NH Cub Scouts admit first girls

Sunday News Correspondent
January 27. 2018 9:41PM
John Ketel, 6, and Sage Ketel, 7, were both able to participate in Cub Scouts for the first time Thursday night in Durham. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Sunday News Correspondent)

DURHAM - Ten girls from the Oyster River community signed up last week to be part of Durham's Cub Scout Pack 154.

Christianna Wiechert, 8, of Durham, who is also in Girl Scouts, said Thursday night she was nervous when the meeting began because she wasn't sure what to do. Once she learned the names of the other girls, Christianna felt more comfortable.

The Boy Scouts of America announced in October that they would begin accepting girls. Durham is one of 15 communities in New Hampshire that is part of an Early Adopter program.

Christianna is looking forward to attending Camp Carpenter in Manchester, where Cub Scouts can participate in archery, arts and crafts, BB gun shooting sports, field sports and other activities.

"This will be the first time I will be away by myself for more than two days," she said.

When asked how her friends at school reacted to the news that she wanted to join Cub Scouts, Christianna said she received a positive reaction.

"They're really happy for me," Christianna said.

Her mother, ChrisAnn, described the Wiecherts as a "Scouting family." Christianna has an older brother in Boy Scouts, and two high-school-age sisters in Girl Scouts.

Christianna was at the meeting in a pink dress, gray leggings and sneakers. Some of the other girls were wearing Scouting gear passed down from their brothers.

Tatum Weir of Durham sat in full uniform next to her 10-year-old twin, Ian, during the first part of the pack meeting. Then the dens split up, and the girls got to know each other as they made paper fortunetellers.

Girls will be able to join Cub Scouts statewide in the fall, assuming pack leadership is agreeable to being inclusive to the family.

In 2019, girls will be admitted to Boy Scouts.

According to the Boy Scouts of America's website, a Cub Scout pack can choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens, or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender, all boys or all girls.

Cub Scout packs can include any combination of all-boy or all-girl dens. The choice is left to individual pack leaders in consultation with their chartered organization.

When the move was announced last year, critics said the admittance of girls was gender politics and political correctness run amok. And the Girl Scouts of the USA has said the move strains the century-old bond between the two organizations.

Girl Scout officials have suggested the BSA's decision was driven partly by financial problems and a need to boost revenue.

Durham's Cubmaster Rob McEwan said the goal of admitting girls into Cub Scouts is to bring the whole family together. Girls are at the meetings because their brothers are involved, and they can't formally participate.

McEwan said many of the girls who joined have brothers in the program, but he was pleasantly surprised to find out some of them do not.

There are 36 boys in Durham's Cub Scout pack, which meets three weeks a month at the Moharimet Elementary School in Madbury. The boys ran around playing tag before the meeting began Thursday, and they didn't pay much attention to the girls in the room.

Tom Richardson, a charter organization representative and assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America, told parents Thursday their girls could be some of the first in the nation to become Eagle Scouts.

Two-thirds of Durham's Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts, Richardson said. He explained that is higher than the national average.

Tom Trafton, director of field services and COO at the Daniel Webster Council of Boy Scouts of America in Manchester, said the 15 communities in the Early Adopter program include Laconia, Peterborough, Derry and Bedford.

Trafton said these communities inquired about participation and volunteered to open their doors to girls this month.

"It's an exciting time for Scouting," Trafton said.

Other Seacoast communities in the Early Adopter program include Newmarket and Brentwood. Newmarket Cub Scout Pack 201 signed up two girls on Tuesday, and the first meeting is Sunday.

The Boy Scouts of America also offers three co-ed programs for 10- to 20-year-olds. For more information, visit scouting.org.

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