Avonlea and Naomi grew up in a Scouting family, but their first experience with Scouts BSA was in Okinawa, Japan.
“I grew up going to Philmont with my Dad and watching my brothers earn badges at courts of honor,” explained 16-year-old Naomi. “But I had no idea girls could be involved until we moved to Japan.”
“Our first week in Japan we were swimming at a base pool and I made a new friend,” shared 12-year-old Avonlea. “After a few minutes, she just said, ‘Do you want to join Scouts?’ I was so surprised! So I said, ‘Yes!'”
That invitation was the beginning of a wonderful Scouting experience for the girls. They attended a troop meeting and signed up.
“Our Scoutmaster was so great, and she helped us earn our Scout Rank at the first Court of Honor,” said Naomi. “I got so excited because I realized I could start earning merit badges and choosing what I wanted to work on. Scouting just felt like something I could get really involved in. I also felt like the activities and goals went right along with my personal goals in the Church Children and Youth program. I could really sink my teeth into doing something and growing personally.”
The girls joined Troop 101G, part of the Far East Council, BSA, which services military and expatriate families in 29 Asian countries.
“Even though our Dad is really into Scouting, this was our first real chance to do something, and we loved it!” said Avonlea. “We have a great troop and we go on lots of beautiful hikes and campouts in Okinawa. We started to invite our friends, and soon there were even more girls in the troop.”
Their mom, Nettie, added, “I’ve spent so many years doing Scouting with my boys, but I’ve found that my real passion is doing Scouts BSA with my girls. It’s just so much fun! I signed up as an assistant Scoutmaster, and now I’m a Scoutmaster and I love it. It feels like Scouting is truly a family activity now.”
One of the girls’ favorite memories is a 10-mile hike in the pouring rain. “It was so incredibly wet, but the views were beautiful and we felt so accomplished when we finished,” said Naomi.
Avonlea remembers a Scout camp near Tokyo. “I signed up for Wilderness Survival, and our merit badge counselor was a marine. He told us that on Thursday night we would have to take a bamboo pole and a plastic garbage bag and sleep out in the jungle. I worried all week, but my Dad kept telling me I would be OK. The other girls in my troop were also scared, but then we made our structure like we had practiced, and we did it! When I woke up the next morning in the jungle I just thought, ‘I survived!’ I felt so good.”
“It’s the hard things that have made my girls the happiest,” shared their mother Nettie. “It’s when they wonder if they can really accomplish something, and when they do, that makes Scouting so magical. I’ve watched my girls rappel down a 70-foot cliff. They were terrified, but when their feet touched the ground, they were ecstatic. And when Avonlea returned from her wilderness survival night, she had the biggest grin on her face. This type of adventure is what Scouting is all about.”
“Another benefit to Scouting is the people we meet,” added Nettie. “Moving overseas meant leaving all of our family behind. But our involvement in Scouting has helped us meet so many wonderful families here. It’s like we have a huge circle of connections. I love that Scouting families believe in Duty to God, Duty to Country, and being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, etc. Scouting connections enhance our life.”
Since that first invitation to join Scouts at the pool 18 months ago, both Avonlea and Naomi have had multiple Scouting experiences. And last month they both earned their Star Rank.
“I was so nervous for my Board of Review,” smiled Avonlea. “But then I just talked about all of my experiences and my service hours, and it turned out fine.”
“My goal is to earn my Eagle Scout Rank before I turn 18 next year,” commented Naomi. “Once we have girls who are Eagle Scouts, we will be a true Scouting family.”
– Submitted by Nettie Francis