Call it the birthing of a new Boy Scout troop or the resuscitation of the one that died in 2005, Ed Sawyer believes that the time is right for the launching of a new Boy Scout troop in Forest Park.
Sawyer, who will be the new troop’s leader and who lived in Forest Park from 1997 to 2012, has recently been the leader of the Webelos den here. Webelos and Arrow of Light are the highest ranks in Cub Scouting, and fulfilling the requirements for the badges prepares boys to transition into a Boy Scout troop.
He said that all five boys in his Webelos den are planning to join the new troop and that others showed interest when he passed out fliers at the All School Picnic on May 23. “Personally I think it’s a great fit right now for this town,” said Sawyer, “because the Cub Scout program is evolving and getting bigger and bigger. And now, when the boys are ready to cross over, they can stay in town instead of sending them to another village.”
Mayor Calderone is a strong supporter of scouting and is therefore delighted by the rebirth of the program in Forest Park. “The new beginning of the Boy Scout troop is a natural extension of the fabulous job that has taken place with the renewed Cub Scout program under the leadership of Jill Wagner over the last several years,” he said. “It is heartwarming to see such a needed program mature. The complete scouting program is centered on core values that every child should be a part of.”
Sawyer said that the troop will be officially launched a couple weeks after school begins, but that his Webelos den will be participating in activities during the summer. For example, on June 15 the boys will compete in blast car races at Morton West High School. Blast cars are model cars powered by CO2 cartridges. They will also compete in a rain gutter regatta—racing model boats in rain gutters filled with water with the “wind power” for the sails coming from blowing through a straw. Once it is officially launched, the troop will go camping in the fall and possibly take a field trip to a destination like Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana.
On the one hand, Sawyer is not launching this “ship” by himself. St. John Lutheran Church is both sponsoring and hosting the new troop, while Kiwanis will continue sponsoring the Cub Scout pack. He also has the help of many adults including Jill Wagner, Mike Smith, Analivia Marquez, Jeff and Jenny Edsel, Rachel Nichols and Bill Lyons.
On the other hand, he is clearly the captain of the new ship. “Ed’s amazing,” said Mike Hornung, the Twin Lakes District Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “He has no boys in scouting (Sawyer’s two daughters are 12 and 18), he drives all the way from Hammond, Ind. (Sawyer moved there last year) on weekends, and will remain the Cub Master while taking on the responsibilities of a Troop Master.
“When you’re in it,” said Sawyer speaking for himself, “you’re in it whole hog, or you’re not in it at all.”
Indeed, he was “in it whole hog” as a kid. Not only did he earn the Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks as a Cub Scout, he was also given the Parvuli Dei (Children of God) medal, a religious award. While in high school he achieved the highest award in scouting, the rank of Eagle and was elected by his peers to the honorary camping society called the Order of the Arrow. He also earned the Boy Scout counterpart to Parvuli Dei, the Ad Altare Dei award.
Scouting was a natural fit for the young Ed Sawyer, because his family would go to their log cabin on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan at the end of May every year and spend most of the summer there. He remembers making bug and leaf collections. “We enjoyed nature, went fishing and boating, learned to water ski, and we had horses up there,” he recalled. “You name it, and you can do it up there.”
So, when he would attend Boy Scout camp in the summer, he would earn a lot of merit badges. All that was required for the rowing or canoeing or swimming or nature badges was to show the leaders what he already knew.
Sawyer explained that a good part of his motivation for devoting himself to scouting comes from the good experiences he had as a boy. “I’ve been a manager since I was 18,” he said. “Scouting definitely gave me leadership skills — guiding people and leading them to success.” At present, he works as a retail store manager in the Brick Town shopping complex at the intersection of Narragansett and Fullerton in Chicago.
He said that serving as a den chief, a 16-year-old Boy Scout leading a den of eight-year-old Cub Scouts, gave him experience both as a teacher and a caregiver of children. “Being a den chief,” he said, “involves more responsibility than simply babysitting.”
Mayor Calderone said, “[Scouting] teaches and develops in young children leadership skills and values like honor and duty. Scouting hones characteristics and abilities that will last a life time. I have had the opportunity to watch as this program has begun a new chapter in Forest Park and the more kids that we can get involved the better Forest Park will be as a community.”
So highly does Calderone value scouting that he was willing to declare, “It is incumbent upon each parent to get their child involved in a scouting program.”