DOWNERS GROVE –áThe story of Downers Grove Troop 57 is laid out neatly on a wall inside St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. Laminated photos, newspaper clippings and a handful of awards are hung next to a post-like wooden plaque that outlines the local Boy Scout troops’ core values. Their years of service and dedication to the community are wrapped up in their commitment to being trustworthy, loyal, kind and courteous.
The evening of Feb. 4 marked a historic moment for Troop 57. Assistant Scoutmaster Doug Stull watched his teenage daughter, Rebecca, and other girls from Troop 157 gather for their first meeting officially as part of the Three Fires Council, Boy Scouts of America.
The girls will partner with the boys in Troop 57 for some activities, but will function separately on other occasions.
“I grew up watching my brothers be in Boy Scouts,” Rebecca said. “I always had to observe – can’t participate, can’t go on those campouts. So, this is my opportunity.”
Now, Rebecca and members of her crew can earn merit badges and work on achieving a higher rank, including the most coveted title of all, Eagle Scout.
“I know I won’t be part of some big part of history,” Rebecca said. “But it feels good to be a part of change, especially when it’s for a good cause.”
The decision to welcome girls into Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA came as a result of a push from the organization’s families, said Ben Mahlke, field director for Three Fire Councils, BSA.
Because Scouts BSA is so family oriented, parents often sought for more ways to include their daughters. Mahlke said Scouts BSA offers programs such as Venturing and Exploring, which allow girls and young women to join and take on leadership roles, but those still are different from the traditional Scouting program.
The Scouts BSA’s inclusive initiative began a year ago. The organization went as far as to change its name from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA to reflect its new mission. Earlier this month, area all-girls troops such as Troop 157 began to come together, including troops from DuPage and Kane counties.
“They’re trailblazers,” Mahlke said. “They’re the first group setting the tone for this new program.”
Troop 157 Scoutmaster Lisa Pocious shared Mahlke’s sentiment. As a leader and the mother of two young girls in her troop, Pocious is looking forward to seeing her daughters’ growth, as well as the other girls’ growth, and what their group could become.
At the meeting, Rebecca’s twin brother, Raymond, and his friend and fellow Scout, Dillon Kohls, guided the girls through some camping activities. Splitting Troop 157 in half, Dillon went step-by-step on setting up and taking down tents, while Raymond taught them how to tie knots.
“I see it in the boys,” Pocious said of both Raymond and Dillon. “You see them coming in and being helpful and speaking in front of people and being leaders, listening. The Scouts have a very organized, structured way that they teach by meeting every week for years. It’s really nice to see. So, I can’t wait to see our girls mature and have that self-confidence.”
A big part of the Scouting program is that troops typically are youth-led, and those who are older fall into the role of teachers and help the younger members. Because Troop 157 is new, Pocious expects that one challenge she and her girls will have is that they are all learning at the same pace. They are all figuring things out, but that, much like anything in life, is part of the fun and the experience.
By the end of the meeting, Troop 157 huddled up to make their first group decision: What color and style should their neckerchiefs be? More important, should their neckerchiefs match Troop 57’s since they’ll be working together in the future? Doug and Raymond Stull, along with a handful of other parents, hung back while they listened as the girls came to a consensus.
With Rebecca leading the conversation, Troop 157 decided to match the boys, complementing their red and black embellished neckerchiefs.
For Raymond, he hopes his sister will enjoy her experiences in the Scouting program as much as he has. He wants her to walk away with the important lesson of “sticking with it and getting through the tough parts,” but also to have the chance to make friends and learn new things along the way.
As for Rebecca, there is one thing that she has been looking forward to and that time has finally come.
“Having the opportunity to camp with my brother in a kind of Boy Scouts setting,” she said.