Will Cub Scout Be Sag Harbor’s Last?

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As the other scouts look on, older brother Charles Schaefer affixes a slider to the kerchief around brand-new Boy Scout Michael Schaefer's neck during his official Crossing Over Ceremony at the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters on Thursday night, 2/28/19. Michael Heller photo

The Boy Scouts of America call it “crossing over.” It’s the ceremony in which a Cub Scout reflects on his experiences and graduates to become a Boy Scout, and last Thursday, in Sag Harbor’s Cub Scout Pack 455, just one Cub Scout, Michael Schaefer, crossed over.

There were no Cub Scouts left in the pack behind him.

According to Laurie Barone-Schaefer, Michael’s mother and Cub Scout pack leader for several years as her three sons all went through the organization, it’s not for a lack of interest in the Cub Scouts among young boys. What’s missing, she said, are adults to lead the group.

“Unfortunately, without leaders, there’s no organization,” Ms. Barone-Schaefer said.

This year would have been the Cub Scouts’ 35th in Sag Harbor, she said, adding she’s hoping at least one grownup will come forward to take her place as pack leader; she plans to cross over herself into the Boy Scouts, along with her son, to serve as a troop leader.

The experience, she said, “is worth its weight in gold” — not just to see the scouts’ personal growth, but also to bond with them and their parents.

“It’s a time I’ll never forget,” Ms. Barone-Schaefer said. “They talk about going down in their Soapbox Derby cars on High Street. That’s childhood. That’s what it’s all about. They’re going to carry that for the rest of their lives.”

Valerie Remkus, who is a member of the committee that runs the Sag Harbor Boy Scout troop, and whose elder son, Tristan, has reached the rank of Eagle Scout, predicted the Cub Scout program in Sag Harbor will only be dormant temporarily.

“It’s cyclical,” she said. “I’ve heard that it’s happened before, that you’ll go a couple of dry years where you don’t have scouts or as many scouts, and then you’ll go back up. What it lacks is that person to step up and say, ‘I’m going to get them excited.’”

Ms. Barone-Schaefer suggested the lack of pack leaders comes from the fact that many households have two working parents who don’t have time to volunteer. Ms. Remkus suggested it’s because “there are a lot of other options” these days for family activities.

“Kids are involved in all sorts of sports and things that are very different than it was even 15 years ago,” she said. “I think the parents are also overcommitted. The kids have a lot to do, the parents have a lot to do, and they don’t understand that it’s really a simple job. They might find it to be daunting because they don’t know what’s involved.”

There is a fair amount of training involved in becoming a pack leader, including a youth protection class. A representative of the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America could not be reached for comment. Those interested in becoming a Cub Scout pack leader can find more information online at sccbsa.org.

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