It has been many years since the community of Barriere had an active Scout Troop based in the area. However, thanks to the tenacity of a local mom that’s all going to change.
When area resident and Sarah McNeil started looking for activities for her seven year old son last summer she was disappointed to find there were none that she was specifically looking for within the Barriere area.
McNeil tells she was hoping to find a Scouts group within driving distance, but unfortunately what she learned was the 1st Wells Grey Scouts in Clearwater had closed down a few years ago because of lack of volunteers, and that Heffley Creek was currently in a very similar situation.
“I put some feelers out over Facebook to see if any other parents were interested in getting a group going and began doing research to see what would be needed to create a group,” said McNeil, “This is such an amazing program for the kids in our community.”
In order to get started the first thing the mom had to do, “Was find and recruit some amazing parents and community members who were willing to volunteer. We needed volunteers to help with administrative duties, finances, and to work directly with our amazing Barriere kids.”
The Scouts Canada program is well known, is the country’s leading co-ed youth organization, while offering programming for children and youth aged 5-26. With over 50,000 youth participating across the country, in multiple languages that Canada’s multicultural landscape, kids and youth in Scouts can chart their own path of discovery. Through a variety of fun experiences, outdoor adventures and contributions to their community, Scouts builds resilience and skills that help set youth up for life.
Scouting volunteers must be able to provide a clean criminal record check, and complete the required training which can all be done online. McNeil notes one of the trainings required has a minimal cost, but the training is to ensure youth safety, and is recognized across North America.
“I knew there had been talk of a Barriere Scouts group getting started in the last couple of years, but this is the year we can really do it. It will be lots of fun for the kids, and the volunteers as well,” said McNeil, “It’s a great opportunity to get involved in the community and create friendships and life long memories for our kids.”
McNeil’s enthusiasm has quickly started the ball rolling, members of the community volunteered, and the Barriere Legion has stepped up and offered their support.
“I may have taken on more than I bargained for,” says McNeil, “As I have now been placed as the Group Commissioner for the 1st Barriere Scouts.”
However, she feels that they are off to a good start thanks to those who have already stepped forward.
“We have a really great core group of Scouters now. Amanda Summers has been amazing at helping with applying for grant funding. Caitlyn Piton has over 15 years of Scouting under her belt and brings us the experience that the rest of us don’t have. My husband Tom Purkiss is my rock through this process, and my mother, Cathy McNeil, is also involved as our treasurer, and we currently have a few more Scouters in the process of registration as well.”
McNeil adds the main difficulty for starting and successfully running the program depends on the availability of its volunteer base.
“We’re hoping more parents and community members will consider joining as we get going so our core group doesn’t burn out.
“We would love to make 1st Barriere Scouts not only a youth activity, but something families can do together. Camping as families, hiking and adventuring. I believe it’s a lovely opportunity for our community to come together and make memories.”
The first meeting of the 1st Barriere Scouts group with the youth will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 5:30 p.m., in the downstairs hall of the Barriere Legion.
“We are so grateful to the Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary for donating the use of the space to us,” said the mom, “The generosity of our community is fantastic.”
McNeil states the goal of 1st Barriere Scouts is to make sure all families have the opportunity to take part in Scouts if they want to.
“We realize it can be expensive to join,” said McNeil, “But Scouts Canada has a ton of options for financial assistance, and there is an option to apply for an instant subsidy upon registration. As we generate more funding, and more community support we aim to ease financial burdens on families who want their children to participate. No child should get left behind because of income limitations.”
Currently 1st Barriere Scouts are registering boys and girls ages 5 to 10 into the program.
“Ideally we’ll eventually have two different sections meeting, Beavers (5-7 years) and Cubs (8-10 years), but for now we will be holding the meetings at the same time because we do not have enough volunteers to support two gatherings.”
Parents and youth can learn about the program and how they can sign up by going to: www.scouts.ca
McNeil encourages anyone willing to lend a hand in any way “to please shoot me a message”.
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