Maggie Cripps, in her first year as an official Cub Scout, did a bit of trailblazing recently when she was awarded a couple of belt loops — steps toward earning a Wolf patch — by her Scout pack based in La Cañada Flintridge.
To celebrate her completion of the Call of the Wild and Running With the Pack adventures, Maggie, 7, was called upon during the pack meeting at Palm Crest Elementary School.
“For the first time in Pack 515’s history, awards have been earned by a Cub Scout who is a girl. Maggie Cripps, come on up!” said Bardo Ramirez, the pack’s Cubmaster.
Maggie, who wore a big grin as she accepted the loops, was able to achieve the first because only this year was she, like other girls, allowed to join the Cub Scouts. Though girls participated in some Scout activities in the past, they are now joining the organization as equal members alongside boys. In LCF, that has allowed girls to continue their families’ traditional participation in scouting and for more parents to become involved in an organization they see as offering wholesome activities and values.
The Cub Scouts, for children ages 5 to 10, announced earlier this year that families have three options — establish a new pack for girls, create a pack for boys and girls together, or continue as an all-boy pack.
Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts of America will allow girls to join in February after the organization adopts the name Scouts BSA. The announcement drew controversy in some quarters, though in LCF, those who spoke with The Outlook said there had been scant if any resistance from boys to the idea of girls’ sharing their turf.
Maggie is not alone in joining the Cub Scouts. Four other girls, 4th-graders ages 9 and 10, are in the pack’s Junior Webelo den, which is led by Theresa Szebelledy and began in August.
“It’s a great chance to know the kids and be a part of the first official year, just to be able to kind of shape it and influence it a little bit,” Szebelledy said.
The pack, chartered by La Cañada Congregational Church, primarily serves Palm Crest Elementary families. Szebelledy, mother of twins — a son and a daughter — said she’s glad girls are finally allowed to join. Her son, Chase, 10, has been with the Scouts since 1st grade.
The Cub Scouts allowed girl siblings, such as her daughter Chance, to participate in activities such as campouts and horseback riding. Three other boys in Chase’s den have twins who are girls.
“Even though they were girls, they were completely welcome to participate,” Szebelledy said. “From Day 1, all of these twins, including girls, have been at the [LCCC] campus, doing all the same activities.”
“Siblings have come to the Cub Scouts for years,” Ramirez said. But now, he said, “There are a couple of girls who are so excited that they’re official now. They’re not going to their brothers’ campout. It’s theirs. They’re pumped.”
Two groups of girls participate with the boys’ dens because the curriculum is the same for their grade levels, Ramirez said. Joining together makes sense in a lot of cases as officials don’t want to take two separate visits to the fire department or other outings.
Joining the Cub Scouts gives some of the girls an opportunity to get credit and earn patches for their previous activities. If Maggie, for instance, performs enough adventures, she will earn a Wolf patch — to be worn on her Scout shirt — in May, signifying she has achieved that rank.
Maggie is enthusiastic because being a Cub Scout runs in her family.
“Her older brother went through Cub Scouts and she’s excited that it’s her turn,” Ramirez said. “Her dad was an Eagle Scout. It’s a scouting family.”
There are about 50 members of Pack 515, Szebelledy said, and she describes the meetings as “rambunctious and busy,” with both genders equally excited about attending.
“It’s amazing how well they all get along,” she said.
The Cub Scouts provide a structured environment where young people are instructed to be respectful, polite and still have fun, Szebelledy said.
“The kids found their best friends thanks to scouting,” she said.
Szebelledy said during a recent boating trip with other Webelo boys, she noticed the positive effects of including girls.
“The girls knew they were able to join and knew I was going to be den leader,” she said.
Usually, the boys want to tie knots for the boat, and Szebelledy made sure to let everyone try the activity.
“The girls were so happy to do the manual labor in the boating activity,” she said. “I just sort of assumed girls didn’t want to do it. But they were really happy to be included, and I think they were asserting themselves in a group of noisy, boisterous boys. They worked their way right in as opposed to standing and being quiet.”
However, Aditi Iyer, 9, said she has heard rumblings from boys about her presence.
“Sometimes they ask, ‘Why is a girl there?’” Iyer said on Monday at the meeting. She said she tells them, “Because the Cub Scouts finally let girls in.”
Though there has been pushback online, Szebelledy has seen none locally.
“In our pack, there’s never even been a question,” she said. “It’s exciting to know we’re the first to do it in La Cañada Flintridge.”
Jesse Cripps and his wife, Sommer, are Wolf den leaders for their daughter Maggie. He said Maggie works and attends meetings with an all-boys Wolf den and also participates in events with the Junior Webelo girls.
“She gets the best of both worlds,” Jesse Cripps said. “She gets to be with kids her own age and gets mentorship from some of the older girls as well.”
Cripps said his daughter has watched her older brother Henry work his way through Cub Scouts — he went from 1st grade through 5th grade — before he advanced to the Boy Scout program.
“She’s been along to campouts, den meetings and seen him go through the process,” Cripps said. “It’s something she’s been eagerly awaiting a few years ago. She was excited when she got to dive in full bore.”
For those considering joining Cub Scouts, registration remains open, Cripps said. The pack will continue its outreach efforts to invite girls and boys who may be interested to participate.
“I expect it will be an evolving process and only grow stronger from here,” Cripps said.
Cripps said his daughter also participates with the Wolf boys and their den leader Kyle Sears, pastor at LCCC.
“At this point it’s somewhat of a hybrid system that we’re applying,” Cripps said. “So far, it’s actually worked out very well. She’s really liking it and fits right in with the rest of the Wolf Scouts.”
He said he and his wife plan to be involved with the Cub Scouts as long as Maggie is involved.