up every Tuesday night to be Committee Chair, trainer, and likely Den Leader? Max went from Tigers to Eagle Scout, and that experience helped him tremendously. I don’t think he would be an Eagle Scout without the experience of being in a special needs troop.
Moving to Bozeman, Max integrated into a regular troop, and he was not able to do as much. He no longer had a peer group, and there was not as much leader support or leadership opportunity.
Integrating youth with special needs into units can have its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. Youth with unique needs can do more than you think, but they need creative program delivery, extra support, and leaders with time, patience, and vision to get through the challenges.
The last piece of the new unit puzzle is the Charter Organization. In my experience, a new unit needs a Charter Organization that gives more than space and signatures on paperwork. You also need support from the whole organization’s leadership, not just from one or two people within.
For example, we found a partner in Eagle Mount, an organization dedicated to helping everyone, regardless of their physical or mental abilities, enjoy the outdoors.
We hoped Eagle Mount would charter a pack. I pitched the idea to Kevin Sylvester, an Eagle Scout and Director of Eagle Mount, who took our proposal to their board. I sent the Charter Organization contract, which outlines the legal information, and we talked in advance about special needs. In less than a week we had the answer – Eagle Mount wants a Cub Scout pack and Kevin is the Charter Organization Representative. He is ready to help promote, find leaders, find money, and do what it takes to be part of this successful pack formation.
Episode 1 ends with a committed, enthusiastic Key 3 in place. We meet this week along with MVD District Executive Renee Stephens to cover the program, costs, storage space, shirts, and other logistics. We have space reserved for den and pack meetings as well as a Court of Honor in December. We are advertising an October 10, 6:15 p.m. informational meeting for parents and volunteers at Eagle Mount, and the Open House sign-up night is scheduled for October 24, at 6:15 p.m.
We aren’t flying yet – we need five youth total and more leaders – but it is a very good start.
If you would like more information on our Mountain Valley District pack, please email us! For more about starting or joining a unit or becoming a Charter Organization, contact us and we can connect you with leaders in your area.
Mountain Valley District Membership Chair