The scouting program in Mountaintop helps children, beginning at the elementary level, to learn life skills, develop strong character, and make lasting friendships, all while having fun. During monthly pack meetings where they perform skits or participate in sing-alongs, they learn self-confidence and public speaking. Through camping, scouts learn to care for themselves, cook, and survive in the wilderness. And, with the community service conducted throughout the year, from food drives to roadside cleanup, the scouts learn good citizenship.
On Sept. 14, all three of Mountaintop’s elementary schools, Fairview, Rice, and St. Jude’s, will be open from 6:30 to 8 p. m. for scout registration, with local Cub Scouts on hand to encourage their peers with tales of the fun they have and their den leaders available to answer questions about the organization and detail the learning experiences the boys will obtain.
Mountaintop has three Cub Scout packs –Pack 106, which regularly meets at Fairview; Pack 434, which meets at Emmanuel United Church of Christ; and Pack 60, meeting at St. Jude’s. To register this week, parents can go to any of the three elementary schools, even if they plan to join a pack that meets elsewhere. Also, a child can join any pack; there are no rules as far as living in a certain township or attending a certain school.
Sheila Bender remembers the day, 18 years ago, when her oldest son brought home a flier from school and told her he wanted to join Cub Scouts. Almost immediately, Sheila and her husband, Chris, began appreciating the life skills and citizenship their son was learning. They became involved as leaders and, even when their two sons achieved the highest rank of Eagle Scout and moved on, the Benders stayed involved.
“They’re both doing very well in life,” Sheila Bender said of her sons, Jason, who grew up to become a U. S. Marine, and Branden, now a missionary in Africa. She credited much of their success to their childhoods in scouts. “Scouts instilled in them great leadership skills. Both are very confident,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons why we continue to be involved, because we value the program and see what it does for the kids.”
Over the years, Bender has seen many boys grow and mature through the ranks of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. “I’ve seen them set out as little tiger cubs and grow up to become awesome young men,” she related. Bender described Cub Scouts as “age-appropriate programming that teaches citizenship and character development, first-aid, physical fitness and more, in a fun way that helps the kids learn while having fun.”
Boys can join Cub Scouts at the beginning of their kindergarten year and stay with the program until the end of fifth grade. However, elementary-age kids don’t have to start in kindergarten, they can join at any age. The boys are organized in dens, by age, and usually meet weekly, learning various life skills and building lasting bonds with their peers.
“The benefit of scouts is that it instills in them a self-confidence,” Bender explained. “It’s not a win or lose type of thing. It’s about building character.” While she stated that she didn’t want to criticize sporting activities, Bender noted that, unlike sports, the goal of scouts is not winning, but instead “to be able to do your very best.”
Not that scouts is without some competition. In the fall, the Cub Scouts compete in a raingutter regatta and, in the spring, a pinewood derby. The winners take home trophies. But the experience of competing in the regatta and derby is less about who has the fastest boat or car and more about the process leading up to those tournaments.
Each boy assembles his own regatta boat from a kit, which includes a sail, a hull, and a mast. Each year at regatta time, the scouts’ meeting hall is filled with the sounds of excited boys as they proudly show each other the boats that they constructed and decorated. For the race, the boats are placed in horizontal, water-filled raingutters and the scouts fill their cheeks with air and blow to get the boats to move. While it is a competition, the scouts always cheer each other on, shake hands, and encourage each other, as taught to them by their den leaders.
For the pinewood derby, the same good sportsmanship is evident and the displaying of the homemade cars is as big of a source of pride for the boys as is running a fast race. The scouts transform small blocks of wood, along with four wheels and two axles, into efficient vehicles that are as functional as they are creatively decorated.
For these two events, the Cub Scout dens come together as a pack, with all ages working and learning together. Other pack activities throughout the year include field trips and camp outs, Christmas caroling at the local nursing home, and participating in a food drive, events that, Bender said, build life skills and character. As the boys get older, in Boy Scouts, the camping trips become more frequent and the scouts learn independence and survival skills, such as fire-building, cooking, and navigating.
When the boys reach the end of fifth grade, they have achieved Cub Scouts’ highest rank, the Arrow of Light, and can participate in a crossing-over ceremony to become Boy Scouts. In Mountaintop, where scouting is popular, there are three Boy Scout troops in addition to the three Cub Scout Packs. Packs 106 and 60, Fairview and St. Jude’s, have their own troops as does Troop 433, which is affiliated with Cub Scout Troop 434.
The scout organization also has a group of Venturer Scouts, that is, a youth-development program similar to Boy Scouts that is open to both boys and girls, ages 14 to 21. Bender is not only pack trainer for Cub Scout’s 106 and troop trainer for 106’s Boy Scouts, she’s also an advisor for Crew 461, the local Venturer club. She noted that, on registration night at the elementary schools, older kids interested in Boy Scouts or Venturers can also obtain information or sign up for those organizations.
Bender also commented that, while there is a fee to join scouts, families with financial limitations should not be deterred from joining, as assistance is provided to those in need. Those who cannot attend the Sept. 14 registration for scouts, or those looking for more information, can contact Sheila Bender at 570-436-6276 or