Tammy Boggs, a single mom and new Scoutmaster, has proudly watched her son Zac, 15, face many challenges in life, including his autism. She attributes the Scouting program – and the people involved – with the changes she’s seen not only in her son, but also herself. In her own words, she shares their story which began about five years ago:
One of Zac’s friends invited him to one of those “Bring-a-Friend nights” and introduced him to Scouting. It was nice to be in an environment [where] there were men that he could really look up to, men that had common interests, that love the outdoors like my son loves the outdoors.
Those men welcomed him in. I gave them all of the information upfront, like how to tell if he is going to have an issue, and they did really well. There were very few bumps in the road, and when there was a bump, they handled it really professionally and just treated him like a second son.
In the Boy Scouts, they expect something of you. They hold you to a higher standard. Zac needed that. But they also affirmed him for doing what he was supposed to do, and he needed that, too. The focus is not just on the boys but on others. Think of how you can help others. Think of what you can do for others.
He learned responsibility for his own actions. He got that male affirmation. It helped him grow and mature in a way that I think a life without Scouting would not have. It has given him men that will stand up for him and be there for him. I can’t say enough for the program.
Zac even went to the National Jamboree this year, which scared me a little bit because he is autistic. I worried he would get upset about the crowds knowing his sensitivities. When we were discussing it, I said, “Are you sure you want to do this? I don’t want to have to drive all that way to come and get you.” He said, “Mom, I’ve got to try it some time. If I go off to college, I need to know I can handle it.”
He was testing his independence. When you have a child who has difficulties at times, it’s priceless to see that growth and him being able to say “I can do this.”
He’s very proud of being a Scout. If he thinks that much of it, of course I’m going to think that much of it. I see the confidence. My son, with all of his history of problems and teasing and being bullied at school, became an Eagle Scout.
For me, I went from not camping to going on campouts with Boy Scouts to now I’m the Scoutmaster. [The program] has supported my love of the outdoors, my belief in my country, my patriotism. It keeps me young! I’m not a couch potato, and I like that.
Last year I did something totally unnatural. Neither of us had been out West, so we packed our tents and our sleeping bags and went camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent the whole week hiking and looking at the wildlife. It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been in the world. We even “enjoyed” a bear scare! It wasn’t funny at the time, but we laugh about it now.
Scouting gave us the opportunity to do something we wouldn’t have done. It’s a memory neither one of us will forget. You can get a hotel room anywhere, but when you go somewhere totally different, pop a tent…it’s just a whole other world. Talk about quality time!
The boys think a parent is more open out camping than they are in their living rooms. They appreciate you being there, and I wish more parents knew that. Once they’re grown and gone, you can’t go back. I want no regrets.
I love the Scouting program! I see so much positivity in it. You can watch the boys grow up and mature. There’s a type of brotherhood there. I’m in for as long as those boys needs me. Given the condition of our world today, people not caring about race, creed, color, or whatever who are all coming together to do one goal…to me there’s nothing better than that.