My son entered Cub Scouts as a Tiger in 2010. His pack was a traditional one, chartered at his elementary school. Long before his enrollment, I had been leading a small Girl Scout troop and struggling. The troop included my own daughter, who is on the Autism spectrum, and three other girls, only one of whom showed up on a regular basis. I remembered Scouts as being the best thing I had done in my youth, but the program had changed, and direction and training were lacking.
From the beginning, my son asked if I would be his den leader. Because of the stress of the Girl Scout troop, my husband said no, so I left the two of them to attend Scouts on their own. In March of 2011, my husband came home from the den meeting and announced that he had signed us up to be leaders for the Tiger den as no one had stepped up to do it. I joke that it was pretty much the last time I saw him. I had never been to a meeting, never had brothers and was quite the fish out of water. Cub Scouting was completely different from Girl Scouting!
We had a nice pack, but years without parental involvement had really dragged on a lot of the leadership. The committee members were all den leaders—everyone carried more than one job. On top of that, the committee didn’t function as it should. Our first committee chair quit suddenly and moved to a different school. Several people quickly rotated through the Cubmaster position. Enrollment dropped. Those who remained enrolled were all very high-energy children. Pack meetings became stressful and chaotic.
The pack had a habit of planning meetings only one week before, and frankly, the meetings were boring. Parents sat in the back on their phones and let their kids run amuck. When the next Cubmaster and committee chair resigned, I jumped into the position. I had wanted to do more and try to get the pack back on track. We had lousy popcorn sales (we were 100% self-funded), lousy attendance, and a dull program.
I did a lot of Google searches to find solutions to our problems, and came across the Akela’s Council blog. At first, I just liked the ideas. When our council held their first pow wow training after many years, I enrolled. A few of the classes were helpful, but the council also lacked volunteers and had to cut and condense a few of the classes that I wanted to take. This is when I first heard of LDS programming and realized that there were some differences.
I went searching for more information on things that were mentioned. This is when I found an article about Akela’s Council training. I was determined to go. I attended AC 30 in July of 2014. It was quite the drive from Lincoln, Nebraska to Tifie Scout Camp in Utah, but I was up for the challenge.
I was nervous attending this training with no one I knew. What I experienced, though, was a deep kinship with the other participants. We attended classes, watched skits presenting material, prepared special projects, and participated like any Cub Scout would in the numerous activities. Although lack of sleep was common, lack of warmth and community was not. Even though I was the only non-LDS member and didn’t work in an LDS unit, this was not an issue. There were very few segments that didn’t pertain to my traditional unit.
Sadly, the days flew by. I cannot remember a time when I had more fun or developed deeper friendships in such a short span of time. I left teary, but with a new energy for leading.
My committee supported me, but was doubtful one training could make any difference. I laid out what I was going to be doing at pack meetings. My husband thought most of the activities were hokey, but I was determined. I had some fear of standing in front of people making a fool out of myself, but the boys ate it up! I had to be creative in how to decorate with our space, but I’ve made it work. There are still a lot of things presented at AC30 that I want to implement, but with the changes we’ve already made, our pack is growing. At my last boy talk in the fall, I not only had a large interest from boys, but the girls wanted to join as well!
Our enrollment since AC30 has doubled, as has our committee size. Parent involvement is improving. The majority of boys attend every meeting, every outing, and every council-sponsored event. Our popcorn sales have been phenomenal. We still have a ways to go, but instead of “we can’t,” the attitude is “how can we.” I believe this is all a result of my attending AC and finding my passion. In fact, when my son crossed over to Boy Scouts, I stayed on as Cubmaster.
Recently, I became the registrar for my Council. The Akela’s Council training has helped me tremendously in that respect as well. I see many newly-appointed leaders come in bewildered. I have great working knowledge of how an LDS pack functions and great resources to direct all new Cub leaders to. Of course, I also direct them to Akela’s Council!
Do your boys a favor, do not hesitate to attend Akela’s Council. I wish I had done it years ago!