Racing for the Checkered Flag
By Kathy Vilim DaGroomes
The Greater Alabama Council's 'Race to Scouting' puts a 60-day deadline on its spring recruitment drive for new units and commissioners.
The luxury suite overlooking the Talladega Superspeedway was jam-packed with a standing-room-only crowd of 110 spectators—Scouting youth, plus volunteers and professional Scouters.
They were celebrating a victory, but not for one of the famous Nascar drivers who raced on the track below. The celebration marked the conclusion of the Greater Alabama Council’s 60-day spring recruiting campaign, Race to Scouting.
Camilo Diaz,11, a brand new Webelos Scout, was thrilled to be in the crowd.
In Cub Scouting, “you get to do a lot of things you don’t do in your normal life,” Camilo said, while peering through the suite’s windows at the facility that can seat more than 143,000 fans.
Special guest Sam Thompson, national director of Cub Scouting, was introduced and delivered some fitting news: Nascar driver Jeff Gordon, who serves as honorary spokesman for the national Race to Cub Scouting campaign, had just extended his commitment through 2008.
The announcement brought wild cheers and applause from the crowd and demonstrated why auto racing is the No. 1 spectator sport in Alabama.
And then came the moment everyone was anticipating. Phil Hammonds, the council’s vice president of membership, stepped to the podium. Hammonds was about to reveal the total number of new units and commissioners gained in the council’s Race to Scouting.
But let’s not race ahead of ourselves.
Districts set their goals
The 60-day countdown officially began in February at the Tom Williams Cadillac dealership in the Birmingham, Ala., suburb of Irondale. Williams, a council board member and chairman of Race to Scouting, turned his showroom into a banquet hall for a select group of 135 people. The dinner guests included volunteers from each of the council’s 14 districts and representatives from prospective chartered organizations. Following a meal of grilled steak with all the trimmings, the group got down to business.
The race to Scouting was on.
Representatives from each district committed to starting a specific number of new units and recruiting new unit-serving commissioners within 60 days.
“Spring recruiting is an idea whose time has come,” said Dr. Richard Russell, the council’s chairman of the board. “I think it’s a major area of emphasis for Scouting.”
“We wanted to develop a campaign that would be exciting for our adult volunteers as well as for our Scouts,” said council commissioner Doug Adair.
Keeping Scouting local
Districts began recruiting their Race to Scouting volunteers in December 2006 and then trained them. Each district conducted a market analysis to pinpoint Scouting’s underserved areas and wrote action plans to target new unit opportunities in those areas.
Several Scouters volunteered to become unit-serving commissioners. One volunteer was six-year Scouter Danielle Weathers, Cubmaster of Pack 4206, in Heflin, Ala.
“I want to make sure that Scouting continues on, that the boys have a positive program to look forward to,” said Weathers. “The unit commissioners are a support group for all the packs and troops.”
Other Scouters helped form new units. Former Webelos den leader Richard Powell of Troop 492, Leeds, Ala., started a Boy Scout troop because there wasn’t one in that town east of Birmingham.
Powell explained why it was important to have a locally based troop for his Webelos Scouts who were ready to become Boy Scouts.
“There were lots of boys who wanted to be a Boy Scout,” said Powell, “but they didn’t want to go to another town to join a troop.”
Volunteers get in the race
The Race to Scouting also recruited new adult volunteers. Cubmaster Laverne Burts of Pack 487, Birmingham, hoped Scouting would provide her Cub Scouts with lessons in good character, like taking care of one another and being respectful.
District volunteers also helped leaders of struggling units shore up their program by recruiting new boys and adults.
Cubmaster Melvin Walker, a 25-year Scouter in Anniston, Ala., worried that his Pack 336 might fold due to a lack of attendance. The spring recruiting effort enrolled 50 new Cub Scouts in the pack. Later, many of the new recruits attended a district day camp in early summer. By the end of 2007, Pack 336’s roster had grown to 91 boys.
The Race to Scouting wasn’t just for adults. Youth in the Greater Alabama Council got in on the fun, too. First-year Webelos Scout Mason Simpson of Pack 153 in Killen, Ala., was shocked when he found out what the recruitment campaign meant for him.
“When my daddy told me we were going to Talladega, I freaked out,” recalled Mason. The 10-year-old fourth grader is possibly Jeff Gordon’s No. 1 fan in Alabama.
Mason attended Scout Day at the raceway and witnessed Gordon’s first-place finish in the Aaron’s 499 Nextel Cup race. It was Gordon’s fourth trip to victory lane in the event and moved him into sixth place on the Nascar circuit’s all-time winner’s list.
Meanwhile, Mason’s dad, Mark, was invited to the council’s victory celebration two days before Gordon’s victory at the track. The Westmoreland District commissioner was eager to find out how his district had fared in the drive for new units and commissioners.
And that brings us back to Phil Hammonds’ announcement in the Talladega luxury suite: In the span of 60 days, the council started 47 new units and recruited 67 unit commissioners.
Council commissioner Doug Adair was obviously pleased with the results.
“The Race to Scouting campaign has exceeded our expectations,” he said. Perhaps more important, he added, was that the council planned to keep working and to build upon the program’s success.
Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.
Copyright © 2008 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.