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Boy Scouts growing by leaps and bounds

Granite Bay troop puts new scouts on fast track to first class
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Ben Gould and Connor Getz must have been prepared.

As the senior and assistant patrol leaders, respectively, for Troop 121’s new scout program, the pair has witnessed a sudden surge in enrollment. The Granite Bay Boy Scout troop typically holds around 100 boys, aging out 15 to 20 annually while taking on roughly the same amount. This year, 54 new scouts have signed on and the young leaders do not seem the least bit phased.

“We actually have less troop guides this year,” said Ben, 15. “But we’ll be fine. It just takes a lot of preparation.”

Connor, 14, said he and Ben are perfectly capable of handling the influx of scouts.

“We just have to make sure we work together flawlessly,” he said. “Communication is key.”

Along with plenty of backup support.

Larry Challis is the first assistant scoutmaster, and is trained to lead hikes and campouts and other outings. And there are a lot of outings.

“We try to get them to first class in the first year,” Challis said. “If they do, they are far more likely to make Eagle. They learn the basic skills of scouting; do some fun merit badge stuff. It’s an intense program. Every week there are activities. But by the time they’re in their permanent patrols, they’ve gone through tenderfoot, second class and first class and phased into the fast pace of the troop.”

It’s that fast-pace and activity-heavy schedule that has attracted families from neighboring cities and towns.

“Our whole den, 12 scouts, came to Troop 121,” said Debbie Metzger of Rocklin. “We visited three troops. We liked the amount of activities here and that there’s a lot of chance for advancement.”

More scouts means more things going on, more options for service hours and more leadership positions to hold — all requirements for rank advancement. Cub Scout packs will usually send their Webelos to a Boy Scout troop meeting or two to test the waters. Troops will also send representatives to pack meetings to talk about their organizations. Most packs will feed into a local troop, one close to home, but not always.

“We usually go and talk to local packs, the three that are closest to us,” said Greg Gould, assistant scoutmaster in charge of new scouts. “We didn’t do that this time around and it’s our biggest year ever.”

He, his son Ben and Connor will guide the newest members through “New Scout Camp” and the

“Superlight,” a backpacking overnighter. While on these adventures, troop guides will lead activities and lessons that help the new scouts work toward tenderfoot. Then they are assigned to patrols that include scouts of all ages.

“I liked the mixed age patrols,” said scout dad Aron Heglin of Loomis. “I really believe in the mentoring. It’s good for the boys to be a mentor as well as a mentee.”

Heglin visited three troops before he and another family brought their sons to Troop 121. Others have come from Citrus Heights, Orangevale and Lincoln.

“It’s the reputation of Troop 121,” Greg Gould said. “There’s a lot of positive feedback in the community.”

So Ben and Connor had best take that Boy Scout oath to heart. While this year’s crop is well on their way to tenderfoot and beyond, April will bring around another batch of eager newcomers. And if it’s anything like this year, they will have their work cut out for them.