WINNSBORO – A little over a year ago, Dennis Brannon and his son were watching a History Channel special about the Boy Scouts of America.
After his son expressed an interest in being in Scouts, Brannon did some digging and found Winnsboro did not have a Cub Scout pack, which is what his son would need.
That was in June 2014. By August, Cub Scout Pack 23 was formed with five young men. Now, over a year later, they have 17 members and are looking for more boys ages 6 to 10 and their families.
The key words, Brannon said, are “family” and “involvement.”
“Family involvement is an essential part of Cub Scouting,” he said. “All of the activities we participate in are intended for the whole family. Our scouting families are committed and involved. We have pack overnight camping trips and families are not only encouraged to attend but required.”
Brannon stressed that “family” and “parents” has multiple meanings when it comes to the Cub Scouts.
“When we speak of parents or families, we are not referring to any particular family structure. Some boys live with two parents, some live with one parent, some have foster parents, and some live with other relatives or guardians,” he said. “Whomever a boy calls his family is his family in Cub Scouting.”
Brannon, the son of a career Marine, described the life of a military brat and the socialization skills that come with it as similar in nature to that of Scouts.
“My father was a career Marine so we moved every three years or so. Despite moving every few years, military families seem to share similar values and form friendships systematically,” he said. “Common bonding between military brats comes from universal programs like Boy Scouts of America. No matter where we lived, we shared similar interests with other boys our age. It made the transient life of a military brat easy to adjust in.”
Brannon and his brother were first introduced to scouting as Cub Scouts while living in Virginia in the late 1970s. They moved into Boy Scouts while living in Georgia and Florida. Brannon said he never attained the rank of Eagle Scout, something he regrets even today.
But back to Winnsboro’s Cub Scout Pack 23.
Brannon found the Boy Scouts of America Council headquarters online, contacted them and got the ball rolling. One could say that a rolling Cub Scout pack gathers no moss because the group has more than tripled its members in a year, something Brannon said was exclusively credited to the testimonials and referrals from the active Cub Scouts.
“They’re having fun, they belong and they want to share that experience with others,” he said.
Even parents and other adults involved have seen the impact, he said.
“I’ve had parents tell me how their child’s behavior has improved and their grades are improving,” Brannon said. “Let’s face it, the most powerful influence in a child’s development is knowing others believe in them. I think they feel that in the scouts. This is the first time in many of their young lives that they feel a sense of purpose, direction and belonging.”
The original founding scout leaders were Brannon, who is a Chartered Organization Representative; Laura Bonds, who serves as Den leader and Advancement chair; Cubmaster Aaron Flood; and Chris and Jana Childers. Chris is the assistant Cubmaster and Jana, a former Girl Scout, is the treasurer.
The Pack provides scholarships so no boy who wants to join is left out.
“If a boy wants to join Scouts, we’ll make it happen no matter what the financial situation is. Since the beginning, I’ve made that really clear to all parents and everyone continues to agree with this objective,” he said.
Since money doesn’t grow on trees, Brannon said they identify funding sources like selling popcorn. They have also held two fundraisers in Winnsboro at Rock Around the Clock and the Wings and Wheels Festival.
“We earmark a certain percentage of income for your scholarship fund or set aside money that exceeds a given threshold,” he said.
Brannon said they tell all parents – and remind the current ones – that Cub Scouting is a family experience. They utilize the parents for a lot of the heavylifting needed to make the venture successful.
“We need every parent to participate in order to make it successful. We expect each family to volunteer in some way during the year,” he said. “This doesn’t mean they are required to take on leadership positions but simply help when needed. They more often do things like provide snacks at meetings or plan activities for pack meetings.”
Cub Scouts is an active program and allows the boys who are members to experience things they might have never thought they would. But, to some degree, that is part of the plan.
“Boys learn by doing, and there’s no end to the fun things that Cub Scouts do as a pack, and at special events,” he said. “As a leader, we are aware of the wide array of activities that can be included in the Cub Scout program, and do our best to include as many of them as possible in our annual schedule.”
In the first year, Cub Scout Pack 23 held a Pinewood Derby in February and a camping trip in late April. But the most memorable event was spending the weekend on the USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant.
“The boys stayed in the sleeping quarters on ship and ate in the galley just like the war fighters of the greatest generation once did,” Brannon said. “I remember the entire experience was uncomfortably hot and humid. I believe the scouts left with a greater appreciation of what our veterans and current service members endure on a daily basis.”
If parents of a young boy were thinking about enrolling their son, Brannon said the sales pitch would be one grounded in family members spending time together, growing together and helping the young Cub Scout to grow individually and as a member of a group.
Boys, he said, need to be around boys their same age, with similar sets of experiences as well as the same challenges and achievements.
“As a parent, you want to be assured that the groups that your boy joins will teach values consistent with good citizenship, character development, and physical fitness. In a society where your son is taught that winning is everything, Cub Scouting teaches him to ‘do his best’ and to be helpful to others,” Brannon said. “Scouting teaches family values and works to strengthen your relationship with your son. Scouting activities can bring added value to the time you already have with your son.”
The highest rank in Cub Scouting is the Arrow of Light. Earning this rank in Pack 23 prepares a Cub Scout to become a Boy Scout who can move on to Boy Scout Troop 49 in Winnsboro.
Cub Scout Pack 23 invites boys and their families to join them at 2 p.m. Sept. 13 or Sept. 27 at The Fairfield County Council on Aging, 210 E Washington St. in Winnsboro to learn more about joining Cub Scout Pack 23.
Parents will have the opportunity to meet the Pack’s volunteer leaders, and receive their 2016/2016 Program Calendar.
Registration cost for the 2015/2016 school year is $75. An optional subscription to Boy’s Life Magazine can also be purchased for $16. Scholarships are available. Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout Pack 23 is chartered to Artisan Charities. Contact Aaron Flood at 803-724-7017 or visit www.cubscoutpack23.org for more information.
Patricia M. Edwards is the regional editor for Civitas Media’s properties in South Carolina, which includes The Herald Independent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.