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COMMENTARY: SCOUTING: A CAN'T-MISS OPPORTUNITY FOR BOYS

THINKSTOCK.COM

THIS IS an exciting year for Boy Scouts. As we move into a second century of Eagle Scouts, we have adopted a more inclusive membership policy and opened a new national Jamboree camp mountain summit.

Soon many schools, Cub Scout packs, and Boy Scout troops in our area will hold “Join Scouting Night,” an evening which provides a good opportunity for you to attend a local troop or pack and see the wonderful benefits Scouting offers your child.

Scouting is thriving around Fredericksburg. Our district serves nearly 2,000 youth and more than 1,800 adult volunteers in a footprint stretching over Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania, King George, and Caroline counties.

We serve youth not only through traditional Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops, but also through Venture Crews, where young men and women pursue outdoor high-adventure activities, and Explorer Posts that introduce young men and women to potential careers.

The benefits are immense for our Scouts and our community. Our mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime, based on the values of the Scout Oath and Law. We do so through a program that develops character, teaches citizenship, and instills personal and mental fitness.

While our values and mission have remained consistent for 100 years, Scouting continues to evolve. Where once Scouts pursued merit badges like blacksmithing and signaling, now they may study robotics, composite materials, and entrepreneurship. And, while activities have changed with the times, our Scouts still have fun and test their limits in the great outdoors, through camping, hiking, and other wilderness adventures.

This year, Scouting conducted its Nationwide Jamboree camp in a brand-new, 450-acre, Allegheny Mountain site dedicated to youth development and outdoor fun. Over 30,000 energized boys spent 10 days clinging to a mile-long zip line, riding bikes over engineered BMX trails, battling through an exhilarating white-water rafting course, skateboarding along designed rails and pipes, and playing “all-out” on dozens of other supervised challenges. No couch potatoes here!

The pinnacle of achievement in Scouting is the Eagle Scout Award. Since the first Eagle was awarded in 1912, more than 2 million boys have soared to that rank. The Eagle Scout Award is universally recognized as the single most enduring award a boy may achieve in his youth. This year begins the second century of the Eagle Scout Award and will bring additional recognition to all those who have received it.

Of course, Scouting faces challenges, not least of which are the many competing demands for the time of youth and their families. Year-round sports programs, increasing academic pressures, and dual-career households vie for time. But Scouting’s growth around Fredericksburg, and our record of youth development and community service reflect the success and relevance of our mission.

And Scouting has become more inclusive. A recent change in membership standards for youth now provides that youth may not be denied membership on the basis of sexual orientation. BSA’s adult leadership combines trained volunteers and professionals who focus on serving youth. The traditional policy governing adult participation remains unchanged.

Scouting also has responded to concerns about child abuse by implementing tough youth-protection policies that are considered “state of the art” and ranked “A-plus” among youth-serving organizations.

Now all registered adult volunteers must be approved by their unit’s sponsoring organization, must complete youth-protection training, and are subject to national criminal background checks. A minimum of two adults must be present at all Scout activities and no one-on-one interaction of adults and youth is permitted. Handbooks used by Scouts include an insert about the importance of reporting suspicious activity. Heightened priority and online access to protection programs, training, and new reporting systems have improved Scouting’s guard.

While even one abused child is too many, Scouting’s youth-protection programs are very effective, reducing the incidence of child abuse to less than 3 percent of the incidence rate for society in general. That record is admirable and follows practices that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend for all youth serving organizations.

Boy Scouts offers more than a rich, safe, and rewarding experience with plenty of fun. It helps young people grow into leaders.

If you have a son of Scouting age, please attend a “Join Scouting Night”; go online to beascout.org; call Phillip Duggins, field director, at 540/220-9904; or email phillip.duggins@scouting.org and consider joining an organization that will give your son an advantage for years to come.

Robert Deaderick of Fredericksburg is district chairman of the Mattaponi Boy Scout District.

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