Portlander Ethan Jewett has fond memories of growing up as a Boy Scout. But as his son Jackson neared Cub Scout age, Jewett felt that, like many parents, he did not want to enroll his son in an organization that continues to exclude LGBT folks and atheists.
So instead of just joining the campaign to transform the Boy Scouts of America, Jewett and other parents are making their own official scout troop. The 55th Cascadia Scouts are open to kids of all genders, sexual orientations, and religions. They already have 45 kids signed up to join the troop on outdoorsy trips.
"My love of the outdoors all traces back to my scouting experience—Troop 259! I really wanted that for my son," says Jewett. "I continue to have hope that the Boy Scouts of America will change. But I have a five-year-old son. Time's up."
The Cascadia Scouts are an official scouting organization with merit badges, scarves, backpacking trips and all. They are not the only independent scouting group. The World Federation of Independent Scouts oversees hundreds of scout troops worldwide that are distinct from the well-known Boy Scouts of America, including several other alternative troops in America.
The Boy Scouts of America are considering changing their national ban on LGBT members and volunteers, potentially signing off this spring on a plan that would let local troops make their own decisions about who to exclude. But that's not a big enough culture change for many parents, including Jewett.
"They're deciding whether to make discrimination optional or mandatory, says Jewett. "I don't remember religion or sexual orientation being at all a part of my scouting experience, but it feels the battle lines have been drawn in this."
After talking with other parents and staging several just-for-fun multi-family camping trips, the parents behind the Cascadia Scouts decided to get official. Now, the Cascadia Scouts have mutlple levels of scouting for different age groups and all will be welcome to participate "traditional scouting" trips and projects that develop leaders and a love of the outdoors. One potential trip for older kids this summer will be backpacking on a trail that circumnavigates Oregon's Mount Hood and another in the works is brining treats to Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers.
At right: Adorable five-year-old Jackson in his homemade Cascadia Scouts scarf.