Boy Scouts of America: Celebrating a century of scouting
For decades the Boy Scouts program has taught young men all across the country rules and values such as being trustworthy, loyal, courteous and obedient that can carry through a lifetime.
Fathers have gone through the program when they were young and now their children are carrying on the same tradition by following in their footsteps.
On July 31, fathers, sons, volunteers and others involved within the program will come together for a common cause: celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.
"It's great to see that it is still going strong today," said John Behn, senior district executive of the Carbon District with the Utah National Parks Council.
Behn, like many others involved with Boy Scouts, has been involved in the program off and on for 53 years. He grew up and became involved in the program as a young child and since then he has spent time as a scout master, working on committees and district boards and volunteering. Behn can look back to his time as a scout and see how it has affected his life in a positive way.
"The scouting program teaches values that we can carry on through the rest of our lives," Behn said. "It's also one of the few programs continuing on today that has not changed since its creation."
The Scout Law asks that scouts learn and exhibit traits in life including being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
As scouts go through the program they can attain a number of different merit badges and ranks. The qualities one needs to possess in order to achieve those badges, and even succeed in life, are all included within the scout law, Behn said.
"Learning and following by the scout law can lead you on a path to success in life," he said. "By following the scout law, I don't think you'll have a problem accomplishing anything in life."
After spending so many years in Boy Scouts, Behn can look back fondly on his many outings and activities while working with scouts, but one in particular seems to stand out the most.
"One of the best memories I will remember the most is sitting by the campfire talking about life experiences with other fellow scouts. I will always remember those moments," Behn said.
Leadership is one of the main traits that boy scouts learn as they continue through the program and the older scouts regularly work with and mentor the younger scouts. Boys leading boys has been the model since the beginning and it hasn't changed since then, Behn said.
"That is where the success of the program is because they (scouts) are given a chance to to lead, achieve goals and implement those experiences learned while in scouting over the course of their lives," he said.
Scouts regularly become involved in community activities including donating to food banks, helping out with summer camps, doing monthly activities and being involved in many local service activities, Behn said.
Scouting has many different groups for young males to get involved in starting with cub scouts at the age of seven and carrying on through the age of 20 with venturing scouts.
Some within local troops have been involved for years and the opportunity to teach and mentor young men through their early life holds a special place in their hearts.
Mark Mackiewicz has been a scoutmaster with Troop 282 for the last 32 years. During his time as scoutmaster he has been the head of a troop that dates back to the mid '40s. With the 100 year anniversary of Boys Scouts in America right around the corner, Mackiewicz knows how much the program has helped the youth over the years.
"This is pretty exciting for me," Mackiewicz said. "I've seen the positive impact the scouting program can make on a boy's life and I've seen a huge difference be made in some kids' lives."
Scouts involved with Troop 282, ranging from ages 11-18, usually stay involved in the troop through their time in high school, Mackiewicz said. Troop 282 usually meets on Monday nights for an hour and a half and plans outings every month with the exception of July. They spend the time working on merit badges, concentrating on the most popular ones including camping and cooking.
"Any interest a child has in life, there is probably a merit badge for it," he said.
Known as 'Mr. Mack' to those scouts within Troop 282, Mackiewicz teaches those in the group that the scout law can go a long way in life. Whenever he is around members of the troop, he always inserts a 'Mr.' before saying their last name as a way to show respect, one trait he hopes young scouts learn to use a lot.
"The scout law is made up of a number of sound principles that they can follow in life," he said.
During his time as a scoutmaster, Mackiewicz has seen a lot of the local youth grow up right in front of his eyes. He has seen them grow up so much that some of the children currently in the troop are those of former scouts he worked with years ago. He has seen many of his former scouts who have grown up, finished high school, attended college and moved into their professional fields. While that may be noteworthy, more than anything he enjoys just being there with the scouts.
"It's heartwarming for me going through all of these years, seeing them work hard, grow up and mature and succeed in life," Mackiewicz said. "It's extremely heartwarming to see them go through the program and move on with their lives. It's a testimony to how superb a program Boy Scouts is."
The fact that the program hasn't changed since it first started is something Mackiewicz believes draws some youth into scouting.
"It's for the better," he said. "A lot of the youth like to see some consistency in their lives and this provides that for them."
Keith Mason and his 9-year-old son, Daryn, know what it's like to be a part of Troop 282. Keith grew up spending time in the troop in the 1970s and Daryn is now entering his second year in Boy Scouts.
Reliving those old scouting memories through his son is something Mason enjoys. While he likes to follow Daryn as he goes through the program, Mason knows independence is a good thing for him to learn going forward.
"Sometimes I have a hard time letting go with Daryn pushing away from spending all of time with his dad," Mason said. "I'm proud of the interaction he has with the others in the troop and the scouting experience as a whole. This is something that all young men should go through."
When Mason was involved in Boy Scouts, there were no arcades, fun centers or recreation centers around. "The interaction with others and the camaraderie we shared is something that still lasts to this day," Mason said.
Despite the long period of time since he left Boy Scouts, Mason still keeps in contact and sees some friends from scouting to this day.
"30 years later and I am still talking with some of them," he said.
So now after 100 years, what does the future hold for Boy Scouts?
"I think it can only get better from here," Behn said. "While we have our challenges to deal with, Boy Scouts is still going strong in the lives of the youth and adults who are involved in it."
Despite the difficulties faced with getting young boys involved in scouting with other options including sports and playing video games, Mackiewicz thinks Boy Scouts will stay strong.
"They have been around for 100 years and I believe that it (Boy Scouts) will move into the next millennium and go on for another 100 years," he said.
While the number of years continues to grow in terms of his involvement with boy scouts, Mackiewicz said he will continue on as a troop leader with one caveat.
"As long as they will have me around, I have the will to continue on as a scoutmaster," he laughed.
With the program staying virtually unchanged after decades of service, Mason is hoping that the organization continues to stay true to their beliefs and continues to teach young men values to live by in life.
"I hope that the Boy Scouts keep the same formula that has been around since it first started 100 years ago," he said. "I can only see the program being more of a success going forward."