Off the Clock: Scout’s Honor

Off the Clock: Scout’s Honor

By Matt Skoufalos

Six years ago, Katrina Winn’s three boys, Kyle, Jason, and Alex, were 11, 7, and two-and-a-half, and making their way through the lower ranks of the Boy Scouts. Winn, co-owner of Carolina Medical Parts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recalls how Jason’s Tiger Den leader “got volun-told” that he was going to become the area Cub Master; the scout leader who oversees all the local dens.

In need of some other parents to step up as den leaders and organize scouting activities, he turned to the moms and dads in the troop for help. When his words appeared to fall on deaf ears, Winn and a couple of her fellow mothers saw that their help would be required to keep the group moving forward.

“He said, ‘Can any of you step up?’ and not one of those men raised their hands,” Winn said. “So me and Mindy and Kristin said, ‘We can do this.’ ”

Besides, she said, it was “either join them or sit at home bored.”

“When we first started, we were trying to find something for the boys to do,” Winn said. “It was the middle of winter. We didn’t know anybody in the pack.”

The three moms had four kids in the den among them, and they would gather with their children every so often, read the scouting manual together, and decide which achievements were best for the boys to try to earn their ranks.

“We’d pick out the ones that seemed like fun; things that we could possibly handle,” Winn said. “We didn’t know how to tie knots. It was all new to us.”

By the time all was said and done, the three women had shepherded 10 of the boys in the group all the way through the junior ranks to become Boy Scouts. At minimum, that meant helping each child earn 16 of 20 possible achievements; of those 10 boys, seven completed all 20.

It’s not as though scouting was an immediate love, either, she said. The first outdoor sleep-away camping trip that Jason took with her husband, Chuck, was a miserable affair in which it rained every day. But something stuck, and miserable as the boy was, he ended up loving it and didn’t want to leave, she said.

“The next year I started going to camp with Jason and I haven’t missed a campout since,” Katrina Winn said. “It’s hot as heck in the summer, but it’s so much fun. I’ve learned how to tie knots; I’ve learned how to cook in a Dutch oven; I’ve learned stuff.

“I just love watching somebody learn something and get it,” she said. “It’s neat to watch a child grow. [In the beginning] all they want to do is poke the fire. They don’t care how it got started. Then it’s, ‘Let me collect the wood.’ ”

Today, Kyle is 17, Jason, 13, and Alex, 9; the older boys are Boy Scouts, and the youngest is a Cub Scout. In six years, Kyle and Jason have advanced to join the Order of the Arrow, a select, peer-invitation-only subset of scouts that brings them to the Raven Knob Scout Reservation in Mt. Airy, North Carolina five or six times a year for preferred activities. Although the acreage of the camp is vast, Katrina Winn knows the boys “couldn’t get lost there even if they tried” because of the achievements they’ve taken from scouting.

“I don’t worry about them getting hurt and not knowing what to do,” she said. “Not only have they learned the physical skills, they’ve also learned the scout law: be loyal, trustworthy, kind, honest, friendly – not just to humans; to trees, property, animals.”

Moreover, Katrina Winn said she was grateful that the family has enjoyed scouting as something in which they can participate together. When Raven Knob has a parent-son scout family campout, Kyle and Jason work it as activity leaders, and Alex knows he’s likely to encounter one of his brothers in a leadership role. Everyone is united at the end of the day for meals and bedtime, but having their different opportunities to succeed as teachers or students is good for all of them, Katrina Winn said.

“It’s made them very independent,” she said. “They go up there and have a good old time. Some nights I barely see them when I get home from work on a Friday night, and they get home Sunday at noon.”

The confidence scouting has given her sons extends beyond outdoorsmanship to other life skills, from first aid to volunteerism. When a friend of the family injured her leg chopping wood with a hatchet, Kyle moved without a second thought to bandage the wound until the woman could get to her primary care physician.

Last weekend the trio helped plant trees throughout the community. Every February the boys participate in “scouting for food,” a program that involves collecting canned goods for local food banks. Kyle is currently planning his Eagle Scout project, through which he intends to design, plan, and construct picnic benches for a local athletic field.

“They get to do different things,” Katrina Winn said. “It’s a very well-rounded program. I think they’ve grown a lot from it.”

That personal growth is something that has transferred among all three boys and their parents as well, she said – which leads Katrina Winn to her advice for fellow parents of scouts.

“If you’re going to do scouting, get involved with it,” she said. “Don’t just take them, sit in the corner, and let somebody else teach your kid. Get involved with it. Learn along with your child.”