With summer coming, one of the most fun and educational activities for young people is scouting.
With statistics from both the Boy Scouts of America and the Department of Defense touting a strong correlation between scouting and military service — 45 percent of scouts later join the military — it’s only natural for there to be at least a few scout troops on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
That’s why leaders at Pacific Harbors Council Boy Scouts of America’s southwest Washington council organized an alumni gathering at the Lewis North Chapel Saturday, hoping some of the installation’s former Scouts would show up and consider becoming a scout leader on or around JBLM.
About 40 Scouts and leaders attended; however, the main purpose of the gathering didn’t hit its mark.
“It’s mainly (kids and adults) already involved in the programs (who) are here now,” said Rick Souza, chartering organization representative for the JBLM Scouting Area Committee, as he looked around at the boys and girls and adults, mostly in scout uniforms.
Souza said there are four Scouting units on Lewis North, with about 150 children enrolled.
There are many more children who would like to be involved, and the organization would like to continue to grow on base; however, in order to grow, more leaders are needed, he said.
As for the kids already involved, the gathering was a day for eating hot dogs and chips — provided by the USO Northwest Shali Center’s mobile unit — playing games, climbing trees and playing around a teepee in the nearby wooded area.
Seven-year-old Marlee Perez, a first-grader at Holy Family School in Lacey, and McAllister Lafferty, 6, a first-grader at Clover Creek Elementary School in Tacoma, swung their arms and legs onto the branches of trees. At the same time, 6-year-old Patrick Schumaker and his 4-year-old brother, Timmy, both home-schooled Spanaway youths, attempted to follow suit.
Marlee and McAllister are among the first girls to join a local Cub Scout Pack, since the Boys Scouts officially began welcoming girls to joint the organization in January.
Marlee said she enjoys being a Scout and is looking forward to going to Cub Scout camp this summer. She was a Daisy Scout previously with Girl Scouts, and likes Cub Scouts better because she likes selling popcorn better than cookies, she said with a laugh.
McAllister’s mom, Amanda Lafferty, is a scout leader for Pack No. 692 in Parkland, which has six girls in its group.
Lafferty’s husband is Capt. Timothy Lafferty, cadre with the Warrior Transition Battalion, Madigan Army Medical Center. McAllister was formerly in Girl Scouts, but changed to the Boy Scout’s Family Scouting program because she wanted to be in the Scout program that her older siblings, Sam, 16, and Lucien, 11, were already a part of, her mother said.
The Boy Scout organization is dear to Lafferty’s heart, she said, because her grandfather, Maurice Cooper, brought the first Boy Scout troop to her native Queensland, Australia, in the 1950s.
Her father was a Boy Scout. Although Lafferty wasn’t allowed at the time to join Boy Scouts, her younger brother and sister were in the coed Joey Scouts — Australia’s version of Cub Scouts.
Like her daughter, Lafferty wasn’t enthused to be a Girl Scout, she said, adding she joined the Army and Air Force Cadets program in Australia instead.
With several girls already enrolled and more expected to join soon, Lafferty said she’s hoping some service women and female spouses sign up to share their leadership and scouting skills with Boy Scouts.
“We need more leaders to pass on their skills to the next generation,” she said.
To learn more about scouting or to volunteer as a scout leader, call Frank Villanueva, field director for Boy Scouts of America, Pacific Harbors Council, at 360-480-6797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.