Read howAlma Castaneda, Scouter and mom from the Yucca Council, went from Scouting skeptic to Committee Chair for her son’s pack, thanks to inclusivity and family fun in this ‘Families Like Mine’ story. 

Scouting Wire: What Scouting programs are you connected to?

Alma: Our family is active in Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA in the Yucca Council, Wapaha District in El Paso, Texas. My husband, Rick, is Cubmaster for the pack, and, as for myself, I am the Committee Chair for the pack. Our oldest son, Alex, is a brand-new member of a Scouts BSA troop. Our youngest son, Tony, is a Bear on his way to becoming a Webelos Scout this summer.

In fact, we’ve been involved in Scouting for three and a half years now. It all started back in 2015.

SW: How did you first get involved in Scouting?

Alma: We first got involved in Scouting when our son, Alex, a second grader at that time, came home with a flyer and information he had received from a presentation during P.E. at his school. The flyer stated that there was going to be a parent meeting to get information about Scouting and how to register our son. My son begged us to go, and, while we were hesitant at first, we went. Mr. Arenas from Unidos Prosperamos, gave us a brief presentation, and we figured it wouldn’t hurt to go to a pack meeting to see how it goes.

To be quite honest, we thought our son was only going to be interested for a few meetings then get bored with it and not want to return. To our surprise, both he and we as parents enjoyed the Scouting experience. We decided to stay. Our younger son enjoyed the experience, as well, even though he was not quite at the age to fully participate. A short time later, my husband became a den leader.

A few months later, Alex, was diagnosed with having Autism. We thought that this might be the end of Scouting, but once we spoke to leadership, they assured us that Alex was welcome. We believe we found a great support from Scouting.

SW: What has been your favorite Scouting experience?

Alma: Our favorite part of the Scouting experience is how family oriented it is. We became part of something very special. We consider the pack our second family.

SW: What is the most important thing about Scouting that you think people should know?

Alma: One of the most important things I believe people should know about Scouting is how welcoming packs are to Scouts with special needs. They open their door, arms, and hearts to make sure these Scouts enjoy their Scouting experience to the fullest.

Special thanks to Scouter, Alma Castaneda of the Yucca Council for sharing her family’s story. 


The Scouting Wire ‘Families Like Mine’ series features unique stories of Scouting families and their experiences. Do you know someone who has a great story to share about the positive impact Scouting has had on their family? Share it with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and it could be featured in a future edition of the ‘Families Like Mine’ series!

Over the Independence Day holiday, Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Neil Steinberg did the same thing as thousands (maybe millions) of other Americans in cities and towns all across the nation – he went to a Fourth of July parade.

What he saw at that parade was also something many other Americans saw – young men and young women, all wearing the same uniform and all participating in the same Scouts BSA program, marching together to express their duty to country. 

And as for any controversy as a result of boys and girls carrying flags together in the same parade, Steinberg had this to say:

“No gasps. The crowd reacted … not at all, as far as I could tell.”

“Some embrace ideas whose time has come. And some resist with all their might,” he said. “Until change occurs, as change must, and most people … shrug and move on.”

After the experience at the parade, Steinberg took a moment to share his thoughts in his column. It’s worth checking out the entire piece for his unique take. In addition to offering his commentary, he connected with BSA Director of Communications Effie Delimarkos to get an update on Scouts BSA and the growth of girls in that program. 

“It’s going really well,” Delimarkos shared with Steinberg. “We have 20,000 girls registered since the program started in February.” 

She added that there are now more than 2,500 all-female troops. 

As Steinberg dove deeper into why BSA had sought to add girls, Delimarkos talked about the BSA program curriculum. 

“We realized the content itself is universal,” Delimarkos told Steinberg. “We don’t fully tell the kids, but there are lessons sandwiched between the fun and camping and Pinewood Derby. Lessons that build resilience and character. The Scout Law, ‘A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful.’ These kind of things are not specific to boys.”

Addressing any perceived controversy, Delimarkos had this to say:

“What we heard, from parents and grandparents, was they have a totally different opinion when it’s their daughter or granddaughter. They realize we’re not necessarily taking something and changing it, but taking what many people have done and loved and making it available to the next generation. Once they see it through those eyes, some of the skepticism melts away.”

photo credit: Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times

Congratulations to John Overland, who has been selected to serve as Scout executive of the Samoset Council in Weston, Wisconsin, effective August 1, 2019.

John began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Indianhead Council in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He moved on to become the field director and later assistant director of field service with the Indianhead Council. He was promoted to assistant director of development of the Northern Star Council, Fort Snelling, Minnesota and on to assistant director of field service and deputy Scout executive of Northern Star.

John is an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and James E. West Fellow who enjoys hiking, camping, boating, snow sports and home remodeling projects.

John and his wife, Katie, have three adult Eagle Scout sons. 

In the comments below, please join us in sending John our well wishes as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Samoset Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Congratulations to Greg Leitch, who will serve as Scout executive of the Sequoyah Council in Johnson City, Tennessee, effective June 1, 2019.

Greg began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Great Smoky Mountain Council in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he later became the program director and field director. He was promoted to assistant Scout executive of the East Texas Area Council in Tyler, Texas, and then was selected to serve as Scout executive of the Palmetto Council in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Greg is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow who enjoys University of Tennessee athletics, volunteering for the Nature Conservancy, and competition shooting sports.

Greg and his wife, Valerie, have two children.

In the comments below, please join us as we welcome Greg to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Sequoyah Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Please join us as we congratulate John Sumner, who will serve as Scout executive of the Cornhusker Council in Lincoln, Nebraska, effective June 16, 2019.

John began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Denver Area Council in Denver, Colorado. He moved on to become a senior district executive and later field director at the Northern Star Council in St. Paul, Minnesota. John was then promoted to director of field service of the Minsi Trails Council in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

John and his wife, Natasha, have one Lion Cub Scout named Austin.

Please help us send John our well wishes in the comments below as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Cornhusker Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

As part of a new series, Scouting Wire is taking a look at how members of our Scouting family across the country observe a variety of religious holidays of their own faith and support fellow unit members in theirs.

This month, join us as we hear from the leader of a Cub Scout den from the Circle Ten Council who tells us in his own words how the den recognizes Ramadan. Read on to hear den leader Hussain Jinnah offer his unique perspective on this holiday, its traditions, and how his very own Cub Scout community – including his Tiger Scout son Cyrus – honors this special time.

Please share your perspective on Ramadan and what you feel it means to those who observe it.

Hussain: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month begins and ends with the appearance of the new moon. This year, it is observed from May 5th – June 4th.

For thirty days, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food and beverages. It is a way to feel solidarity with millions of poor and hungry people around the world who fast day and night without choice. Of course, exceptions are made for people with health concerns, pregnant women, nursing mothers, postpartum women, children, and seniors.

Ramadan is more than just fasting. Muslims put extra emphasis on introspection, self-restraint, self-reflection, prayers, charity, and selflessness to improve one’s character and benefit society. This, in turn, is a way to cleanse the soul and have empathy for the less fortunate.

The conclusion of Ramadan is marked with a major celebration known as Eid al-Fitr (or Eid ul-Fitr), the Feast of Fast-Breaking. Families often receive clothes, money and gifts during that time.

Scouts who observe this holiday can show consideration by doing service projects to help the less fortunate, feeding the hungry, collecting donations for food banks, doing additional charity work, and educating other non-Muslims about what Ramadan represents.

As one way to support those who celebrate Ramadan, a nice gestures is to accommodate Muslims by helping them avoid food during this time.

How does your Cub Scout den like to celebrate Ramadan?

Hussain: By observing the protocol, giving back to the less fortunate and celebrating with fellow Scouts over food (when appropriate).

How did your family get involved in Scouting?

Hussain: Scouting resonates with our core values as a Muslim community and what we fundamentally believe in as a family. We couldn’t find a better program to instill character, citizenship and ethics in our kids.

Special thanks to Scouter, Scout father, and handball coach extraordinaire Hussain Jinnah of the Circle Ten Council for sharing his story on Scouting Wire. 

Congratulations to Dirk M. Smith, who will serve as Scout executive of the Montana Council in Great Falls, Montana effective May 16, 2019.

Dirk began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Put-Han-Sen Area Council in Findlay, Ohio. He moved on to become the senior district executive and then field director with the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later promoted to field director and director of field service of the Connecticut Rivers Council in Hartford, Connecticut, and then was selected to serve as Scout executive of the Suffolk County Council in Medford (Long Island), New York. In 2014, Dirk was promoted to the National Service Center where he has since served as the Northeast Region talent manager.

Dirk is an Eagle Scout who enjoys working out, playing golf, swimming, and reading.

Dirk has an Eagle Scout son in Cincinnati, Ohio and a daughter in Denver, Colorado.

In the comments below, please help us welcome Dirk to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Montana Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Story contributed by Laura Clay, district director, Catuenga, of the Western Los Angeles County Council

As our council’s family Scouting staff advisor, I was working with an organizer for all-girl troop, Troop 642 in Calabasas, CA during August and September when they expressed a desire to reserve Camp Josepho for their troop to do camporee prep. After some discussion with staff in our camping department, as well as other girl troop organizers during our “Scouts BSA Boot Camp” in October, we decided to move forward with a “Trail to First Class” event with the goal of offering an opportunity for girls to easily get a taste of what Scouting is like, as well as connecting all of the brand new troops to one another.

The “Trail to First Class” Event

Once word got out, the Scouting community came together to create an amazing event. We recruited young female staffers from our camps to lead stations and many adults from the new troops stepped up as well. We also spread the word to surrounding councils, as there are several in the Los Angeles area and we could clearly see the desire was there for an event encompassing all the new troops of young women.

At the event, we offered eight stations: swimming, fire-building, knife, ax & saw, first aid, rifles, knots, and nature. Almost all of the staffing was female, as one of our goals was for the girls to see other female role models already in Scouting. During campfire, our council commissioner, Jessica Pazdernik, spoke about what Scouting meant to her, how she was proud of her daughter now being invited to join, and how the girls can step up to be leaders in their community by supporting each other. We also had guest speaker Sherri Zhu from a company that sends youth from China to our Scout camps talk about the international Scouting movement.

The mood was electric, with 100+ new Scouts from 20 troops across 7 councils – Orange County, GLAAC, WLACC, Venture County, Verdugo Hills, Los Padres, and California Inland Empire – and lots of excitement from the girls, their leaders, staff, and everyone who came out to visit. “I was feeling burnt out as a volunteer, but this event and the invitation of girls into Scouting has re-energized me completely,” shared Howard Schwartz of Troop 642.

The girls left not only with several requirements towards the first few ranks, but they also gained lasting friendships as well! I’ve seen many girls tagging each other on social media about the event and in news coverage for girls’ troops since then! 

To see more photos from the event, check out their Flickr album. Councils are encouraged to orchestrate similar events in their communities to continue building the momentum of welcoming girls into Scouting.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Laura Clay for contributing this story.

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