Tommy Lee Hayes-Brown’s stint as his son’s Tiger Cub den leader in Pack 63 out of Charlotte, N.C., was supposed to last four weeks. As it turns out, that’s all it took to get him hooked.
“I’m good,” he told the pack leaders when he was supposed to be relieved of his duties. “These are my Tigers now.”
Hayes-Brown eventually became Cubmaster and helped the pack grow from 33 members to 55. He then joined the leadership team of thriving Troop 63. Yesterday, the troop formally recognized 14 Scouts for earning the rank of Eagle at a court of honor at Belk Scout Camp in Midland, N.C.
Six of those Eagles are from Hayes-Brown’s original class of Tigers, all those years ago. Two of them are his own sons. His oldest two sons have already earned the rank of Eagle.
The key to the pack and troop’s success?
“It’s a multitiered approach,” Hayes-Brown says. “You have to understand your culture. You have to understand your parents. And you’ve got to make it fun.”
Both Pack and Troop 63 are chartered to Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church in Charlotte. The fact that Scouting can be a culture shock for some members of the Black community is not lost on Hayes-Brown.
“When I first started talking about joining Scouts, my Black friends were like, ‘What?’ ” he says. ‘First of all, do you even like the outdoors?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you like camping?’ ‘Never done it.’ ‘But,’ I said, ‘I do I like their mission.’ ”
It starts with the families
Hayes-Brown says the key to keeping Cub Scouts active is to keep their parents active and involved.
“Me and my families? We were bonded,” he says.
Hayes-Brown noticed parents of his Cub Scouts — who previously didn’t know each other — becoming friends on Facebook. Then, he noticed the families making plans with each other outside of Scouting events.
“If the kids didn’t want to go to a meeting, it was like, ‘We’re going to Scouts because so-and-so is going to give me that recipe, so get in the car,’ ” he says.
As the Cub Scouts transitioned to Scouts BSA, Hayes-Brown noticed a different kind of challenge.
“It’s a whole different model,” he says. “You’ve got kids driving themselves. And when they don’t want to go, you know, the parents get tired of it.
“It’s like, ‘I was tired of hearing complaints about piano lessons, so I let that go. I was tired of hearing about whatever, so I let that go.’ And then … Scouting.”
Troop 63’s method is to focus on the fun, and let advancement take care of itself.
“I think sometimes, you lose the fun,” Hayes-Brown says. “No, it can’t be like Cub Scouts. But sometimes you just have to take the last 10 minutes of a meeting and throw the football.
“It can’t just be merit badges and leadership skills all the time. You have to keep it fun, or else they won’t want to come.”
Wood Badge is key
Hayes-Brown now serves as Troop 63’s assistant Scoutmaster and troop committee chair. He’s also on the Mecklenburg County Council’s executive board. He also leads a team whose focus is to serve and recruit African-American, Hispanic, disadvantaged, at-risk and disabled Scouts, as well.
He is a passionate supporter of the Citizenship in Society merit badge, for which he’s a merit badge counselor.
“I’m still learning,” he says. “It’s not about the color of your skin. It’s about how you treat people.”
Wood Badge, the leadership course for Scouting’s adult volunteers, is something Hayes-Brown advocates for all of his fellow Scout leaders.
“I’ve worked in corporate America, and Wood Badge holds up to anything I’ve ever been a part of,” he says. “It teaches us that you can’t make real changes until you start making changes within yourself. That’s where it starts.”
Pack and Troop 63 sent six total leaders to Wood Badge in 2019. Like all Wood Badge participants, they each had to complete a “ticket” — five goals or projects that benefit your home unit that you must complete after the course.
“That was 30 projects coming back to our units,” Hayes-Brown says. “After that, we were rocking and rolling, baby.”
To help other people at all times
In 2013, one of Hayes-Brown’s 9-year-old Cub Scouts tragically lost both of his parents. The boy moved away to live with his grandparents, but eventually the family came back to Charlotte.
When they did, it wasn’t long until they got a knock on their door from Hayes-Brown.
“It was like, ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m the crazy old den leader,’ ” he says. “I just said, ‘Let me know if I can help you in any way.’ And in no time, we were getting him a uniform and getting him back in the fold.”
The irony is that although Troop 63 never loses sight of the fun that can be had in Scouting, they do a remarkable job of producing Eagle Scouts at the same time. Soon, the young boy who lost both his parents, who went away from Scouting for a while but then came back … soon, he too wanted to become an Eagle Scout.
“You know, he said to me, he said … ” says Hayes-Brown, fighting back tears. “He said, ‘It started out being my mother’s dream. And then it became Mr. Tommy’s dream. And now, it’s my dream.”
Yesterday, at the court of honor at Belk Scout Camp, that young man officially became an Eagle Scout.
“His grandfather told me, ‘You saved him,’ ” says Hayes-Brown. “But, you know, it wasn’t me.
“Scouting saved him.”
Share your “success” stories
We’re always on the lookout for Scouting success stories. Know any units or leaders who have gone above and beyond expectations? Email us and let us know! We might feature them in our next “secret of their success” story.