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The Boy Scouts of America is so synonymous with positive values and good deeds that people call a person of high character a “Boy Scout” even if they never were one.
And yet, there’s a lot that American families don’t know — or don’t fully understand — about this transformative movement called the BSA.
That was the inspiration for BSA Parents, a new not-for-profit group launched by parents of Scouts and friends of the BSA.
“Scouting, to me, often seems like the ‘best-kept secret.’ It shouldn’t be!” says Leigh Anne LeBlanc, a volunteer from the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council. “Every community benefits by having a strong Scouting presence. The best way to offset misinformation is to have those who are deeply involved with the program tell their stories.”
Here’s where you come in. BSA Parents is asking for moms and dads like you to share your Scouting story with the world.
“As parents, we have the advantage of seeing firsthand how valuable and enriching Scouts is for our children,” LeBlanc says. “There is power in our storytelling.”
To learn more about BSA Parents, I talked with LeBlanc, a member of the group’s board.
It should be noted that even though BSA Parents and the Boy Scouts of America have a common underlying goal — serve as many youth as possible through Scouting — the two are not affiliated. The Boy Scouts of America has no control over BSA Parents or the content the group shares.
“We act as an independent voice that can talk about Boy Scouts of America in a way that BSA cannot and serve as a rallying point for the pro-BSA community,” LeBlanc says.
The BSA has been around for more than 100 years, so why is now the time for a group like BSA Parents to step up?
LeBlanc says it’s a result of the time in which we live. These days, anyone with a Twitter account or Facebook profile can share information — or even misinformation — about Scouting. A few taps on glass, and that message gets beamed to dozens, hundreds or thousands of people.
LeBlanc sees BSA Parents as a chance to respond in the way Scouts know best: by being friendly, courteous and kind.
“It’s important that people hear from those who have youth in the program and who volunteer as leaders,” she says. “Parents who have seen the growth in skill level, leadership ability, physical fitness and citizenship of their Scout already know what Scouts can do. They know how the program supports the family, the community and our country at large.”
Why she got involved
You bet this is personal for LeBlanc. She encourages other BSA Parents to share their story because she knows the power of her own.
“I am grateful for what Scouting has given me, as a mother and a volunteer,” she says. “As a full-time BSA volunteer, I work with some of the greatest people in the world, in some of the most beautiful country, using both natural gifts and leadership skills honed through volunteering with Scouts.”
She’s camped alongside her sons and watched them conquer their fears and become Eagle Scouts.
She’s seen young men and young women practice leadership, discover new hobbies and learn how to save someone’s life.
As a Wood Badge course director, she’s helped volunteers leave a legacy on Scouts she may never meet.
Along the way, something else happened, too. Something people don’t often talk about when discussing Scouting’s benefits.
“Many parents don’t understand that while our focus is always on the youth in the program, adult volunteers benefit and grow in many of the same ways as their child,” LeBlanc says. “Sports are great, but parents don’t really get a chance to learn and participate with their kids in sports. With Scouts, you can be involved at several levels. And you will have fun while making friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Another way Scouting is special
LeBlanc likes to share with parents another essential but lesser-reported aspect of Scouting: The BSA is committed to safety.
Before taking Scouts on a campout, adult leaders are trained in how to keep Scouts safe. Expertly crafted training courses cover the specific situations Scouts will face.
“For instance, if it is a climbing and rappelling campout, several leaders must be trained and have passed a Climb on Safely course,” she says. “Assistant Scoutmasters attending campouts and summer camp will have taken Hazardous Weather Training.”
But before any of that happens, all parents and leaders who have contact with Scouts are required to take Youth Protection Training.
“We are taught what to look for, how to engage and how to report anything suspicious that we see,” LeBlanc says. “It protects the Scouts, and it protects the leaders. Every Scout leader’s first priority is the safety of our youth.”
This commitment to safety is about preventing young people from harm. But there’s another benefit. Making Scouting safe ensures that young people have a place where they can try new things without fear.
“It’s the only place I know where youth can fail at something and still succeed, because they learned from the experience and had adult mentors to guide and teach them,” LeBlanc says.
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