Brooklynite Todd Schweikert, a former Boy Scout himself and the father of two, was turned off by the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay members and leaders so he decided to start an inclusive troop of his own.
The 33-year-old Windsor Terrace resident grew up in Iowa as a Boy Scout and even earned his Eagle badge, something famously denied to openly gay teen Ryan Andresen, and wanted his seven-year-old son to have the same positive experience.
But finding conflict with the BSA’s anti-gay policy, the former scout started a troop that welcomes both boys and girls, doesn’t discriminate against gays and doesn’t have a religious component: the Fifth Brooklyn Scouts.
Schweikert hopes to attract other parents who want their kids to experience the joys of scouting without the BSA’s increasingly unpopular restrictions.
“I think the need and the want is there,” Schweikert told DNAinfo. “A lot of people want their children to be in scouts, but a lot of people have issues with their policies.”
So far over 40 kids have expressed interest in joining the Fifth Brooklyn Scouts.
Before settling on the Baden-Powell Service Association as his troop’s parent group, Schweikert looked into several alternative scouting options. Though some troops under the BSA have gone against the organization’s guidelines by allowing girls and gays to join, Schweikert didn’t want money from his dues going towards supporting its discriminatory policies.
The Fifth Brooklyn Scouts will meet weekly at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture near Prospect Park, which will afford the kids opportunities for “nature observation”, overnight camping trips and weekend hikes. Troops will also learn classic scouting skills such as knot-tying and perform community service projects, while earning badges for their accomplishments.
“It really builds character,” Schweikert explained. “It prepares them for leadership roles. It’s not just running around in the woods with knives.”