With an impressive, storied history, The Boy Scouts of America continues to create insightful, original programs for its Scouts. Locally, the Heart of America Council is upping the ante when it comes to family-friendly programming—and that’s by design, says Matt Armstrong, director of marketing and communications. “We have a unique take on things locally,” he says. “We have the ability here to innovate and think outside of the box and make our programming have more of a KC feel. From amazing summer camps to partnering with local businesses and sports teams like the Royals and Sporting Kansas City, we have a rich tie-in with the community. That’s what sets us apart—a unique partnership across Kansas City. It’s the tradition of Scouting and the tradition of Kansas City intertwined.”
Little known fact—The Heart of America Council of the BSA is one of largest councils in the country with nearly 40,000 Scouts, volunteers, and various stakeholders participating in the programs, says volunteer president Charlie Tetrick. “We pride ourselves on developing cutting-edge programs in the great outdoors and at home—like online merit badges that are used all around the country. Same story with many of our marketing and recruitment initiatives,” he adds. In fact, metro Scouts put in more than 240,000 volunteer hours in Kansas City. “That’s great stuff for the community and really makes an impact,” says Tetrick.
With caring, focused precision, The Heart of America Council takes pride in helping kids transform into great adults. For more than 100 years, programs have had the single focus of teaching strong character, teaching morals, and teaching leadership skills. The numbers locally are impressive. In 2019 alone, 833 Scouts reached the incredible milestone of becoming Eagle Scouts and nearly 4,000 Scouts earned badges ranging from Citizenship to Environmental Science to Personal Management. “The evidence is quite clear; we are preparing these kids for a wonderful future,” says Tetrick.
Learn as a Family, Grow as a Family
Ruben and Laura Flores both had experience with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts respectively growing up. Now they’ve immersed all four of their children into the BSA program. At 17, their oldest son, Brian, just achieved Eagle Scout status. The Flores’ say the program works on a number of levels. It’s a family affair—with both parents on board and participating in a variety of roles, such as den leader, cubmaster and assistant scoutmaster. “Scouts really works best when the entire family is involved. Scouts see their parents contributing to the unit and community and the parents see other leaders pour time and wisdom into their kids,” says Ruben Flores, who is both a former marine and former LAPD officer. “As time goes by, the Scouts become lifelong friends with each other, and the parents become close friends with one another. Laura and I call it our Scouting family. We know we can call them on a minute’s notice if they are needed. We know this because we’ve done this, and we’ve been there for others.”
Both the Flores family and Armstrong agree, being in Scouts sets kids up for lifelong success. Programs engage Scouts in a litany of unique, adaptable activities they might not find anywhere else—from robotics to camping to engineering. “These are life skills you won’t find anywhere else,” says Armstrong. “We help connect the dots—a secondary form of education. Sure, Scouting is an opportunity to introduce kids to the outdoor adventures that we’re known for—but we also partner with businesses and with parents to help educate.” Tetrick agrees wholeheartedly. “Scouts in this region don’t have to look far to see a myriad of opportunities to learn and experience,” he says.
Tetrick is quick to point out how the safety of Scouts is paramount in the organization— with established guidelines governing safe scouting activities for millions of kids nationwide. “It’s something we take very, very seriously in the Heart of America Council,” he says. “The policies and guidelines that drive youth protection in Scouting are among the very best you’ll find in any youth organization anywhere. In fact, many other youth organizations pattern their programs after the BSA.” The national website offers detailed specifics about youth protection requirements for anyone interested in learning all the organization does to keep kids in a safe, productive environment.
Flores says when it comes to participating in Scouts as a family unit, it’s all pros and no cons. “For our family, we have grown closer to each other and some of my best memories are from Scouting events,” he says. Being involved in Scouts has helped his kids learn a frame of reference for what is moral and ethical and instilled the need for service to God, family and community, he says. “With the admittance of females into Scouts BSA, the days of the boys going camping has now become the entire family going camping. Scouting is also for the extended family and for friends of the family—and once you’re in the family, the level of your involvement is as much or as little as you desire.”
Bottom line? “Scouting makes kids better adults,” says Armstrong. “The life skills you learn and the leadership opportunities you experience in Scouting help prepare you for the life ahead—and that’s the real power of Scouting.”