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GOOD NEWS!: Cub Scouts: Building character, one boy at a time

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Nicholas Heidelmark, 15, left, and Nicholas Walenta, 8, at the Cub Scout Field Day last Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

GREENVILLE — Cub Scout Pack 42 wants to share its opportunities with more boys in the community.

The pack held a Field Day at the Troop 42 campsite last Saturday, with activities, food and information for families interested in joining Cub Scouts.

“We are holding a field day, a recruitment day and activity day to get more kids to join,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Neil Augstein from Troop 42. “It gives kids something to do — outdoor activities, life skills. It’s character building.”

Boys become eligible to join Cub Scouts in kindergarten and can continue through fifth grade, learning and advancing along the way.

“Each grade is a different den,” said Pack 42 Committee Chair Caitlin Salisbury. “Kindergarten is Lions, then there are Tigers, Wolves, Bears and Webelos. We have two years of Webelos — fourth and fifth grade. The pack is all of them together. Each den has two meetings a month and then we do one big pack meeting where all of the boys come together and that’s where we do the fishing derby, and in December we make gingerbread houses or some sort of Christmas-themed activity.”

“Webelos” is an acronym for “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

The Troop 42 camp was donated to the organization in 2014. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The field day to recruit new Cub Scouts was held at the troop’s camp on Route 32, just north of Greenville.

“We have different stations set up for our already enrolled Cub Scouts to come,” Salisbury said. “We asked them to bring a friend, a sibling, a cousin, anybody who might be interested in Cub Scouts, and we are showing them what we do.”

To join, the youngest kids have to be enrolled in kindergarten to join in September, and in fifth grade, most of them will “cross over” into Boy Scouts.

“We have a really good rate of boys who graduate with us and then continue into Boy Scouts,” Salisbury said. “Last year we had 10 boys from Cub Scouts cross over into the troop and seven of them continued.”

Making friends and learning practical skills are some of the biggest benefits of scouting, advocates said.

“It’s fun. The friends that they make are usually for a lifetime,” Salisbury said. “The group of boys that we have that crossed over last year, they stick together. They love doing all of the activities together. We have fun activities — we have the fishing derby, the Pinewood Derby — they like the craziness of it and it’s so nice to see the den sticking together and making friends. And they know each other at school, too, so that makes it better.”

Families enjoyed activities and a luncheon at the Troop 42 campsite. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Cubmaster Frank Orlando said he got involved with Cub Scouts eight years ago when his sons were in the pack, and he stayed on as they advanced through the ranks. The experience teaches boys a great deal, he said.

“They learn about fire building, about the environment, about recycling,” Orlando said. “Then we go to camp and they play a lot of games and they become independent. They go camping, they stay in the tents by themselves, so it builds a lot of character.”

Cub Scouts typically go camping once a year for three or four days and do an occasional night out at the troop’s Route 32 camp, which was donated to the troop in 2014.

Similar to Boy Scouts, which begins in sixth grade, Cub Scouts have the opportunity to earn merit badges and other honors for skills they develop like swimming, canoeing, archery, religion and more.

“There’s literally hundreds of badges they can get,” Orlando said.

When 8-year-old Nicholas Walenta first came to the field day last weekend, he wasn’t certain he wanted to join. But after spending a short time with the Cub Scouts, he was all in, according to his father, Stephen Walenta.

“We thought it would be a good thing to do to keep him busy and give him some type of outside activity,” Stephen Walenta said. “He wasn’t 100% sure he wanted to join until he came here. He got to build a rocket and he shot it off. He did lots of other activities, too.”

Pack 42 shared information and fun activities with potential new Cub Scouts during the recruitment day. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Damion Heidelmark said his sons are no longer in scouting, but he helps the troop where he can and found it is a great experience for the kids.

“They do a lot — building and learning how to build things, gaining new friendships, learning how to work with each other instead of arguing and fighting,” Heidelmark said. “They actually work together. It’s great for the kids and for the families to get out and go to the camps in the summertime. They do hikes, and it gets families out and talking to each other.”

Families looking to get involved with Cub Scouts can still register for the program by visiting Greenville Pack 42 on Facebook or emailing greenvillepack42@gmail.com.

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