By James Niedzinski
---- — LONDONDERRY — Nationally, the Boy Scouts of America have struggled with scandal and funding issues.
But in Londonderry, Boy Scouting is alive — and thriving.
The town has four active groups — Troop 1910, Troop 109, Troop 426 and Troop 521.
And, according to local leaders, the troops are full of happy campers.
Mike Gleason has been Scoutmaster of Troop 426 since 2006. he has about 30 youngsters in his troop now.
While Gleason said the basics of the program have not changed, the attitudes have shifted since he was a Scout.
“Our troop is always very open and accepting,” he said. “A lot of adults and Scouts know a lot more now.”
The core principals of Scouting, community involvement and doing good deeds, won’t change, according to Gleason.
Older Scouts help younger ones with advancement and merit badges, which keeps them involved, in addition to camping trips and excursions, he said.
Tammy Calligandes, committee chairman for Troop 109, echoed Gleason’s words.
Troops build off friendships, she said, and the program has a domino affect on children and adults.
“The community dynamics of Scouting are huge,” Calligandes said. “Once a boy becomes a Scout, his friends want to join, too.”
Steve D’Esopo, former Scoutmaster for Troop 109, said Scouting in Londonderry has changed with the times.
There are always 121 merit badges in the program, he said. When a new badge is introduced, an older one is retired, so the badges change from year to year.
The troop has introduced new positions, too, and now has a webmaster, D’Esopo said.
“We have merit badges and advancements now geared toward robotics, computers and video games,” said Skip Chase, district executive for the Daniel Webster Council.
Like other Scout Troops in Londonderry, Troop 109 is primarily youth led and youth organized, D’Esopo said.
“The kids need to run the program for it to be relevant,” he said.
But local troops are not without challenges.
With all of the after-school activities and other responsibilities, it can be hard to keep young people interested in Scouting, D’Esopo said.
D’Esopo said Londonderry High School’s marching band, the Marching Lancers, always recruit a few Scouts when band practices begin.
High adventure and camping trips contribute to Londonderry’s active Scout troops, Chase said.
Kevin Donovan, Scoutmaster for Troop 521, said he has about 25 boys in the troop now. Donovan was in the same troop when he was a Scout and remembers more youngsters being involved.
“There are so many more activities kids can do now,” he said.
Donovan said the child abuses cases are in the past and do not affect his troop today.
All Scout leaders must go through training and Donovan is trying to get parents to do the same, he said.
“We have great youth protection guidelines,” he said. “There is never one-on-one contact with the boys.”
D’Esopo, too, was confident boys are well protected within Scouting today.
“I don’t think revelations coming from a dark history should have any impact,” he said. “The Boy Scouts of America has one of the best youth protection policies.”