2014-04-03 / News

Entering 50th year, Cub Scouts welcome new leadership

By Ken Shane


Cub Scout leaders get the track ready for one of the pack’s most popular annual events, the Pinewood Derby. 
Courtesy / John Heffernan Cub Scout leaders get the track ready for one of the pack’s most popular annual events, the Pinewood Derby. Courtesy / John Heffernan There has been a change in leadership as the Jamestown Cub Scouts enter their 50th year on the island. In February, John Heffernan took over for Will Tuttle as cubmaster.

Heffernan, a urologist who practices at Newport Hospital, has an 8-year-old son who has been in the pack for two years. For the past year, Heffernan has served as an assistant to Tuttle, the leader since 2010. Being a cubmaster typically coincides with a son’s membership, and during his tenure, Tuttle led two sons through the program. His youngest will cross over to the Boy Scouts next year.

He will continue as Heffernan’s assistant during the transition, but will eventually move on to the Boy Scouts with his sons.

“They are anticipating that I will come to help out,” Tuttle said. “I plan to be involved in the troop.”

The mission of the Cub Scouts is to offer values-based development programs for boys in elementary school. In Jamestown, the focuses are on character building, community service, appreciation for the outdoors, and physical fitness.

Heffernan said the scouts provide an opportunity for recognition in a variety of areas, both athletic and not. The recognition comes from rewards like belt loops, badges and pins. There are 53 different pursuits.

The Cub Scout pack is divided into dens based on grade levels. First-graders are known as Tiger Scouts, then Wolf Scouts in second grade, Bear Scouts in third and Webelos for fourth- and fifthgraders. The young men then become Boy Scouts.

The structure of a Cub Scout pack is largely based on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” Cub leaders, as well as parents, are known as Akelas. The Cubs themselves roughly correspond to the Mowgli character in the book.

Scouting was first organized by Baden Powell in England, and is based on an English military model. The Cub Scouts, which were first organized in the United States before becoming international, adopted portions of the British model.

Each den has an annual goal to reach. In order to reach their objective, the den members must achieve certain results in areas like arts and crafts, physical fitness, service projects, public works, safety and citizenship.

“There is a religious component also that they work on as a family because we have boys from all different religions,” Heffernan said. “There is a faith-based component, but it’s not a particular faith.”

There have been as many as 40 boys in the pack this year. Each den meets once or twice a month, and the entire pack gets together monthly. At the den meetings, many of the activities are pursued. At the monthly pack meetings, the boys are recognized for their accomplishments, and they participate in fun activities and community service projects as well. One annual highlight is the Pinewood Derby.

The Cub Scouts have two or three campouts a year at places like Godena Farm, Conanicut Battery and Fort Getty. There has also been an overnight trip to the USS Massachusetts in Fall River’s Battleship Cove, and this week the pack will attend a Providence Bruins game. Family members are welcome to come along.

The Cub Scout pack has been sponsored by St. Matthew’s Church for the last year. Prior to that, the Lions Club provided the backing. Sponsorships can include donations of meeting space, storage space, financial assistance or a combination of the three.

In recent years, the world of scouting has been rocked by allegations of child abuse. Although none of those problems have arisen locally, Heffernan said the Cub Scouts have addressed the problem head-on by instituting policies and procedures to ensure no further abuse takes place. Every leader must take youth protection training, and there are stringent rules regarding the number of adults required at meetings. Adults and children remain in full view at all times.

“The scouts have recognized that this is a very unfortunate part of our history,” he said. “We’re doing concrete things to prevent that.”

Tuttle said one of the objectives this year is to celebrate the 50th anniversary by reaching out to former Cub Scouts and asking them to share their memories, photographs and memorabilia. Through this process he hopes to create a history of the local pack.

“My favorite memories are watching my boys grow up through this program,” Tuttle said. “It’s been a great growing process for me.”

Heffernan said that growing up, he did a lot through scouting.

“When I think back, a lot of the leaders were big brothers to me,” Heffernan said. “If I can give back some of this, I’m happy to have another opportunity to be part of my son’s upbringing, and to get to know his friends and his friends’ families in another dimension.”

Parents interested in inquiring about pack membership for their sons, or former Cub Scouts who would like to pass along their memories, can email the cubmaster at jamestownpack1@gmail.com.

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