Scouting’s Not Just Growing. It’s Thriving.

Scouting’s Not Just Growing. It’s Thriving.

Boy Scouts

By John M. Cary, CEO, BSA LaSalle Council.

The excitement and energy surrounding the recent achievements of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) LaSalle Council is like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my career. It has been an astounding time, largely driven by relationships, community support, and the amazing partners that we’ve been privileged to work alongside over the past year. Together, we’re not just growing. We’re thriving – and this momentum is showing no sign of slowing down.

2nd in the Country for Growth

2023 was a record year on multiple fronts. In fact, out of 245 Boy Scout councils nationwide, the LaSalle Council ranked second in percentage growth last year with a 21% growth rate of new Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA youth members. That’s never happened here before.

Additionally, we’ve also added a large number of female scouts, growing by approximately 7%, and we’ve added new programs for our Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops, growing by 5%.

We also saw a big jump in the numbers of volunteers last year, which is something that just about every nonprofit struggles with. More than 500 new volunteers were recruited, which is about 5% growth, and more parents have become engaged with scouting – which is fantastic.

The reasons behind this are crystal clear. We grew because we have great partnerships with our schools, we have great volunteers, and we were able to maximize a Lilly Endowment gift that allowed us to make scouting affordable for kids in economically challenged areas. The Lilly Endowment has funded the LaSalle Council with $1.35 million over three years (2023-2025) to expand programming into diverse communities throughout Indiana counties.

Through that gift and through support from the local community, we were able to provide over 600 kids with a scouting program either during or after school in 2023. We also provided four weeks of summer STEM Day Camps (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), of which 500 kids participated. Those partnerships are going to grow even more in 2024 and we’re going to be able to serve even more kids because of that.

Our council has also created the first Latino-based scouting program, which is a fully functional program in Elkhart County that has over 30 kids enrolled. The predominant language spoken in this program is Spanish, and it serves as a great model where parents are actively involved, supported, and they’re doing scouting activities on a week-to-week basis. It’s really amazing, and there are tremendous opportunities for expansion.


Capital Investments

In 2023, the LaSalle Council invested over $1 million in our camp properties. For example, at Camp ToPeNeBee located just outside of Michigan City, we established three new storm shelters and three new program-delivery pavilions on top of the storm shelters.

That was done in partnership with the United States Marine Corp. Engineering Battalion as part of their training programs, wherein we provided the materials, and they provided the labor and tools necessary for the project. The goal of that investment was to improve safety for our scouts during inclement weather. Plus, we’ll have the new pavilions that will be used for activities year-round.

All of this investment has been an immense source of pride for our council. To invest this extensively back into our camps and programs is a very big deal in scouting, as many other councils are unable to do so. We’re also proud to say that our council has been financially sustainable for four years in a row. This, again, is due to the incredible support of our community.

Emphasis on Safety

Making continuous improvements to safety is another major initiative of our council. We strive for every scout leader to undergo Youth Protection Training – especially for our scoutmasters and cubmasters, which are required to.

In 2022, 91% of our scout leaders attended training. In 2023, that figure grew to 98% of our 1,500 total scout leaders. Our goal is to get to 100%. We also have some of the most rigid background checks and policies in place to protect kids and to provide a quality, fun experience for all scouts.

Bright Future Ahead

We have come such a long way through scouting here in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. Our communities, board of directors, scout leaders, our excellent professional staff, and all eight counties of the LaSalle Council have been so overwhelmingly supportive.

The core principle behind everything we do is building relationships. Over the last five years in the areas that we serve, everything has just lined up perfectly in 2023 and we’re well positioned to maintain these trends. We’re going to continue to develop these relationships with our school systems, continue to expand our program offerings, and continue to engage with all kinds of local stakeholders that can make scouting in our area even stronger than it is today.

Going forward, these recent achievements provide us with a new baseline from which to expand, and even more opportunities for a very bright future for all of our scouts. And we’re ready for it!

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