AP NEWS

Redding all-girl Boy Scout troop among the first in country

April 4, 2019

REDDING — By the time Boy Scouts of America officially allowed girls to have their own troop, about 10 girls in Redding had already earned badges, gone camping and beat 19 male troops in an outdoor skills challenge.

Troop 306 — named so after the address of the West Redding Fire Department, its charter organization — is one of the first female troops in the country.

“To be one of the first girls to start the troop in Redding and to be one of the first girls to be an Eagle Scout would be so fulfilling,” said Emma Cedusky, 17, the senior patrol leader.

Boy Scouts changed its name to Scouts BSA and opened it up to girls between the ages of 11 and 17 on Feb. 1. Interested girls though were told they could start acting like a troop before then. Troop 306 began doing activities last May, holding weekly meetings and going on camping and canoe troops.

“That allowed us to have a real running start,” said Kevin Blackwell, Troop 306’s scoutmaster.

Troop 306 was among 12 troops to start on Feb. 1 in the Connecticut Yankee Council, which covers Fairfield and New Haven counties. That number is now at 17 with 121 girls participating. A few more troops are expected to form by the end of the year bringing the total number of girls up to about 200, said Jay Lubin, vice president of membership for the council.

The council’s troops account for 1 percent of all of the country’s female troops and 5 percent of the female troops in the Northeast, Lubin said, adding he hopes to eventually have at least one troop in every town.

“That’s an enormous number,” he said. “It’s very exciting. It’s been a long time coming.”

The troop will check another thing off its list and host its first fundraiser with a community breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturday at the fire station. Adult tickets are $12 and children and seniors tickets are $10.

Cedusky knew she wanted to be in Boy Scouts as soon as the announcement was made. Her dad is an Eagle Scout and she had been going to her brother’s scouting events. She and Kevin Blackwell’s daughter, Clara, expressed their interest and gathered other girls who also wanted to do it.

“From there it just grew,” Kevin Blackwell said.

He said girls ask friends who share similar interests, such as being outdoors or even because they are also Girl Scouts.

“Some of the girls will get their Gold Award and be Eagle Scouts; I have no doubt,” Blackwell said.

Among them might be Ava Racett, who is both a Girl Scout and in Troop 306.

Racett, 11, said she decided to join Troop 306 because of the outdoor opportunities and training. She said she plans to stay in both because she is learning a lot of different things in each organization and is able to help others.

“I thought it would be good to join something to have that balance,” she said.

She said she first thought Scouts BSA was just camping, but has since learned there are a lot of opportunities available. She’s been introduced to new hobbies since joining.

“I fell in love with it,” Racett said. “I love my troop and we all work so well together.”

Her favorite part was the Klondike challenge this winter where they were tested on their outdoor skills in freezing temperatures, competing against 21 other troops — all but one of which were male.

Cedusky said her favorite component of Scouts so far has been the National Youth Leadership Training because she was able to work with scouts her age and her patrol excelled in every task. She said it also gave her confidence to speak in front of others and the skills needed to lead Troop 306.

She said she usually only gets questions about why she joined Boy Scouts from adults and those outside of scouting.

“A lot of guys involved with it are very supportive,” Cedusky said. “It’s a great community. It’s hard to feel left out when everyone’s so inviting.”

Blackwell, who previously served as scoutmaster for Redding’s male troop, said the two troops haven’t done much together but suspects that will change soon. The boys from Troop 15 will help with the breakfast on Saturday and the girls will help with the boys’ spaghetti dinner in May.

Cedusky, who leaves for college next year, said she hopes the troop lasts and other girls join so they too can learn leadership and important skills, such as first aid and survival skills.

“I want them to be able to be proud of it because it’s such a great program,” she said.