Westport’s Newest Cub Scouts: These Girls Are Great!

Eric Overgard is an avid Scouting volunteer. In nearly a decade in Westport, the technology project manager has moved up the ranks from Cub Scout organizer, fundraiser, pinewood derby head and pack leader to Boy Scouts committee member.

His son Alex was a Cub Scout.

Now his daughter Vanessa is too.

That’s right. This year, the Boy Scouts of America open their ranks to girls.

The official date for Boy Scouts is 2019. For Cub Scouts, it’s this coming fall. But the BSA has granted exceptions to a few “early adopter” Cub Scout packs.

Westport’s Pack 39 is one.

It’s a no-brainer for Overgard. And a natural fit for his daughter.

“Scouting is a family activity,” Overgard — who was a Scout himself in Houston, before graduating from Wilton High School in 1987 — says. “Vanessa had been going on activities with us for years. She was disappointed when we told her girls could not be Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.”

By coincidence, the Overgards were on an Appalachian Trail hike when the news came that the Scouts would admit girls.

Vanessa was thrilled.

Eric Overgard, with Alex and Vanessa.

Troop 39 cubmaster James Delorey encouraged Overgard to organize a Westport girls’ den. He’s doing that now, with a group of 3rd graders.

Why not Brownies?

“The typical Boy Scout activities are things the Girl Scouts don’t typically do,” Overgard explains. (Just as Cub Scouts is the younger version of Boy Scouts, Brownies is the lead-in to Girl Scouts.)

“Both organizations have been gender-based. In this day and age, we should eradicate that. As a parent, I want my daughter to have the opportunity to explore the ‘masculine’ side as well as the ‘feminine.’ I do beading with her. Now we can do whitewater rafting together too.”

He notes that although the Boy Scouts are accepting girls — and the requirements for activities are the same — Pack 39’s new den will be gender-separate.

That allows girls to choose electives they like. Vanessa and her fellow Cub Scouts have so far chosen critter care (caring for animals, talking to veterinarians) and “bear picnic basket” (cooking and nutrition).

Feedback has been very positive, Overgard says. But, he adds, “I live in Westport. I’m sure some areas of the country are adamantly against girls in Boy Scouts.” He notes that the United States is the only country where Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have not already been open to girls.

Overgard hopes to expand Cub Scouts to girl dens in grades other than 3rd.

To do that though, he needs something that all Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops everywhere rely on more than anything else: parent volunteers.

(To learn more about Westport’s girl Cub Scout den, click here or email Pack39Westport@gmail.com.)

10 responses to “Westport’s Newest Cub Scouts: These Girls Are Great!

  1. So is this the beginning of the end of Girl Scouts?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      I can’t understand why the migration is to the Boy/Cub Scouts. The Girl/Brownies have better cookies. Maybe their lack of males has something to do with that..

    • That’s up to the leaders, leaders choosing between a river boat trip counting eagles and a car trip to the “Body Shop” trying out natural lotions and potions.

  2. As a former Boy Scout, they lost me decades ago with their horrid anti-Gay Policys. But, I will put in my two cents here and say that I wish the BSA had not allowed girls. The Girl Scouts are excellent and I can’t help but see this as a cynical and calculating effort by the Boy Scouts to shore up their declining numbers because of their decade long backward and discriminating thinking about Gays. They have been on the wrong side of history for too long. And what do they do to get their declining numbers up as a result? Aggressively poaching new members from the Girl Scouts. No thanks. I will stick with the girls and continue to support them. They never lost my respect and trust in the first place. Last week I bought Girl Scout cookies and donated them to the Troops in memory of my late father, Colonel Suggs USAF (ret). I will do the same this week but donate them to the Troops in recognition of the GSA themselves. I stand with you GSA!

  3. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    Yeah, I’m with John’s comment here…I’ve been thinking about this all morning…great, let in the girls, but heaven forbid you accepts gays in any way. How about for the girls, just make the Girl Scouts a little more interesting/challenging/physical activity oriented/whatever it takes…? …And let the boys (and their leaders) be boys in whatever form that takes! The fact that the Boy Scouts are letting in girls ought to suggest an open-mindedness…yet it seems laughable given that they won’t even be open-minded enough to let in all types of boys!

  4. First, I applaud Mr. Overgard’s involvement in scouting and his desire to engage in scouting with his daughter. I think that is wonderful and the more choices for girls the better! What I do not understand are his antiquated characterizations of the Girl Scout program. To suggest that Girl Scouts sit around “beading” while the boys do “masculine” activities like hiking and white water rafting really misses the mark in my opinion. As a former Girl Scout and current Girl Scout leader, I can tell you that the Girl Scouts do a lot more than beading (though nothing is wrong with jewelry design or any other arts program – for girls or boys). I would encourage anyone interested in scouting to take a look at the Girl Scouts of CT program guide for this year. This coming weekend alone Girl Scout programs for brownie troops include two engineering workshops (“work in teams to engineer a prototype aquaponics system!”) and a “Polar Adventure” – a snowshoeing hike where girls learn about winter animals and practice plant identification in winter – no leaves makes it much more difficult! Mr. Overgard is correct that some elements of scouting are gender specific – for example, in our troop meeting leading up to the Olympic Games we focused on and learned about ground breaking and talented female athletes such as Billie Jean King and Westport’s very own Julia Marino. Do we also do crafting and cooking activities? Absolutely. Last week we put our crafting skills to work to create posters and decorations for our booth for Westport Girl Scout’s Thinking Day event – a day that encourages scouts from all over the world to learn about and understand other countries and cultures. This spring our troop is looking forward to participating in several outdoor activities, including a campfire building and outdoor cooking workshop at Camp Aspetuck, a junior ranger hiking program at Weir Farm, and an insect identification program at the Fairfield Audubon. Again, I think what Mr. Overgard is doing is great and I think both scouting programs do a tremendous amount of good, so the more options the better. I just do not want people to judge the Girl Scout program based on Mr. Overgard’s comments, which, in my view, do not reflect the Girl Scout program as it exists today.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

      Thank You John. When I saw this this morning I was speechless. And anything I might have been tempted to comment ….well I am glad I waited…..See my response below to Dianna Walsh.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

      Below is my comment which I meant for John Suggs but managed to place here by mistake. Dianna I was so delighted with your comment on so may levels. Biggest delight is that Camp Aspetuck is still there. I can’t wait for my next trip to Westport and hope to visit it. I was a Girl Scout from Brownies through High School in Westport. I spent many summers at Camp Aspetuck as a girl and was a camp counselor there through my college years. After college Graduation I went to work for the Hartford Area Girl Scout Council and also was an both a Day Camp and Established Camp Director. ( The latter one means sleep away camp.) I credit much of my success in life to the Girl Scouts and the training they gave me. We were taught survival skills, how to primitive camp digging our own latrines and learning what kinds of foods we could keep and cook with out refrigeration. We learned about government and conservation and more than I can begin to relate here. Yes, I also learned about sewing and cooking along with the skills to pitch a tent and how to trench it to keep water from seeping in. We also learned life saving skills along with bird watching and identification. In my day both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts in High School could become Mariner or Sea Scouts. We learned about sailing, navigating and how to keep a boat in “ship shape”. We had many physical and mental challenges and activities. Fast forward to my role of mother of two sons. I became the a den mother in the late 1970’s. I was furious. . There was no opportunity for us to plan a program that suited our boys or for them to investigate different areas. We did only what the Cub Master allowed us to do. Both of my boys, now fantastic men and fathers themselves, soon lost interest and dropped out. Granted I haven’t had much opportunity to know what goes on today in either Boy or Girl Scouts but….. Stand Strong Girls. Keep your own organization and lead on.

  5. Elizabeth Thibault

    As a parent of a current Cub Scout and someone who was at yesterday’s Blue and Gold Banquet for the Cub and Boy Scouts, I was very pleased to see these girls recognized for starting on their new adventures during the ceremony. The Westport scouts are welcoming them with open arms. I’m really hoping that the groups can be integrated into the same packs, though. The Cub Scouts already welcomes siblings to join in their activities, and each den meeting has brothers and sisters who participate along with the actual members. (Last week we had a great tour of the Westport Police Department, and both the girls and boys had a blast learning about what the officers do and how the department works.) The integrated packs will be more familiar to these kids than it was in our day, as well as make it easier to bring kids in the same family to the number of activities we have to make in any given month.
    I was a Girl Scout growing up, because that was the only option available to us, but I will probably leave the decision of which group to join to my daughter when she’s of an age to choose. I’m counting on it not being the “Home Ec” type of activities that we had when I was a scout.

  6. Jacque O'Brien

    I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with learning “Home Ec” activities whether you’re a girl or a boy. However, I do think there’s a lot more on the activity docket today than years ago when I was a Girl Scout and my husband was an Eagle Scout. I have heard that membership in scouting is dwindling and wonder what would happen to the programs if the two were combined. More opportunities for girls, different kinds of opportunities for boys…Any thoughts?