Kathryn and Jason Bunthoff have always enjoyed the outdoors, particularly camping. When their eldest two children – sons Elliott, 11, and Ezra, 9 – were old enough, it seemed a natural fit for them to join the Cub Scouts. Younger sisters Ruth, 7, and Frances, 4, tagged along.
“One of the main reasons we are so involved is the degree to which entire families are encouraged to participate,” says Kathryn.
They did everything together — attended den and pack meetings, camped out multiple times a year, and emphasized the values taught in the program at home. “We’re in it for what it brings our kids and our family.”
Even though the girls were welcome, one thing was hard to ignore. “Ruth wanted to earn the things the boys were earning,” Kathryn remembers. “She wanted one of those ‘cool’ shirts.”
That “cool” shirt was a blue uniform her older brother had outgrown. “We were holding onto it before we knew she could use it,” Kathryn says. “I couldn’t bear to [get rid of it]. It was sort of waiting.”
This fall Ruth wore it officially for the first time.
“I heard that the decision to let girls into Cub Scouts was made, and I was amazed,” Kathryn says. “I didn’t anticipate this change happening when we could take advantage of it. It was very cool.”
Ruth wasted no time. “She immediately got her Tiger handbook [and said], ‘I want to start earning these achievements!’” Kathryn remembers.
The Bunthoffs already knew that the value of the Scouting program reaches far beyond fun activities and special awards. “It’s about becoming better people as individuals and citizens,” Kathryn says. “I call it character development. The Scout Law is this list of a dozen adjectives that remind me of the work we all have to do every day. We’re always trying.”
Being directly involved in a Cub Scout pack has been a unique and valuable experience for their family that they haven’t been able to find anywhere else. “It’s a place that our family gathers with other families who want similar things for their kids and enjoy spending time and energy on that,” Kathryn says. “Scouting is a way to remind us that there are very important ways that we can make the world a better place.”
Their son Elliott has already applied that very idea. “He is very concerned about environmental issues, such as climate change and habitat loss,” Kathryn says. “We spent some time looking through the handbook so that he could identify things he might want to work on that will help him understand his concerns and ways that he might be able to affect change as a young individual. That was really empowering for him.”
The Bunthoff children aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Scouting program. Kathryn recently accepted the challenge to become a den leader. “It is really good as an adult to have a growing experience,” she says. “It’s always a little difficult to try something new. Getting me out of my comfort zone means that I have room to grow.”
Along with their children, Kathryn and Jason keep coming back for what’s next. “We continue to learn new things, and it helps us to remain comfortable with being new at something,” she says. “That’s good for me and for my kids.”