While the recent media reports regarding alleged past Boy Scout abuse are very disturbing, I remain a firm supporter of Scouting. I have been an adult volunteer with the Scouts since 1998, when my oldest son joined the Cub Scouts. Over the years, I have served in various capacities including treasurer, assistant scoutmaster, scoutmaster and committee chairman of a local troop. I have had the privilege of watching countless boys develop into responsible young men while having a lot of fun along the way.
I am not qualified to speak about the recent allegations, but I can say that youth protection has always been emphasized during my involvement with Scouting over the past 15 years. Regular youth protection training is required for all adult leaders and the boys are educated on the topic as well. One key aspect of youth protection training is the requirement of “two deep leadership.” This means that there must be at least two adults present with any or all Scouts at all times. No adult is ever permitted to be alone with a Scout at any time unless it is his own son. This applies at all Scout functions, including meetings, campouts, hikes, high adventure activities, etc.
I have been involved in various other youth-related activities over the years and I have received far more youth protection training from the Boy Scouts than from any other organization. As a matter of fact, I have been surprised at the lack of formal youth protection training in other activities, including some youth sports. More than once, I have applied my Boy Scout youth protection training to other youth-related activities I have been involved with.
In today’s world of texting, Facebook, video games and childhood obesity, it’s great to have an organization where boys “unplug” and get outdoors. I have had two boys in Scouting over the years. One is an Eagle Scout (Scouting’s highest rank) and the other will be soon. They have been on countless adventures including backpacking in the mountains of New Mexico, snorkeling with sharks in Florida, whitewater rafting, touring the battlefields at Gettysburg, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, visiting ground zero in New York City and participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
My sons also earned numerous merit badges along the way. To earn a merit badge, a Scout must become proficient with a particular skill and complete various requirements. In addition to the traditional merit badges such as first aid, camping, swimming and archery, there are many newer badges including computers, disabilities awareness and geocaching.
Yes, Scouts have fun and learn many skills, but another key fundamental of Scouting is service to others. The Scouts in my troop have been involved in countless community-service projects that have benefited local communities over the years. Community service is necessary for rank advancement, and a major service project is a requirement for Eagle Scout. Our troop usually has some sort of service project going on virtually every weekend.
The reality is that we can’t make this world 100 percent safe for our youth. But I believe in the current Boy Scout program and I am comfortable having my sons participate even when I am not around.
Bill Sullivan, who lives in Williamsville, has been involved with Scouting for the past 15 years and is glad his sons are Scouts.