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It’s been a while since Ed Sawyer was involved in Boy Scouts. As the 39-year-old father of two girls Sawyer hasn’t exactly had a reason to go looking. But the recent emergence of two small Scouting groups in Forest Park has coincided rather fortuitously with Sawyer’s schedule. He is unemployed. So, about two months ago, Sawyer contacted the Howard Mohr Community Center, where one of the groups holds regular meetings, and got involved.
“I found out they were doing it and since I have the experience in Scouting, I thought I could help them,” Sawyer said.
In 1988, while living in Indiana, Sawyer earned the rank of Eagle Scout. It is the organization’s highest rank.
Finding adults who are willing to volunteer appears to be a critical component of building a sustainable Scouting program in the community. It was only about 18 months ago that a similar attempt began to fizzle, and those Scouts eventually merged with an Oak Park group. Parents who’ve taken an interest in continuing the boyhood tradition of merit badges and camping trips estimate the last decade has brought a spotty and inconsistent level of participation at best.
Steven Knysch is a 22-year-old part-time employee at the community center who accepted the challenge six months ago from director Karen Dylewski to lead a group of younger Scouts, referred to as Cub Scouts under the umbrella organization of the Boy Scouts of America. Participation is limited to kids in grades 1-5.
“We started with seven or eight kids and kept having our meetings,” Knysch said of the early going. “We’ve had kind of a mixed showing, but we’re up to about 12 kids and have parents involved, which is good.”
Activities have been driven largely by a manual that identifies how Cub Scouts can learn different skills and earn badges for their mastery. There was also a trip to Glenview where the kids visited a nature museum. Knysch, however, doesn’t have much experience with Scouting and said the help of parents like Sawyer is a big boost.
“I’m an outdoor enthusiast, if you will, and Scouting is heavily related to that,” Knysch said.
Knysch is talking with parents at St. Bernardine’s, where another group of Cub Scouts was created in just the last six weeks, about joining forces. That effort has a similar number of participants. Pete Shorner, a parent who’s leading the St. Bernardine’s kids, said it makes sense to pool resources if either group is to have a shot at longevity.
“I’m the Cub master and still very new at this,” Shorner said of his own inexperience.