Since her older brother joined Cub Scouts four years ago, Bella Bumble has attended every den meeting, participated in every activity and fundraised for every food drive alongside her brother and the pack’s other male members.
Starting next year, Bella may finally have the opportunity to wear a Cub Scout uniform and earn badges as an official member of her brother’s Greenport pack, where she has long been a member in every way but name.
The Boy Scouts will officially begin accepting girls into its Cub Scout packs next September, and a program for older girls will give them the opportunity to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout starting in 2019.
“Everything we’ve ever done, Bella has always attended – she’s just never received any recognition for it,” said Cindy Bumble, Bella’s mother and a den leader for her son’s Cub Scout den.
Local Cub Scout units will decide on an individual basis whether or not to transition to mixed co-ed dens or to create separate, single-sex dens for girls and boys.
“We have allowed girls into the Boy Scouts for years now as part of family scouting,” said Nivea Pierre, spokesperson for Boy Scouts Suffolk County Council. “We’re just making it more inviting for the girls. Any time that we can give girls more choices, it’s a great thing.”
Though programming varies with each individual unit, Boy Scout troops generally offer more wilderness and adventure opportunities than the Girl Scouts organization, Nivea said. And those kinds of experiences can build important skills for children of both genders.
“Learning those types of survival skills – first aid, shelter, camping – you learn how to be prepared,” said Damon Rallis, who is a leader of both a Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts group. “We shouldn’t decide as a society whether or not that’s meant for boys or girls.”
The program also teaches young people how to give back to their communities and builds leadership skills, qualities that Bumble has noticed her daughter picking up on as she spends time with her brother’s Cub Scout pack.
“She helps me set things up, helps me explain things to the other kids,” Bumble said.
“I get to do what they all do,” added Bella, who is seven years old. “And sometimes I can be the judge and teach them to do stuff.”
Bella also enjoys the kinds of physical activities her brother’s pack participates in. “I like to be active and fun,” she said. She especially enjoys doing obstacle courses with the other Cub Scouts. “Somethings I get to make my own!” she said with excitement.
The Boy Scouts’ decision to accept girls into its programs also could make things easier for parents with multiple kids of different genders. “There’s a lot of competition for family time,” said Derek Bossen, a den leader in Southold. “If it’s one activity, you can drop everyone off and everyone can participate.”
Bumble agreed that it is important for her children to be able to participate in the same extracurricular activities.
“Bella asked this year if she could become a scout, and I didn’t know what to do,” Bumble said. “If I put her in the Girl Scouts, it would mean running back and forth between two different venues. I don’t know if I’d have time to be a leader for both. If the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts were having an event at the same time, I’d be torn between them.”
And at the end of the day, the Boy Scouts is a “family organization,” Bossen said.
“Anything that helps with the management of family time is a good thing for the organization,” he said.
As for Bella, she says she is excited that she can soon become an official member of her Cub Scouts pack. Last night, she attended a Halloween party with the rest of the members of her brother’s den. Her costume: a “sassy rich woman.”
“I have fun there because I like learning how to do stuff,” Bella said. “As long as I don’t have to smell like a smelly boy,” she added, to her mom’s laughter.