By Mark Squibb | May 20, 2021
In a day and age when youth are looking at screens more than ever due to online learning and virtual events, 1st Paradise Scouting Group Commissioner Chad Butt says organizations like Scouting are just as important – if not more— than ever.
“It’s good to get the kids together for an hour a week and take them on a hike or take them geo-caching or whatever the case might be, and focus on what Scouting is all about,” said Butt. “It gets you outdoors and gets you physically active, which is very important at all times, but especially so during a pandemic.”
The organization was able to hold in-person meetings over the fall and winter, but, like the rest of us, were knocked off course when the province went back to a lockdown following a COVID-19 outbreak on the Avalon in late winter.
“Just as we started to hit our stride, we had just come back from Christmas break and had some January meetings and had our plans mapped out for the rest of the season, and then as everyone knows, within the blink of an eye we were back to lockdown and back to virtual programming only for Scouts,” said Butt.
While the club did offer some virtual activities, Butt said the main focus was how to get youth back outside and in-person once again, as youth (and adults) were already spending so much of their time looking at screens.
Overall though, it was a good year for the program.
“I’m confident in saying that we’ve had a successful run here, and we’ve been able to do our best under public health guidelines to offer a quality program for youth, with a heavy emphasis on the outdoor side of things,” said Butt.
As for what the program will look like in the fall, Butt said it largely depends on the public health situation at the time, as well as the dictates of Scouts Canada, although he did say that he was optimistic things will look a little brighter in the fall as the vaccine roll out continues.
“I’m optimistic that by the time fall rolls around, we’ll be in a little bit of a better spot then we are now,” said Butt. “Even if we had to operate in September with the same restrictions that we have right now, like caps on group sizes and cohorts within our sections, we can make that work.”
What Butt does know is that the organization will need to recruit more volunteers.
“We’ve got to do some recruitment of volunteers in order to maintain status quo levels with the youth that we have right now,” said Butt. “Our Scouters generally follow their kids through the program, and that’s to be expected. We’ve got a good mix of leaders, but everyone for the most part has a kid in the program. So, when their kid moves from Beavers to Cubs, mom or dad move from Beavers to Cubs. So, we’ve done some planning for the fall, and we have a bit of a gap, a fairly significant gap actually, in some of our Beaver colonies and Cub packs.
He estimates they may need as many as six or eight new leaders at the Beaver level, and just as many— if not more— at the Cubs level.
Cohorting, the practice of breaking groups down into even smaller groups that has been used by many organizations to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, creates an even higher demand for adult leaders.
Butt, who is entering his seventh year as a leader, said Scouting offers parents a unique opportunity to spend time with their children outside the usual routines (although leadership positions are not limited to just parents,) and that it’s good for even adults to take a break from the screens.
“I’ve lived in Paradise for 13 years, but over the last six or seven years that I’ve been involved in Scouting, I’ve got that community feeling, when you know you’re part of a pretty significant organization,” said Butt.
The organization is indeed well recognized within Paradise. The group was nominated in the 2021 Town of Paradise Municipal Awards, with winners being announced over the coming days.
“If we were to win or not, regardless it’s nice to be nominated,” said Butt. “There’s a lot of groups in Paradise right now, whether it’s Scouting or Guiding or recreation or sporting or hockey, whatever the case might be, we’re all dealing with the same set of circumstances. None of us really signed up to lead and be involved in these organizations in the middle of a pandemic, but, hey, that’s the hand we’ve been dealt, and everyone’s kind of chipping in the best they can to give kids an experience and a distraction.”