As girls join the boys in their Scouting adventures, this local Scoutmaster finds herself in familiar territory – on the cutting edge of leadership
Since February, girls across the United States have been able to join Boy Scouts – now appropriately known as just Scouts – and participate in the group’s famous outdoor programs. Lori Dowers, the Scoutmaster for the new all-girls Troop 529 in Lake Mary, is thrilled.
“As soon as I learned that the Boy Scouts of America was accepting girls, I agreed to be the Scoutmaster of the new troop,” says Lori. “I was excited about the new opportunities for my daughter Arwen and other young women.”
Lori is no stranger to the full breadth of the Scouting landscape. The former Cub Scout den mom and assistant Scoutmaster learned all about Boy Scouts when she went through the program a decade ago with her son Erik, who achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout. She has also participated in Girl Scout Troop 984 with her two daughters, Sara and 15-year-old Arwen.
Lori has sold closets full of Boy Scout popcorn in her day and minivans full of Girl Scout cookies to raise funds for both groups. And while she admits the cookies have a distinct advantage over the popcorn, Lori is excited girls can now enjoy what was, in her opinion, the best part of Boy Scouts: Young women who want to camp and go on high-adventure treks can now do so just about every month. Girl Scouts, meanwhile, are less focused on outdoor activities.
“I totally embrace and support both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” says Lori. “I think that there are pros to both, and it depends upon what you are looking to get out of the programs.”
Like her mom, Arwen is interested in outdoor adventures. Lori’s experiences in nature run the gamut from a canoe trek in Canada, a dog sled run in the Great North, and backpacking hikes in the desert of the American Southwest.
Arwen also likes the idea of mandatory merit badges and advancing in rank.
“I always wanted to do the things that Boy Scouts did,” she says. “Now I can.”
Troop 854, 529’s brother unit, has been sponsored by Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Lake Mary for 34 years. The Troop is proud of its 100 Eagle Scouts in that time. They are also proud of their newest Scouts and what those girls are going to accomplish.
“Once it was determined that Holy Cross was going to sponsor a girls’ troop, we wanted to use all the resources of the boys’ troop to set them up for success,” says Jason Proodian, Troop 854 committee chairman. “We wanted the girls coming into Scouting to have the same great experience as the boys.”
There are still a few bugs to work out, mostly logistical ones. But the girls will follow the same practices as the boys. Both troops will meet on Tuesdays. They will share equipment, resources, and leaders. And for everyone’s safety, the girls will have their own separate camping area on trips just as the adults and the boys already do.
Lori loves to highlight Scouting’s existing coed program called Venture Crew, for which she has served as an advisor, as proof there are a lot of outdoorsy women.
“I think people will find that there are more girls interested in outdoor life than previously thought,” says Lori, whose husband Greg will serve as her assistant Scoutmaster. “Especially in families with sons and daughters. Parents want them to have the same opportunities.”
And Lori thinks that once girls hear about the new Scouts and how much fun their friends are having, they’ll join, too.
“I find that one of the best recruiting tools is the girls telling their friends we got to do this, and we got to do that,” she says.
Currently a half-dozen girls have joined Troop 529. Everyone in the organization is excited to see who the Troop’s first female Eagle Scout will be.
Now that sounds like a real Scouting adventure.
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