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Girl power: All-girl BSA scout troops in Montana grow to 10

May 2, 2019

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — When 11-year-old Rose McCarter first joined Scouts BSA and got her uniform, the organization’s old name, Boy Scouts of America, was embroidered over the shirt pocket.

So Rose hid the word Boy under a heart-shaped pin, to make it read Scouts of America.

Rose is one of seven Bozeman girls who have joined Montana’s first all-girl troop in Scouts BSA, the rebranded name of what was the Boy Scouts for more than a century, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported .

Avery Harris, 10, said she was in Girl Scouts but wanted to join Scouts BSA because her brother was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

“He was zip-lining while I was learning how to set a table and table manners,” Avery said. She wanted to learn about camping and backpacking, not “what ladies used to do in the olden days.”

“Boys don’t learn that - they do stuff!” Rose agreed. “Now we can do more!”

As if to prove their credentials, the girls launched in unison into an enthusiastic recital of the Scout’s vow to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Scoutmaster and mom Katie Daughenbaugh said she wanted to lead Troop 619 because, “I want my girls to get to be Eagle Scouts, there are so many benefits.”

“Scouts to me is a lot of leadership and character development disguised as outdoor activities,” Daughenbaugh said. A former Girl Scout leader, she works as a virologist in a honeybee research lab.

She said the troop is planning a lot of camping and learning first aid, wilderness survival, cooking and hiking.

The Boy Scouts of America decided two years ago it would open the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs to girls for the first time. All-girl troops are separate from all-boy troops, and they hold separate meetings, camping trips and outings.

The Girl Scouts, with 1.7 million members nationally, in 2018 accused the 2.2 million-member Boy Scouts of trying to boost slipping participation numbers by siphoning off girls, the New York Times reported.

The Girl Scouts sued in federal court alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and causing “extraordinary confusion” with the public. Despite the legal wrangling, more than 8,000 girls nationally have signed up for Scouts BSA. Some 77,000 girls joined Cub Scouts last fall.

Bozeman’s troop, which formed Feb. 1, is the first of 10 all-girl troops in Montana, said Daniel King, Mountain Valley District executive of the Montana Council of Boy Scouts of America. The organization serves around 5,700 youth in Montana, King said, making it the largest youth organization in the state. It had about 8,000 members until the LDS Church decided to start its own program.

The other all-girl troops are in Belgrade, Helena, Missoula, Billings, Great Falls, Havre, Columbia Falls, Lakeside/Bigfork and Lewistown.

The Bozeman troop is holding a recruiting event this Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Lindley Park pavilion. It’s open to girls ages 11 to 17. The troop will meet Monday nights from 6:30 to 8 p.m., starting in June at Bozeman United Methodist Church, which is chartering the new troop. Pastor Amy Strader said the church is honored to support the new Scouts BSA troop and also supports Girl Scouts in its congregation.

It costs $50 to register for Scouts BSA and about $35 for a uniform, but they’ll find a way to help any girl who can’t afford those costs, said Betsy Eubanks, who was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and a Boy Scout leader for 15 years.

One big advantage of having girls in Scouts BSA is that it could make life easier for families with boys and girls, Eubanks said. “It’s about letting families Scout together instead of one is over here and the other over there.”

News broke this week that nearly 8,000 Boy Scout leaders had been accused of sexual abuse over seven decades, from 1944 to 2016, and while the organization had kicked out suspected abusers, it kept its “perversion files” secret and never alerted communities.

Eubanks said Scouts USA takes youth protection seriously and troop leaders for all-girl troops are female.

Girl Scouts is “a great organization,” Eubanks said. “Both are youth-serving.”

While the adult leaders sought to avoid any criticism of the other scouting program, the girls were open about their feelings.

Ruby Daughenbaugh, 10, said she was “really, really excited” when she found out she could join Scouts, like her older brother who got to go camping on weekends. “I’ve always wanted to do what he’s doing,” she said.

Katie Welsh, 10, said she wants to learn new skills like how to pitch a tent, make a fire and live in the wilderness.

Asked if they plan to do Eagle Scout service projects, the girls talked about helping special education students, organizing winter coat drives, promoting clean energy and recycling.

Olivia Beehler, 10, said she joined because she had been jealous when her brother got to learn camping and wilderness skills in Boy Scouts. A fifth-grader at Morning Star School, she said a boy walking home asked her if she’s really in Boy Scouts.

″‘That’s fake; you’re lying,’” he told her.

“I said, ‘No, it’s not fake - Look it up!’” Olivia said.


Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com