I learned this week that one of my classmates from my childhood had passed away. While we weren’t the best of friends, we did grow up together. We had the same teachers in preschool, elementary school, grade school and frequently in high school. His mother was our Den Mother when we were young scouts and our meetings were held at her house. On meeting days, we would wear our uniforms to school and we all thought we were very important. Then, after class we would walk to his house for our meetings. Some of us had to stay later than others after the meetings to wait for parents to pick us up. He was always more friendly toward me when we were “fellow scouts” than simply “classmates”. Our Den Mother always had a snack to keep us from being hungry and a project to keep us busy. She was a good Den Mother.
Todd Schweikert of Brooklyn, New York is a good leader, too. He wanted his seven-year-old son to enjoy the positive experiences that he had encountered as a boy while working toward his Eagle Scout award, but he didn’t agree with the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gay members and leaders. So, he formed his own all-inclusive scouting troop … 5th Brooklyn Scouts.
one that welcomes both boys and girls, doesn’t discriminate against gays and doesn’t have a religious component.
Schweikert hopes to attract other families who want their kids to know the thrill of camping overnight and exploring the woods with only a compass to guide them, but don’t agree with the BSA’s official policy banning gay members and gay adults from serving as leaders.
"Any form of discrimination, no matter how small, is never ok and not something I can endorse and wish to teach to my children. I think the need and the want is there. … A lot of people want their children to be in scouts, but a lot of people have issues with their [BSA] policies." - Todd Schweikert
While many Boy Scout troops are turning a blind eye to the national organization’s official policies by admitting girls or gay members, Schweikert insists that even if he could find a lenient troop, he wouldn’t want to join an official BSA group because his dues money would go toward supporting its discriminatory policies.
After researching several alternative scouting options, Schweikert determined that the Baden-Powell Service Association would be the parent organization of his troop. BPSA troops teach traditional scouting skills using what they call the “patrol method” which divides scouts into teams that have a leader nominated by other scouts. BPSA troops are open to both boys and girls, they don’t discriminate against gay people and they don’t have a religious component in their official policies. The troop welcomes kids as young as five years old.
It's easy to imagine that children involved in this group will create deep friendships and lifelong memories while learning about the world and other people ... all kinds of people ... many of whom might be different. If all the world's children were encouraged to participate in all-inclusive groups, eventually there would just be "groups" ... right?
My fellow scout might be gone but the memories that he made with the rest of the children live on.
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