In the Spotlight: February 8 marks the official anniversary date of the Boy Scouts of America. Founded in 1910, this youth organization is the largest scouting organization in the country with over 2.4 million scouts and almost one million adult volunteers. Its vision is “to prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.”
What still holds true today, like it did 107 years ago, is the scout’s oath. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
The qualities every scout strives for is to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. These words resonate well with the Sherman Boy Scouts Troop 48, founded in 1930, and the Sherman Cub Scouts Pack 84, founded in 1957.
How the pack will celebrate the anniversary of scouting is with a “Blue and Gold Banquet” at the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department, who’s also their sponsor and Chartering Organization for both the pack and troop. This year’s theme is “Hurray for Hollywood” and it’s a catered event. “Everyone can attend partially dressed as a movie character. Advancements and recognitions will be awarded,” said Barbara Richardson, Cubmaster of Pack 84 for 15 years.
The Month of February is a big scouting month and they have more activities lined up. They’re also observing the religious aspect of scouting on “Scout Worship Weekend,” which is the first weekend in February. All scouts and adult scouters are encouraged to wear their uniforms while attending religious services, and to participate in the mass or service, if possible, at their places of worship. “A Faith Patch will be given,” said Richardson. It represents one of the 12 points of the Scout Law.
In Sherman, there are 11 Boy Scouts and 25 leaders, including committee members and Eagle Scout coordinators. As for the Cub Scouts, there are 27 boys and 10 leaders, including committee members, a charter organization representative, and a cubmaster. They’re part of the Connecticut Yankee Council that’s made up of 37 communities in the region that totals over 10,000 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Venture Crews; including over 4,000 leaders and volunteers.
Although there’s much universal commonality throughout the Boy Scouts of America and its vast network of 272 local councils, each troop and pack has its own unique way of contributing to their local communities. For the Sherman Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, they easily meet the minimum requirement for their Journey to Excellence award of organizing and participating in five community service projects throughout the year.
This spring, they’ll host the 2nd Annual Adventures in Scouting Day, a community event at the Sherman Town Beach. It also doubles as a recruiting initiative for the Sherman Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts. “We set up displays to promote the scouting program. It is like a mini camporee that showcases what scouting is all about,” said Richardson. Some of the fun activities include a camping display, obstacle course, monkey bridge, recycling table, first aid station, axe and saw area, crafts, various derbies, waterfront activities and a hands-on open fire cooking demonstration.
For more than 20 years, the scouts also participate in Sherman Cleanup Day every April. On Memorial Day, they march with pride in the parade and raise the flag at Veterans Field. Then in June, they participate in a flag retirement ceremony and help veterans retire flags by ceremoniously burning them on Flag Day.
For the seventh consecutive year, they’ve sponsored a “safe trick or treating” Annual Halloween Bash for all families in the community, and it’s a free event. In keeping with tradition, they’re hosting it again this year.
Every Veterans Day, for the past several years, they’ve sponsored a breakfast for veterans and their spouses at the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department.
For Thanksgiving, the Cub Scouts partner with Hungerford Place and Sherman Social Services, and they fill food boxes that are distributed to Sherman families in need.
The Cub Scouts also participate in Operation Christmas Child and team up with the Sherman Church of Sherman. Recently, they started collections for the military and sent personal hygiene items to the troops overseas.
Last year at Great Hollow, on the Sherman / New Fairfield border, the Boy Scouts cleaned up three different camp sites and trails. Plus, they also help to maintain the town trails.
Although the scouts are heavily involved in community service, they also know how to have fun! Alvin Tuck, who’s the Boy Scouts Troop 48 Committee Chairman for over 30 years, said, “we’re always working really hard to improve the program to make it more attractive to youth.”
In mid-February, the troop is going on a trip to Ski Windham and camp at Camp TriMount in New York. Then in March, they’re going to a shooting range at a local scout camp. Troop 48 is also planning a big trip in 2018. “We’re going to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It’s a 12-day wilderness backpacking trip across about 70 miles of rough terrain and we’ll be scaling mountains over 12,000 feet high,” shared newly appointed Scoutmaster Angelo Spaziani.
As for the pack, they’re looking forward to the Derby Triathlon in March. The boys build their own cars out of blocks of wood and race them in the Pinewood Derby, “sail” boats in the Rain Gutter Regatta, and blow snow cone cup “rockets” across fishing line filament in the Space Derby.
Especially in an age where there’s an overall decline in scouting enrollments, it’s commendable to see the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of Sherman “alive and well” and growing once again. Through the past several years the numbers have varied, from just a few scouts to as high as 45 boy scouts in 2002.
One main reason for their continued success is the current leadership. Collectively, Tuck, Richardson, and Spaziani have been involved with scouting in Sherman for nearly 90 years and have volunteered countless hours to the program.
Tuck first got involved with scouting 38 years ago when his two sons were Cub Scouts. In 1978 his wife, Donna, took over the pack and asked him to become Cubmaster, while she did most everything. He then became a Webelos Den Leader. In 1981, he became Scoutmaster when his first son crossed over. At the same time, he was a Webelos Den Leader again for his second son’s den.
What Tuck loves the most is how “the program instills in our youth honesty, integrity, ethics, citizenship, conservation, outdoor survival, physical fitness, team work, and leadership.” He also credits three scoutmasters that he asked to lead for making the troop what it is today. “Ted, Larry, and Angelo are the three best decisions I ever made.” Ted Karas joined the troop with his son and became Scoutmaster in 1986. In 1993, Larry Lynch joined the troop. He was Scoutmaster for 22 years. Then, in 2015, Angelo Spaziani became Scoutmaster.
Richardson and her husband, Craig, first got involved with scouting 25 years ago, when their two boys joined the Cub Scouts, and it was a natural progression. She became Den Leader for both boys. Next, she became Assistant Cubmaster then Cubmaster during the 1990s. Today, she’s also a Troop 48 Committee Member. She enjoys seeing the boys start out as Cub Scouts, then move up to Boy Scouts. She also likes to see the older scouts mentor the younger ones who will, hopefully, attain Eagle Scout. She especially loves to see some of them become leaders themselves, which brings about a strong sense of family.
Spaziani was born and raised in Sherman and is a perfect example of a scout’s life being full circle. He joined early on as a Cub Scout and was made Eagle Scout in 2007. After college, he moved back to Sherman. In 2014, he and two other Eagle Scouts joined up again as assistant scoutmasters so they could help-out the scoutmasters. Now, his father, Frank Spaziani, is his assistant! “My dad was always my den leader. Then he became a Committee Member, and now he helps me out as Assistant Scoutmaster,” shared Spaziani. What he would like to see more than anything is a “continued increase in membership to create a self-run troop and a healthy pack.”
Both Tuck and Spaziani also discussed the prestige of being an Eagle Scout, which is the highest honor. “Only 5% of those who join scouts make it to Eagle,” said Spaziani. “In Sherman, we’ve had 39 since 1981, and one to three scouts are expected to make it to Eagle in 2017,” said Tuck. They also said that being an Eagle Scout has many advantages. It looks good on a resume, helps when applying to college, and increases the chance for receiving a scholarship. Spaziani added, “if you’re an Eagle Scout then you get higher rank and higher pay right off the bat if you decide to go into the military. Over the past eight years, four Eagles have become servicemen in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.”
Both the troop and dens meet weekly at the historical one-room “Scout House” that’s located adjacent to the Sherman Playhouse, and the doors are open to anyone interested.
This article and photos are by Alicia Sakal, originally written for Town Tribune.