A group of girls met this week to go orienteering in a church basement.
The 11- and 12-year-olds are part of Troop 1923, the first Scouts BSA troop for girls to officially form in Delaware.
The program formerly known as “Boy Scouts” began accepting girls at the beginning of February. Cub Scouts, the program for children in the first through fifth grades, started accepting girls last year.
Troop 1923, which is based out of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church near Marshallton, started meeting casually in December. The members have already gone camping once — and have another outing planned for later this month.
At the Troop’s weekly meeting Monday, seven Scouts braved the cold to practice raising flags.
Scarlett Helnecki, who is 12 years old, helped lead the meeting. She says she looked to Scouts BSA for opportunities to get outside and build skills.
“I liked Boy Scouts and all the merit badges that they offer. Because they were interesting subjects that I like to learn. Like, I’m into woodworking and genealogy,” said Helnecki. “So I wanted to do those two.”
She says she has spent her first month as a Scout working toward the next rank of Tenderfoot. “It’s a lot of first aid, and some poisonous snakes and animals and plants around here. Which we’re in the middle of winter, so I can’t really go out and experience them for myself. And the book gives you some, but not all, that you would need,” she said.
“We were looking for opportunities for her to be able to go camping, do archery, knots, fire,” said Shannon Helnecki, Scarlett’s mother. “A lot of those outdoors skills that we weren’t aware of in our area ... until this Scouts BSA opportunity has come up.”
Helnecki hopes her daughter will also learn intangible skills from scouting.
She says Scarlett has already picked up leadership, as a senior patrol leader. “It’s a rotating position. Right now she is in that position. She was voted on by the troop. But I also think two big skills, especially for our daughter, would be cooperation — working with others— and planning, implementing,” she said.
Patrick Kaser is Troop 1923’s scoutmaster.
“For most of these Scouts, it really seems to be the monthly outdoor program, whether it be camping, rafting, hiking, whatever it may be, that really seems to be appealing in terms of attracting them to join,” he said.
Kaser started organizing Troup 1923 months before the Scouts BSA launch date of Feb. 1. “Someone has to be the one to get it going, and we decided that this is an opportunity that should exist for young women that are interested, so we wanted to help get it going,” said Kaser.
Kaser says the Troop’s number— 1923— was chosen by members to honor the year that Delaware belatedly ratified the 19th amendment.
Bill Garrett is the scout executive with Boy Scouts of America’s Del-Mar-Va Council. He says local stakeholders largely approved of the organization’s move to accept girls. “Rarely did I get any negative feedback," he said. "Our customers look at this as a good thing for kids, irregardless of whether they’re boys or girls."
Garrett is also personally in favor of the change. “I really think it’s a great thing that we’re allowing young ladies to join our program and get the same skills that young men have gotten for the last 110 years almost,” he said.
Scarlett Helnecki is aware of her place in history.
“A lot of other people in my family were Scouts and grew up around hunting and doing all of those outdoorsy things. So it would be cool to know that yeah, our grandparents did this. But now we get to do this for the first time. And just leave behind a good legacy,” she said.
A second all-girl troop in Delaware is currently accepting members, according to the Del-mar-va Council. Troop 5508 will be based in the Bellefonte area.