Local Cub Scout pack celebrates six decades

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  • Tristan Sonderegger, 8, a Bear, and others raise their hands for the Scout Oath at the start of their meeting on Jan. 16, at St. Matthew’s School in Kalispell.Tristan is the son of Cub Master John Sonderegger. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Cub Master John Sonderegger instructs Noah Martinez, 10, a Webelo 2, on what to do during the flag ceremony at the beginning of their meeting on Tuesday evening, January 16, at St. Matthew's School in Kalispell. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Detail of the Pack 4944 patch. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    From left, Mason Roloff, 7, his mother Cora Roloff, and her nephew Trace Roloff, 8, enjoy a moment together before the start of the Pack 4944 meeting. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.

  • 4

    Detail of a boy wearing a Webelos neckerchief.

  • Tristan Sonderegger, 8, a Bear, and others raise their hands for the Scout Oath at the start of their meeting on Jan. 16, at St. Matthew’s School in Kalispell.Tristan is the son of Cub Master John Sonderegger. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    Cub Master John Sonderegger instructs Noah Martinez, 10, a Webelo 2, on what to do during the flag ceremony at the beginning of their meeting on Tuesday evening, January 16, at St. Matthew's School in Kalispell. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 2

    Detail of the Pack 4944 patch. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 3

    From left, Mason Roloff, 7, his mother Cora Roloff, and her nephew Trace Roloff, 8, enjoy a moment together before the start of the Pack 4944 meeting. Pack 4944 is the oldest pack in the Flathead Valley and one of the oldest in Montana.

  • 4

    Detail of a boy wearing a Webelos neckerchief.

For their most recent meeting, the boys of Cub Scout Pack 4944 brought in cakes they had baked for a competition, wriggled their way through a game of “hoop the loop,” and went over plans for their annual Blue and Gold Banquet on Feb. 20.

But first, they presented the flags.

“Once we get to Boy Scouts, we’re gonna have to know how to do this,” Cub-master Jon Sonderegger reminded the Cub Scouts, who had assembled in the basement of St. Matthew’s Catholic School. At Sonderegger’s direction, some of them lined up behind the stars and stripes, while others filed in behind the Pack’s blue-and-gold flag.

Eager to see them give a crisp presentation, Sonderegger walked the Scouts back a few times and corrected their mistakes, never losing his patience. “It’s a learning process, we’re all learning,” he said.

For over a century, Cub Scouting has helped boys learn the skills they’ll need as Boy Scouts and as citizens. Pack 4944 is celebrating six decades of this work in the Flathead Valley.

It’s a local offshoot of the worldwide Scouting movement, founded by British military officer Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 and brought to America in 1910. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic soon sought to include younger boys in the program.

According to the Boy Scouts of America’s website, Baden-Powell introduced a “wolf cubbing” program for Britain’s soon-to-be boy scouts in 1914, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” The Boy Scouts of America followed suit in 1929 with a similar program.

Each group of boys is called a “Pack,” and is usually based at a school or religious institution. The Pack meets once a month. “Dens” organized by age meet weekly, except the week of a Pack meeting. A scout begins in the Tiger Den in first grade, and works his way up to “Webelos,” shorthand for “we’ll be loyal scouts,” in fourth and fifth grades.

The boys’ ages require more parental involvement than Boy Scout Troops, which serve youth aged 11 to 17. There are also fewer of the outdoor adventures often linked with Scouting. But one of the leaders, outgoing Assistant Cub-master Barbara Anderson, said that the expectations are still high.

“We’re always trying to emphasize the Scout Law, the Scout Motto, and making sure the boys are following those ideals, not just at our meetings, but in the outside world too,” she told the Daily Inter Lake while setting up for the meeting. The Law states that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. The Motto: Be prepared.

“We always try to emphasize that.”

Anderson was quick to add that “we’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of our pack meetings.

“September is our STEM pack meeting...so we had them make catapults out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and we had things launching all over.”

As she spoke, Scouts were leaving imaginatively iced cakes on a table for judging in the Pack’s cake bake. “It gives the boys a chance to work on those cooking skills, gets them in the kitchen,” she explained. “Parents are only allowed to help a little bit.”

Other projects that Pack 4944’s kids tackle over the course of the year include an Earth Day trash pickup, a skate party and a summertime family campout. “I think the best part is earning the badges,” including one for snowboarding, said Anderson’s son, 10-year-old Atreyu Oxford. He joined as a Tiger; another member of his den, Aaron Conners, started more recently but already has a favorite badge from the Pack’s build-your-own-model-racecar Pinewood Derby.

Chartered with St. Matthew’s since 1958, Pack 4944 was one of the first groups offering these opportunities to Montana boys. Anderson said that membership has fluctuated over time. “A lot of times Scouting doesn’t come across as cool to some people as it used to, so we’re always fighting those battles.”

Even so, the Pack brings 34 Cub Scouts together for regular group activities. Asked why she thought 4944 had endured for six decades, Anderson replied, “I think because the parents are really dedicated to their kids.”

She currently has two sons, Atreyu and Arrol Oxford, in the Pack.

“We really want to make sure that they get the best experiences out of their childhood as we can give them.”

This effort reaches a high point every February, at the pack’s annual Blue and Gold Banquet. The fifth-grade Webelos scouts will earn the Arrow of Light award and move on to Boy Scouts.

“I’m looking forward to camping,” Atreyu said. The Webelos scout already has his sights set on Eagle Scout, earned by just four percent of participants. “That’s my goal,” he said of the prestigious rank.

To get there, he and his friends will use the same virtues introduced in Cub Scouts – persistence, teamwork, a commitment to service – with more independence.

“You go from the youthful to the adult aspect” of Scouting, Sonderegger said. “You go from having Den Leaders and Cub-Masters trying to lead everything, into Boy Scouts, where it’s boy-led, and the adults just help guide you to becoming a better person.”

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Pack 4944’s leaders invite all who were members during its first 20 years to come and share their memories at the Blue and Gold Banquet, which will be held Feb. 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Central School Museum.

Attendees can RSVP or seek further information by sending an email to pack4944mt@gmail.com, calling Barbara Anderson at (406)890-0080, or writing to Pack 4944, P.O. Box 3333, Kalispell, MT 59903

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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