Scouts Work on Self-Confidence, Leadership

During Water Olympics at Emerald Bay Scout camp, five Scouts in a row boat paddled, with only their hands, to go around a stationed boat and be the first back to shore.

And the Ability to Solve Problems

If someone told you that you could enroll your child in a program that would give them leadership experience while being mentored by community stalwarts, would you do it?

At a July parents weekend at Scout camp in Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, Circling the News wanted to find out how the program works to support teens; to observe the first girls to camp under the BSA Scout banner; and why local support is so strong for the organization.

When the 50th anniversary of the moon landing was being celebrated, most of the stories mentioned that Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout

Since the Scout organization was founded in 1910, all of the U.S. Presidents have supported the organization. One of them, John F. Kennedy, was the first Boy Scout to be president. Others, such as President Calvin Coolidge, had sons that were in scouting.

Barack Obama was a member of Gerakan Pramuka, the Indonesian Scout Association, and Gerald Ford was an Eagle Scout. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Scout and Palisades resident Steven Spielberg is an Eagle Scout. To earn his merit badge for photography, he used his father’s 8 mm movie camera to film a nine-minute Western called “The Last Gunfight.”

Troop 223 Scoutmaster Mike Lanning welcomed parents to the camp and said, “I don’t know how to say this tactfully, but your children are self-sufficient, we’ve taught them how to do things on their own, so please don’t run in and try to put sunscreen on them. They know to do that.”

Walking by the camp sites, where the tent flaps are kept open, it was easy to see that they had also learned to keep the tents clean and their belongings picked up.

Lanning, a longtime resident, was interviewed this June after being selected Pacific Palisades parade marshal and in that story, he said “I wish could figure out a way to get more parents to come and take a look at the program.”

He feels that many parents tend to sign their kids up for sports and don’t explore Scouting, but that there is no comparison between club sports and the life lessons Scouts learn.

One parent at the camp said her older son had gone the club soccer route and her younger son was in Scouts. “Being an Eagle Scout is with you forever, but no one will care what soccer club team you were on after a few years,” she said.

Currently, the older Scouts from both 223 boys and 223 girls are on adventure trip in Alaska. “Scouts average 50 miles a week backpacking. They carry everything they need to wear and to eat,” Lanning said, noting that Scouts soon realize they can’t just go down to the store and buy something. They learn self-reliance.

And, he rues that more people don’t realize that Scouting “is the oldest conservation organization in America. We’re trying to get kids to take care of nature.”

Different Scouts were responsible for cleanup after meals.

After a meal at the lunch hall, members of different patrols oversaw individuals emptying food scraps in a composting bin, paper in recycling bin and plates, knives, forks and spoons were sorted to be washed.

Scouts wiped the tables and swept the floors. There were no plastic disposable water bottles. Water was in a jug and could be put in a cup that was washed or people could bring their own cups.

        Troop 223 Vision Statement: “Young people leading skillfully, making good choices, serving others.”

The Scout camp does not allow electronic devices and the only electricity is located near the dining hall/library, this allowed for perfect star gazing at night. A flashlight was needed after dark.

During the week, campers worked on their rowing, canoeing, snorkeling, oceanography, kayaking and other water sports.

For the first time, girls attended the camp. One mom told CTN that her daughter saw how much fun her older brother had and couldn’t wait to join.

The girls have the option of joining Girl Scouts or Scouts BSA. The emphasis on Scouts BSA is outdoor activities and some girls just naturally prefer the latter.

The girls easily fit into the activities and were not given special preference – they were Scouts.

A unit is made up of first-, second- and third-year Scouts. The patrol leader is selected by his/her patrol and is responsible for running and planning the weekly meetings and making sure there is food. Over the course of their six-month leadership, they teach a skill that will result in a merit badge for the members of their patrol.

They also must plan three meetings: a fun trip, such as bowling or laser tag; a community activity trip to someplace such as OPCC or Atria Senior Living, with the unit volunteers, and a career trip, often to a parent’s office to learn about a career. The patrol also goes on a weekend camping trip each month.

“It’s a big commitment,” one parent said.

Skeptical that a 14-year-old boy or girl would be able to do that kind of planning and execution, CTN was told there’s another aspect to Scouting that makes that possible.

The males, and now females, take a course in leadership. Assistant Scoutmaster Philip Alford explained the program.

“This course sets Scouting apart,” he said. “This gives kids not only the responsibility, but the ability to do it.”

Alford, a Palisadian, said that Scouts are taught how to articulate a vision and set goals. “We teach them planning, delegations and budgeting. They learn communication skills, conflict resolution and problem solving.

“You see the results,” he said. “They can do it.”

Lanning added, “Scouts not only learn leadership, they learn to help others.”

At the campsite, there were many adults who no longer have kids in the program, such as Palisadian Richard Wilken, who is an assistant scoutmaster.

“There are a group of dads whose sons made Eagle Scout,” Wilken said, and they now call themselves The Royal Order of the Mystic Knights of the Broken Arrow.

Those dads make sure the equipment that is taken on the camping trips is in good order. “The comraderie with dads is amazing,” Wilken said. “We’ve become best friends.”

Assistant Scoutmaster Jim Yokum, who also no longer has a son in the program, explained why he gave up a week of work to help with the camp. “I want to give back to the boys and it’s a way of thanking all the men that helped raise our kids.”

Assistant Scoutmaster Hank Elder agreed with that assessment and was one of the people who took the boys out before the 7:30 a.m. breakfast on a boat.

Assistant Scoutmaster Andy Hubsch said, “The reward for me is helping the boys.”

Another parent, whose son is part of 223, said that if his kid has an issue, he can go to one of the other adults. Sometimes it is easier if the kid hears it from another adult, rather than the parent.

Troop 223 sponsored Troop 337 out of Pacoima. Last year there were 12 boys and this year the Troop had 24 boys and 8 girls.

When one troop leaves Emerald Bay on the ferry, it is replaced by other troops – all summer long.

Pacific Palisades residents who have made improvements at the camp include Greg and Debbie Schem (boat dock), Janet (Corwin) Davis and John and Gloria Wilson (cabins), Kevin and Nancy Niles (library), Andy and Debbie Breech (buildings) and John Ashcar (pavers). A wall lists the many donors. “All have a passion for the kids,” Elder said.

(Boys or girls who want more information about Scouting can contact Greg Frost (310) 454-2593 or email

The water in Emerald Bay is crystal clear.

My luxurious surroundings provided great sleeping.

(Editorial note: Mike Lanning invited me to camp, so I packed a sleeping bag, took the ferry and slept in a tent. No electricity and no phone chargers, unless you went by the dining hall to plug  in – campers are not allowed electronics. The nights were blissfully dark so that stars were easily seen. The water at Catalina is incredibly clear–you can see the different fish when snorkeling–and the views from the top of the hills are breathtaking. One parent who had come to parents weekend to observe how his son had become self-sufficient brought the nanny.)


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One Response to Scouts Work on Self-Confidence, Leadership

  1. George Wolfberg says:

    Awesome piece! My daughter had a horrible experience in Brownie camp. Only eight year’s old, she already knew she would be a vegetarian for life. They fried her pancakes in lard . . .

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