REEDSBURG (WKOW) — Two years ago, Boy Scouts of America announced an historic change. Girls would be allowed to join Cub Scout dens as the organization worked to welcome girls into their flagship program.
By February of this year, girls could become full-fledged Boy Scouts, now just called “Scouts BSA” and so far about 14,000 girls have joined.
In Southern Wisconsin’s Glacier’s Edge Council, nine girl troops have already formed including Troop 7444 in Reedsburg.
Molly Goff is the founding member. The 11-year-old joined Cub Scouts last year.
“It was recruitment night and my brother was joining and I thought maybe I should join,” she said. “Cause it might be fun.”
She ended up joining her best friend’s Cub Scout Den, Tracey Hansen’s son.
“I was the only (girl), the rest were boys, but we got along just fine because some of them were really great friends,” Goff said.
Goff was a little behind the other boys but Hansen said she worked hard to catch up so she’d be ready to crossover into Scouts BSA.
“She really showed that she had a passion for it she actually went back,” Hansen said. “She was a not a Cub Scout in 4th grade but she went back and did all the work required for 4th grade as well so she could get the only Scouting award that she can wear on your scouts BSA uniform.”
Though Hansen said when it was time for Goff to cross over, she was stuck.
“The only reason she couldn’t cross over into a troop for the girls is because he didn’t have one,” she said. “I felt that wasn’t right.
Unlike Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA doesn’t allow co-ed troops, so Goff needed to form her own. Hansen stepped up to help, recruiting Abby Bruggeman and Alexia Olson, officially forming Reedsburg’s first all girl Boy Scout Troop.
“They are so excited it’s energizing,” Hansen said. “They get to see what the boys get to do and they just want to go do it.”
However, not everyone is excited for the girls. Hansen said during recruiting she saw a lot of hesitation from parents.
“There was a lot of confusion between why are girls now allowed in Scouting, Scouts BSA versus Girl Scouts of the USA so there’s been some controversy in that,” she said. “But mostly we’re just trying to celebrate that girls are in.”
Hansen said many told her Boy Scouts never should have opened up to girls while others believe the girls are hurting Girl Scouts, by choosing this alternative.
“It’s just two different organizations who run things a little bit differently,” Hansen said.
Girl Scouts of the USA has been another vocal critic, filing a lawsuit against Boy Scouts of America, while doubling down on their commitment for girl-centered programming.
At the local level, Cristen Incitti, COO of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council said they’re focused on letting their troops know what Girl Scouts can offer.
“We’re really focused on providing unique opportunities for girls that fall into the four pillars of the outdoors, STEM, life skills and entrepreneurship,” she said.
At the national level, both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts face declining membership. In 2012, Boy Scouts had 2.6 million members and by 2017, they were down to 2.3 million. Girl Scouts had 2.3 million members in 2012 and five years later their numbers dropped to 1.8 million.
Though Boy Scouts opened up to girl members, Girl Scouts of the USA has no plans to open up to boys. Instead, Incitti said local councils have to be intentional about recruiting new members.
“What that means to us is we’ve got to evolve,” she said. “We’ve got to move at the speed of girl and we have to be thinking about how we can reach girls where they are today and their families.”
In southern Wisconsin, Incitti, said they’re making sure they’re offering competitive outdoor programming, promoting their residence camps across the state and trail experiences.
As for the Reedsburg girls, they each had their own reasons for joining Scouts BSA.
Goff and Olson had never been Girl Scouts before. Goff said she chose Boy Scouts because of her best friend and Olson said she wasn’t interested in selling cookies.
Bruggeman said she had been in Girl Scouts before but didn’t enjoy her experience.
“With girls, I think people treat them differently because they’re girls and seem more soft,” she said. “But I think in Boy Scouts they’re going to treat us differently.”
Bruggeman said her Girl Scout troop wasn’t very hands-on and she was looking for a more adventurous experience.
“Camping a lot and hiking and going out doing adventures,” she said. “Exploring wildlife.”
As the Reedsburg troop get started Hansen said they’re focused on meeting the girls’ expectations.
“They get to see what the boys get to do and they just want to go and do it,” she said.
At this point, Hansen said they’re learning to tie knots and master their pocket knives so they are ready to go camping and set up their own goals as a troop.
As for the negative feedback, Hansen believes that will fade with time. As more girls join, she believes more and more people will understand what the programming has to offer and can decide for their families without fear of judgement.
Eventually, Hansen hopes it won’t be about the name on the uniform but what the scouts do when they put it on.
“My hope is that the division, the lines at some point they will just disappear,” she said. “It won’t be just boys in scouting and girls in scouting it will just be about scouts.”