Park Slope father Todd Schweikert was faced with a dilemma. He knew that he wanted his son to have the same long-lasting and fulfilling experiences that he had growing up as a Boy Scout, but he also knew that he couldn’t support an organization built on discrimination. So, he did what a true pioneer would do: he created a new troop, this one completely inclusive and welcoming children regardless of gender, religion, or orientation. That troop is 5th Brooklyn Scouts, a charter of Baden-Powell Service Association, and Todd is not the only one excited about it. Last week’s Open House was a success, with parents bringing children to register and get started on some traditional scouting activities like tying knots. Now, as they ready for their first official meeting, I asked Todd to talk a bit about his own history with Scouting and what’s to come for his new, all-inclusive troop.
You were a Scout growing up. What did you find most valuable about the experience?
There are many things that I still carry with me today that I was able to gain from scouting, so it is hard to narrow down just one thing. I think the ability to work in groups, be a team member as well as lead the group has helped me succeed in more ways then I can count. Scouting teaches the individual at a young age how to be resourceful and to “Be Prepared.” This wonderful education extends to all aspects of life and can be applied in almost all situations.
What inspired you to charter your own troop?
I decided to charter the 5th Brooklyn Scouts because I wanted a clear conscience and the community needed a better option. The ability of a Scout to obtain the highest ranks in scouting should only be dictated by their ability to be a great Scout, leader and an asset to their community. There is no room for any sort of discrimination that may keep a Scout from achieving their goals. I want my children to grow up with the understanding that if life does not offer you want you want, then carve out your own niche and make it so.
What has the response from the community been like?
The response has been amazing. I was really nervous, its such a hot topic right now. I expected a positive and accepting response on our group, but it has far exceeded my expectations. We have received a lot of great media attention locally, nationally and even internationally.
I saw that the troop relies on a volunteer staff. Can you talk a bit about opportunities (and requirements) for adults who would like to get involved in the group?
We have many areas on which adults can help out. We are always looking for adult leaders and assistant leaders. These adults do not have to have any scouting background, just an awareness, love and understanding of the child spirit. We also have an Auxiliary group that runs the logistics of our group, so that our Adult Leaders can focus on the scouting program and working with our Scouts. We do require two references for each adult that is not family related and we do need to run a background check for any and all adults that help with our group. The safety of our children always comes first and they are our main focus.
What are some activities and events that kids joining the 5th Brooklyn Scouts can look forward to? What are you most looking forward to?
We are very excited and looking forward to teaching our scouts woodcraft skills as well as social and character building activities. We are planning a winter hike in February, a camping trip in the Catskills in April/May as well as a visit to Moonbeam Observatory.
The troop’s first meeting will be held on Thursday, January 17, from 6:30-7:45pm at Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture (53 Prospect Park West). 5th Brooklyn has open registration, and Todd welcomes interested parents and volunteers to stop by. For more questions, contact Todd at GroupScoutmaster@5thBrooklynScouts.org.
Photo credit Todd Schweikert