From the pages of

Values of Scouting still in style

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Nobuko Oyabu

Jason Mlakar, then an Eagle Scout candidate, poses on the Bettendorf bike path with Steve Grimes, left, director of Bettendorf Parks, and Mike Downes, Troop 82 scoutmaster. To earn his Eagle award, Jason organized a group of Scouts to paint a yellow center line and mile markers on the bike path.

William D. Boyce, an American in London on business, got lost on his way to an appointment. A boy noticed his predicament and offered to help.

After the youngster guided him to his destination, Mr. Boyce offered him a tip.

``No thank you, sir,'' the boy said, ``I am a Scout. I won't take anything for helping.''

Curious, Mr. Boyce arranged to meet Robert Baden-Powell, the man who founded the Scouts a few years earlier as a way to help British boys grow into responsible men. Impressed by everything he learned, Mr. Boyce decided to introduce Scouting in America.

On Feb. 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was founded.

Nearly nine decades later, Scouting is going strong in the Quad-Cities and around the world, instilling skills and values that turn boys into responsible and self-reliant adults.

``Scouting is designed specifically to build character -- character defined as self-esteem and the sort of values stated in the Scout Law,'' said Jerry Freyburg, assistant Scout executive for the Illowa Council.

The Scout Law is as relevant at the dawn of the 21st century as it was in the early 1900s, when Mr. Baden-Powell codified the dozen values every Scout is expected to exemplify. When a Scout pledges to follow the Scout Law, he promises to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

``If boys could learn to adopt these 12 values as their own, Baden-Powell thought, they would grow up to be pretty good adults,'' a Scout executive told a recent class of adult volunteers at Camp Loud Thunder near Andalusia.

Scouting teaches boys lifesaving, first aid and emergency preparedness. On the road from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout, boys learn such outdoor skills as camping, backpacking and bird study. They study subjects to help them become good members of the community: citizenship, emergency preparedness, public speaking and American cultures, to list a few. They also earn merit badges that will help them in their private lives in areas like personal finance, family life, and fitness.

It's all fun, Mr. Freyberg said. In fact, Scouting sometimes is defined as ``fun with a purpose.'' Boys become so wrapped up in learning the proper way to put up a tent or sharpen an ax that they often don't consciously notice the deeper purpose.

``No kid would want to join an organization to build his character,'' Mr. Freyberg said. ``But they will join a program to have fun and go camping.'' Every time they head out on a camping expedition, ``they're learning personal responsibility, learning to take accountability for themselves and become responsible citizens,'' he said.

``Scouting is fun and you learn a lot,'' said Conor Flaherty. The 15-year-old sophomore at Bettendorf High School is an Eagle Scout in Troop 89 in Bettendorf. ``You learn a lot about the outdoors in Scouts, how to be a better leader and get along with people.''

Among the highlights of Conor's Scouting experiences was the trip to Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1997 for the National Jamboree, an event that takes place every four years at Fort A.P. Hill near Fredricksburg, Va.

``There were, like, 30,000 people there and so many things to do,'' he said.

The Illowa Council serves more than 20,000 youths in 13 counties in Iowa and Illinois, plus another 5,000 adults. There are 414 units in the council -- Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs.

The local council -- one of 336 in the nation -- had a $1.39 million budget in 1997. The money for its budget comes from a variety of local sources: United Way, 19 percent; the annual Scout popcorn sale, 20 percent; activities fees, 25 percent; sales in the two council Scout shops, 5 percent; foundations 6 percent; endowment, 6 percent; and Friends of Scouting, the annual fundraising appeal to member families, 19 percent.

About 60 percent of the council's budget is spent on direct service to troops and packs. Maintaining camps and camping programs accounts for about 24 percent of the budget; administration costs make up the remaining 16 percent.

The Illowa council owns and operates two camps: Loud Thunder near Andalusia and Fellheimer near Galesburg. It also offers various day camps -- a camp for Cubs is held each year at Scott County Park -- plus several specialized residence camps, including Lone Wolf, Soaring Eagle, Discover and COPE.

The council's recently started an Urban and Youth At Risk Leadership program that aims to bring Scouting values into schools where there are underpriviliged children but no active Scout troop. The program, which is open to both boys and girls, ``teaches life skills to urban youth, such as caring, teamwork and initiative,'' said C.C. Williams, an Illowa staff member.

Public Agenda, a non-profit research agency, recently conducted a survey to identify the biggest challenges facing today's youth.

``The survey found that values are absolutely critical,'' Mr. Freyberg said. ``People said (values) were an even more critical concern than food and shelter.''

``Values and character are at the root of why things go right or wrong throughout society,'' Stephen Medlicott, the research directory in the Boy Scouts of America National Office, wrote in a message to Scout executives about the survey's findings.

``The public believes that values are like a vaccine: if teens have them, they will be able to resist the world's many troubles and traps. Better values and character are needed, but most people doubt that government programs are the answer. Instead, about 80 percent (of those surveyed) suggest private efforts such as volunteer organizations, or neighbors and citizens groups.''

Little wonder that Scouting is alive and well in the Nintendo age.

Some values never go out of style.

-- By Mike Romkey (February 2, 1998)

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