The opening ceremony for Pack 42 of the Cub Scouts unfolded as it has for years with flags, scout salutes and pledges.
There was one notable difference on Tuesday night.
It was led by Anna Frazier, a 7-year-old girl and new Cub Scout.
She and her twin sister Lily are the pack’s first female members. In October, executives with Boys Scouts of America’s national office announced that girls will be able to join their organization for the first time.
“On my honor, I will do my best …” Anna intoned, as Scout Master Glenn Hayes whispered the words in her ear.
Then she gave the two-finger Cub Scout salute. (Boy Scouts use three fingers.) The rest of the pack inside Fern Hill Elementary School returned the salute.
The twins’ 9-year-old brother, James, had been a member for over a year when the announcement came last fall. They had attended meetings and activities with him.
“It just seemed natural to sign my daughters up and let them be part of Boy Scouts,” mom Terri said. “It’s a family thing.”
The family thing was a main driver in their decision.
“We were going to end up being split,” Terri said. “My husband and son would have gone one direction, and we would have gone the other.”
Being able to participate as a family was important, dad Andrew said. It’s a sentiment echoed by Pacific Harbors Council executive Ralph Voelker.
“(Parents) were telling us that separating the boys and girls was making it difficult to participate,” Voelker said. “Our volunteers have been asking us to do this for a long time.”
Voelker said the move will also encourage greater participation from cultural groups where gender segregation is less common.
“This is going to allow us to serve some cultures where they prefer to participate as a family,” he said.
For the Fraziers, the decision was long overdue.
“There was no doubt in their minds they were ready to join,” Terri said of her daughters.
“Girls can be like boys if they want,” Anna added.
So far, 55 of the council’s 6,413 members are girls, Voelker said.
Three packs in the Tacoma area accept girls but others will soon have the option.
“We’re leading the nation in rolling out this program,” Voelker said. The Pacific Harbors Council encompasses the region from Chehalis to Federal Way and from the Pacific Ocean to Mount Rainier. He estimated 15 to 20 out of the region’s 133 packs now have girl members.
Heavy recruitment of girls will begin in the fall, he said. But already it’s had an unintended benefit.
“For every two girls we’ve recruited, we’ve recruited one of their brothers,” he said.
BSA has four main programs. All of them, except for Boy Scouts, are currently welcoming girls, Voelker said. Boy Scouts, probably just called Scouts by then, will accept girls by Feb. 1, 2019.
Unlike their other programs (Cub Scouts, Webelos, Sea Scouts, Venturing), Scout troops will be gender segregated, he said.
Whether packs will accept girls will be a pack-by-pack decision, Voelker said. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has long been heavily involved with scouting, will maintain a boys-only policy.
Some packs may create girl dens and boy dens, as Pack 42 has done. Terri Frazier and another mom, Kristina Hayes, lead the girls den. Hayes’ daughter Violet will soon be the third member.
“We’re going to be supportive of whatever decision they make,” Voelker said of packs.
The Frazier girls seem unimpressed by the historic change. They just wanted equal opportunities with their brother.
“I still don’t think in their minds that they know how big of a deal this is,” Terri said.
The main difference from last year is that they are wearing uniforms. Those include skorts — short-skirt combos. They are a hot item in the Scout shop, Voelker said.
After the opening ceremony Tuesday evening, the boys and girls went outside to launch potatoes, toys and balls from a homemade catapult.
The girls were looking forward to their first camping trip.
“We get to do s’mores and we got a tent that’s really big,” Anna said.
“It’s so big I could do a cartwheel in it,” Lily said.