We’re one big family in Scouting, and that’s true in times of joy and times of sorrow.
When two Tiger Cubs were tragically killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in December, the Scouting family stepped in to comfort the parents of 7-year-old Chase Kowalski and 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler.
Scouts and Scouters from around the world, some total strangers to the Kowalskis and Wheelers, contributed nearly $65,000 (and counting) to the fund set up by the Connecticut Yankee Council, said Tony Vogl, the council’s development and marketing director.
“This does not include the countless cards, certificates, framed pictures, blankets, and other trinkets from packs and troops around the world,” he continued. “We at the Connecticut Yankee Council share a sense of pride and purpose as the Scouting family truly came together to support our newest members in a time of great sorrow.”
The love came from outside the council, too. BSA Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock presented the boys’ parents with the Spirit of the Eagle award, and in August, the National Capital Area christened its newest 22-foot sailboat the Benjamin Chase.
Steven and Rebecca Kowalski and David and Francine Wheeler have been overwhelmed by the response from the Scouting family, and they wrote this letter, which Vogl asked me to share with you:
Dear Boy Scouts of America:
It is hard to find the words to thank the Scouting organization for the support, loyalty, dedication, love, and respect you have shown our families since our sons Ben and Chase’s untimely deaths on Dec. 14, 2012, here in Sandy Hook, Conn. From the smallest gesture to the largest, we are profoundly thankful for the care taken and compassion shown in every interaction we’ve had with anyone in the organization from the most local to the most national positions, both for us as the parents of Chase and Ben and for our surviving children.
Local leaders of Sandy Hook Pack 170 and the Newtown Boy Scout troops, many of whom are our good and close friends, have been selfless in their dedication to helping us in any way necessary. Their kindness and generosity have aided in keeping us upright and afloat every day since Ben and Chase were killed.
The Connecticut Yankee Council’s regional leaders and Scouts gave us an idea of their caring and integrity when they arrived in full dress bearing the flags and standards of their Troops and Packs, joining local troops and others from all over the Northeast to provide a color guard at Ben’s funeral.
In the months since, remembrances and honors have flowed in from Packs and Troops all over the country, lifting our spirits and honoring Ben and Chase with a compassion and thoughtfulness we could never have imagined.
The dedication and christening of the SV Benjamin Chase by Sea Scouts Ship 100 and their Skipper Todd Skiles was an event of great grace and compassion that will stay with us and our children forever.
Some of us were able to go to Scout Camp Oest and meet with many of the counselors and administrators where we were welcomed with open arms to visit the beautiful chapel dedicated to both Ben and Chase. Knowing the chapel was an idea implemented by fellow Scouts who never knew the boys but felt compelled to make a difference and to always remember Ben and Chase was heartwarming.
The kindness and support shown by Wayne Brock, Wayne Perry and the rest of the national organization in recognizing and honoring Chase and Ben has been unwavering and for that we are so very thankful. It is by this compassion and integrity from the organization, from the national level down to immediate local level, that we know what kind of young men our boys would have been had they continued on their Scouting trail.
Our hearts have been broken and our families torn apart. The kind embrace of the Scouting family has helped us begin to put the pieces back together and for that we are forever grateful.
With sincerest thanks and gratitude,
Steven and Rebecca Kowalski, Chase’s parents
David and Francine Wheeler, Ben’s parents