South Carolina

Girls now can be Boy Scouts. Get used to it, they say

This Midlands Cub Scout sports a pony tail

Emma Kate Kea, 6, from Columbia, was the first girl to sign up for Cub Scouts in the SC Midlands when the Boy Scouts of America opened it programs to girls earlier this year.
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Emma Kate Kea, 6, from Columbia, was the first girl to sign up for Cub Scouts in the SC Midlands when the Boy Scouts of America opened it programs to girls earlier this year.

When Winter Stork’s younger brother joined the Cub Scouts, she would tag along with their mother to scouting events at his Lexington pack, quickly becoming entranced with what the boys were doing.

“She wanted to participate so bad,” said Winter’s mother, Jennifer Stork. “And I wouldn’t let her because it’s Boy Scouts.”

But earlier this year, the Boy Scouts of America opened Cub Scouts, its program for the youngest scouts, to girls for the first time in its 108-year history. Now, 10-year-old Winter is an active Webelo in a small four-girl den in Pack 332.

“I get to go on adventures and do stuff people think girls can’t do,” Winter said Tuesday.

Winter is one of 40 girls to sign up for Cub Scouts this summer in the eight Midlands counties that make up the Scouts’ Indian Waters Council, the regional governing council.

Five Cub Scout packs started accepting girls this spring as part of a pilot program. Local Scout executive Doug Stone says 60 percent of the Midlands’ 130 Cub Scout packs now are primed to begin accepting girls, and scouting’s older ranks — the Boy Scouts — will begin accepting girls in February.

“It’s important that the organization sponsoring the troop, which is usually faith-based, have to approve the change,” said Stone, adding some churches have their own activities for girls in the same age group.

Cub Scouts is the scouting program for boys and girls ages 5 to 10. The Boy Scouts — or Scouts BSA, as it will be called once girls are added next year — covers youths ages 11 to 17.

When the Boy Scouts announced the change last year, some argued admitting girls would allow time-strapped families to save time and stress by having their sons and daughters in one activity.

That is important to Luanne Kea, who is able to keep 6-year-old Emma Kate with her older brother Charlie in Pack 326 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Irmo.

“I have four children,” Kea says. “So to have them doing the same thing in the same place at the same time, you can’t understand the significance of that.”

Emma Kate was the first girl to sign up for Cub Scouts in the Indian Waters Council area. She joined on Feb. 1, the first day possible. Having Emma Kate joining Cub Scouts made sense to Kea, who already had three older sons in scouting, making her daughter familiar with it.

“She grew up with three older brothers,” Kea said. “So she would be out dressed in a tutu and her Disney high heels playing rugby.”

Kea likes that her daughter is breaking new ground for young women. Emma Kate’s uncle, Jack Norris, who is on the Indian Waters executive board, says not only do young girls not see the big deal about them joining scouting but the young boys in Cub Scouts also are not bothered by the idea.

“The first time she walked into a meeting in her Lion Cub uniform, this little boy said, ‘Are you a Lion? Me too, that means we can play together,’ ” Norris said.

Jennifer Stork, Winter’s mother, also appreciates how easy the change made it for her to find something her children can do together.

“Because I’m a single mom, when we go to Cub Scouts, we go as a family, or when we go to piano lessons, we go as a family,” she said.

Now, Winter and her 8-year-old brother, Sailor, belong to the same Cub Scout pack at Red Bank’s St. James Lutheran Church. They say the Pledge of Allegiance and the Scout oath together before they break up into single-gender dens for activities.

“It’s been amazing, they have been really welcoming,” Jennifer Stork said. “I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what the reaction would be.”

Local Scout executive Stone says the families in scouting have been asking for expanded offerings for the whole family.

“For years, we’ve heard, ‘Why don’t you have more programs for girls?’ ” he said. “Fifty years ago, you did not have the divorce rate and the number of single-parent households. ... This is an activity that brings together families like nothing else can do.”

Locally, Scouts already accepted girls into its Venturing and Explorers programs for children over 14.

Still, some expressed reservations about changing Scouts’ boys-only policy. The Girl Scouts, for example, were critical of the decision, announced last October, fearing it would compete with some of its programs for young girls.

But Winter Stork has enjoyed her time in Cub Scouts, especially a hike to Lexington’s Peachtree Rock this summer. Winter plans to stick with the Boy Scouts for as long as she can.

“I’ll try to do Eagle Scout if I can,” Winter said.

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