MARYSVILLE – Blazing trails is part of being a Boy Scout. But these Boys Scouts are girls. And they are blazing a trail that goes far beyond an outdoor hike.
Four girls in Marysville that have been part of the Boy Scouts’ Venture program for years are now officially Boy Scouts. The national organization made that decision regarding equality in February. Marysville Scout leader Brian McKinney likes the change because now families with sons and daughters “can do it together.”
The Venture program has been part of Boy Scouts for decades. It’s for older boys and girls interested in high adventure. Girls could do many of the same things as the boys, but not in an official capacity.
Despite their new status, the accomplishments of the girls are not retroactive. So even though they have done the work, the four girls have to do it all over again to get their merit badges. Madison Dawson said even though they will have to put in extra work, coming in for four hours on Saturdays, for example, they know what needs to be done.
“It allows recognition for what they already do,” McKinney said. His wife, Wanda, added: “They have the skills. They’re going to breeze through it.”
Once they get the minimum 21 badges, they can go for the highest level – Eagle Scout – and be some of the first girls in the nation to do it. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, and leadership.
The highlight of the achievement is a service project. Obtaining Eagle Scout status can help the girls with things like college scholarships. All four local girls are going to work toward that over the next two years. Two other girls also are in the program. Wanda told the girls, “You will pretty much blaze the trail for the girls who come behind you.”
Joining Boy Scouts
Molly McKinney, daughter of Wanda and Brian, said she’s been involved with Scouts, “Since I came out of the womb.” When her older brother “Eagled out” a few years ago, she talked her friends into joining.
Dawson said she really wasn’t into it at first, but decided to try it because Molly, whom she knew from soccer, said it was so fun. “I like the people. Our troop is close,” she said.
Natalie Hawkins said she likes it because they get to do things Girls Scouts don’t. Her eyes lit up when she mentioned shooting at the gun range.
Adam Benson, the Scoutmaster for the girls, who are all 16 and attend Marysville Getchell High School, said Natalie is one of the better shooters in the troop with a .22-caliber pistol.
Madison enjoys the camping part – campfires and being outdoors at night. “Except for the rain,” Natalie chimed in.
Molly said they are better than the boys at setting up camp. “We have a system,” she said.
Wanda said they are faster at breaking down camp, too. “We have to wait forty-five minutes for the boys,” she said.
When camping, the four girls, the other member is Jackie Shea, are crammed into one tent. “We can’t stop talking,” Natalie admitted, getting affirmative nods from the troop leaders. “Me and Molly stayed up until 3 in the morning,” Madison said. “The next morning everyone was so mad because we were so loud.”
Wanda said the girls have faced gender discrimination.
Natalie and Madison said a number of Scout camps wouldn’t let them attend. At the camps they went to, Natalie said they tried to teach the girls a lesson. “They don’t want to understand” our motivation for wanting to be part of this, Molly said. “We can do what boys do.”
They said many of the troops weren’t accepting. “It depends on who your leaders are,” Madison said. “We felt more hate here” in Washington state, Molly said. “They were more accepting in other states.”
Madison said even though the girls taught some skills to younger boys, they would come back and say things like: “You’re not Scouts. You’re just girls. The judgment was the hardest part,” she said.
Molly said they had to stick up for themselves. “We didn’t want to be overlooked.”
Madison added: “We got nasty glares. We were doubted a lot.”
Madison said she wants to be among the first girls to become an Eagle Scout. “I want to rub it in people’s faces,” she said.
Molly said they tried not to get down when they were denied the opportunity to do things the boys did in the past.
“It’s not no,” she said. “It’s just not now. We knew eventually they would say yes to us.”
The girls said their own troop treats them well, especially the older Scouts.
“Our troop is accepting,” Wanda said.
Madison added, “They’re like our older brothers.” “They want us to be here,” Natalie said. “They stood up for us.” Madison said the Boy Scout organization was out of touch.
“It’s stupid. The world has changed so much. Go with the world as it changes,” she said.
They’ve learned skills
The girls have until age 18 to earn the merit badges, which include many hours of community service, along with becoming proficient at various skills related to camping and other endeavors.
McKinney said they are putting in the extra time needed. “They help the young boys and are setting a good example,” he said.
“Girls are more patient” while helping the younger Scouts, Molly added.
Molly said being a Boy Scout makes them different from other girls. For example, she always carries a first aid kit to soccer. And she is always being asked, “Can you tie this?”
McKinney added, “And they can whip out a compass.”
“We can multi-task,” Natalie said.
“We can talk and listen” at the same time, Molly added.
McKinney said girls look at tasks from a different perspective.
“We try to make it fun. Boys are too serious,” Natalie said.
Benson said when he started with Boy Scouts he never would have believed girls would be let in. But now he’s a convert.
“I love being with these girls. It’s fun to watch them grow and make something of themselves,” he said.
Benson added that some people don’t have a clue and still have issues with girls being Boy Scouts.
“Chalk this up to blazing that trail,” he said.
Scouts undergoing other transitions
MARYSVILLE – Marysville Boy Scout leader Brian McKinney said Wednesday that the organization is changing. “There’s a lot of transition in Scouts right now,” he said.
The number of boys joining the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts has been in decline for years – McKinney said about 75 percent. The number of groups in the area has dropped from seven to three. McKinneysaid some parents say they are afraid to send their kids into the woods camping. He added many boys aren’t into camping anyway.
“They can have so many camping experiences on their X Box,” he said they tell him.
Brian and his wife Wanda said they are always looking for new Cub and Boy Scouts. Meetings are at 7 p.m. Mondays at the Marysville Strawberry Festival building on First Street.
Even though girls are now part of Boy Scouts, their group is still Troop 80 B for the boys and G for the girls. “There are still different rules,” Wanda said.
Brian added, “Not all the rules are out yet,” so camps can still keep girls out if they want to.