Boy Scouts: It's not just for boys anymore.
Five Bloomington-Normal area girls are among the first in the country to join Scouts BSA as members of the new Troop 9903.
Girls were officially welcomed to join in February. The move was seen as an attempt to boost dwindling membership nationwide.
Lee Shaw Jr. is Scout Executive and CEO of the W.D. Boyce Council Boy Scouts of America, which covers 14 Central Illinois counties. He said Boy Scouts aren't trying to compete with any other youth organization.
“Whether it is the Girl Scouts, whether it is the Boys & Girls Club, whether it is the Y(MCA), whether it is 4-H, I believe that there is room for all of us, because at the end of the day, we will all be much better if we know our young people are participating in any or all of those programs,” Shaw told a gathering of reporters and volunteers during a scout meeting at Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington on Tuesday.
The girls have their own troops that meet separately from the boys. Each of the girls in the local troop has a brother who has gone through the Boy Scouts.
Chloe Hitch, 14, of Shirley, said she was motivated to join the Boy Scouts since her younger brother Tanner was a Scout and their parents were Scout leaders.
“The Boy Scouts just seemed so much cooler than the Girl Scouts, since they did more outdoor stuff,” Hitch said. “I like camping and making new friends.”
Scoutmaster Jo Litwiller of Normal said she was thrilled her daughter Megan will get the chance to be an Eagle Scout just like Megan's older brother.
“It hurt her all the time to watch us go out and to the campouts and do the meetings and everything else,” Litwiller said. “She really wanted to do that.
“I remember the day she looked at me and said, ‘I want to earn Eagle (Scout).’ My heart broke as a mother and as a scout leader to know she was not going to be able to have that opportunity.”
Troop 9903 will be going on its first camping trip to Comlara Park this weekend.
Melissa Tanner hopes the Boy Scouts will help her daughter make friends. That’s why she makes the 30-minute drive from their home in Atlanta every week.
Her 12-year-old daughter Serenity has an anxiety disorder called selective mutism. Tanner said her daughter generally only speaks to her and some children her age.
“That’s been kind of a hard road for her, but through scouting I think she’ll make some more friends and be able to talk to them,” Tanner said. “With merit badges she’s not able to talk, she writes out all of the workbooks which some of those are 50 pages long."
Serenity’s three older brothers were all Eagle Scouts.
Shaw said another girls troop started in Canton earlier this week and the council hopes to add a third girls troop shortly.
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