While working on the Paws for Action Adventure, Bear Scout Thomas Leskiw could’ve visited a local police station, but his mother, Barbara, had another idea.
Her father, Frank Panza worked with the New York State Police for more than 33 years, retiring in 1995. She suggested that Thomas and his Webelos Scout brother Henry, both of Pack 777 in Richardson, Texas, ask their grandfather to take them to his old barracks when they came up to visit.
Panza and the troopers at the Troop A-Niagara barracks were more than happy to oblige.
Learning about ‘Papa’
The Scouts toured the station, sat in a squad car and tried on handcuffs and a bulletproof vest. Thomas had his fingerprints taken with ink and paper, the way his grandfather, whom they call “Papa,” used to do it.
The boys knew their kind, mild-mannered grandfather was a retired trooper, but didn’t fully know the dangers he encountered as part of his job until the visit. They were able to look at old reports Panza wrote as an investigator.
“Papa’s awesome,” Thomas says. “Papa investigated and caught murderers!”
Even though the barracks and staff are all different than during Panza’s time on the force, they still have a solid relationship. The New York State Police still reaches out to him for information on cold cases. Panza also brings the troopers a platter of homemade Christmas cookies every year — something they look forward to.
“I think our visit shows that being a New York State trooper is a whole other family,” says Investigator Donald Ginnane.
It was a rewarding family experience as Henry and Thomas got the chance to better know their grandfather.
“I had no idea Papa was so cool,” Henry says. “It seemed like Papa really loved his job and was good at it, too.”
For Panza, it also provided an opportunity to share life skills that proved essential for his career, like the importance of asking questions and being attentive to what others say.
Many Scout activities, like the Pinewood Derby, naturally seem like opportunities for parental or adult involvement. Others might not seem like it, but Cub Scouting calls for active adult leadership, so think creatively and look for ways family and fellow Scouting families can get involved to mentor youth and have fun.
For advancement, make sure you check with your den or pack leaders to ensure activities are approved. And as always, follow Youth Protection policies.