The Coastside will be among the first areas of the country to have its own all-girl Boy Scouts of America troop. While it might seem an important and pioneering moment, the new troop leaders say, in a way, their daughters have been a part of Boy Scouts programs for years.
The troop is officially known as a Scouts BSA girl troop. It promises lots of outdoor adventure and — in a first for girls — a path to the prestigious Eagle Scout designation. While planning has been going on for weeks, the first official meeting of scouting Troop 4255 is scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club.
Last year, the Boy Scouts of America announced it was letting girls into the fold for the first time in the organization’s 109-year history. It began with all-girl Cub Scout “dens” for younger children. On Friday, the organization is expanding offerings to girls ages 11 to 17.
“It’s a big, historic day,” said Mary Mahon, Scoutmaster for Troop 4255, which will be affiliated with the all-male and longstanding Troop 255. She said her 11-year-old daughter, Niamh Abrash, has been the unofficial lead recruiter for the troop and the driving force behind her own involvement.
Niamh has been in the Girl Scouts in the past, and her two brothers have taken part in Boy Scouts. A similar dynamic plays out in other Coastside families. Both of Assistant Scoutmaster Margot Lowry’s sons attained the Eagle Scout designation. Assistant Scoutmaster Heidi Cornelison has two boys who have been in the Boy Scouts for years. The girls in the Cornelison and Mahon families have attended Cub Scout and Boy Scout events since they were toddlers, their parents say.
That helps explain why families with girls would consider both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, two separate century-old organizations.
“I think they are both great programs, but they are definitely different,” said Mahon, who grew up in a co-ed scouting organization in her native Britain.
She said the Boy Scouts offer more robust outdoor activities, including regular camping trips. She also appreciates that the Boy Scouts typically have a wider age range so the older kids effectively mentor the younger ones.
Mahon said some of the pioneer girls getting involved now are motivated to become Eagle Scouts. In fact, she notes, girls can now seek to attain both the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout designation and the Girl Scouts’ top Gold Award.
Mahon expects to have five to 10 girls participating when Troop 4255 holds its first meeting. And soon it may not be alone. The Coastside’s other Boy Scout group, Troop 263, is actively seeking women to lead another all-girl troop. It would be called Troop 4263.
Boy Scout Troop 263 assistant scout leader Tim Riley said in an email to the Review that Community United Methodist Church in Half Moon Bay has agreed to be the charter sponsor for the new troop. It has a new website, scoutshmb.com, where interested girls can learn more.
The national Boy Scouts organization promises the same curriculum for both boys and girls. It maintains the values inherent in the Scout Law — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent — are just as important for girls as for boys.
The addition of girls to the Boy Scouts family came amid tough times for scouting generally. The Boy Scouts have suffered a 30 percent drop in the number of participating boys since 1989, according to one estimate, and has flirted with bankruptcy.
The addition of girls to the Boy Scout tent has also drawn the ire of Girl Scouts of the USA. Leaders of the traditionally female organization suggested in the press that Boy Scouts would do better to focus on well-publicized sexual assault and financial mismanagement problems than on adding girls to the mix. It sued Boy Scouts of America last year for trademark infringement, and it also pointed to research that shows single-gender programs for young girls help them succeed later in life.
Those national problems appear far from Coastside shores, however.
“Here, I think, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are quite capable of getting along,” Mahon said.
Anyone wishing to learn more about Troop 4255 can email Mary Mahon at email@example.com.