Above, Scoutmaster Mark Golden presents Kiera Griffiths with the Cub Scout neckerchief that he wore as a youth during the recent graduation of Pack 97 Cub Scouts near Montrose as her parents, Amanda VanNostrand and Brandon Griffiths look on. Also pictured are fellow Cub Scouts (from left) Conner Stevens and Scott Burgess. Susquehanna County Cub Scouts, including members of Pack 97, got a lesson on medevac services (below) during summer day camp at Montrose Campground in 2022.
Story by Rick Hiduk / Submitted Photos
(originally published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
Scouting has gone through some changes in recent years, largely to make the opportunities it provides more accessible to both boys and girls who live in areas that may be under-served by traditional Boy and Girl Scout troops. Both experienced declining participation over the past few decades. Though still under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America, since 2018, youths who graduate from Cub Scouts at the end of fifth grade and want to continue their journey become members of Scouts BSA.
An Elk Lake student named Kiera Griffiths is reported to be the first young lady in Susquehanna County to cross that bridge after recently wrapping up her tenure with fellow Pack 97 Cub Scouts who met regularly at the Springville Volunteer Fire Department. After making a big impression on Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters there, Kiera, the daughter of Brandon Griffiths and Amanda VanNostrand, is excited about learning more and enjoying new adventures as a member of Troops 97 and 154, which meets at the Elk Lake American Legion.
As a Cub Scout under leaders Mark Golden, Cortney Tyler, new Cubmaster Victoria Robinson, and Troop founder Jim Borosh, Kiera and her fellow Scouts enjoyed a wide range of activities. “Kiera’s favorite part of Scouting is camping,” said Amanda. “She is especially passionate about knots.” Her penchant for tying knots is attributed to her father, who is a lineman for Claverack Rural Electric Company. Mark often calls on Kiera to demonstrate knots for her fellow Scouts.
Brandon and Mark are childhood friends, as are Kiera and Mark’s son, Hudson. Mark suggested to Kiera that she join Scouting when she was seven. The blending, which caught on quickly at the Cub Scout level, has resulted in about a 40 percent participation rate by girls, and is, because of its leaders, very family-oriented.
“Mark treats me like family and always goes above and beyond for our Scouting adventures. He calls me the ‘Knot Queen,’” Kiera related. As for Jim Borosh, who took a step back in April to encourage new leadership, Kiera noted, “He calls me his ‘sharp shooter.’ He was always kind.”
BB gun and sling shot shooting, fishing, and archery are a few of the many day camp activities at which Kiera has excelled, and Jim (above, right) awarded Kiera with a “Best at BB” award last summer. Also at day camp, held at the Montrose Campground, the Scouts were visited by local police and firefighters, trappers and library associates to provided a well-rounded experience.
“Kiera seems to love the program and all it has to offer. She is being raised with a strong work ethic and good moral characteristics from her parents,” said Mark, a shop teacher at Dallas High School. “Kiera is determined to strive and put in the work to learn what she needs to advance her through her Scouting journey.”
At her Cub Scout graduation, Mark presented her with a red neckerchief that was notably different than the others. At first, Amanda noted, those present thought it was because she was a girl. As it turned out, it was Mark’s neckerchief as a young Scout. “It was touching, and we all cried,” said Amanda.
“Kiera is like a daughter to me, since her father and I have been best friends since we were three,” Mark stated. He also wanted the scarf to mark a milestone of the Baden Powell Council, based in Binghamton, NY, giving the green light for the formation of Girl Troop, led by Cortney Tyler, to operate under the same organization sponsored by the American Legion. “It was a great way to pay tribute to the two troops that can work together as one, without diminishing Troop 154,” Mark added.
According to Amanda, Kiera fully intends to see Scouting through to getting her Eagle Scout badge, despite that being some years away. As the first member of Girl Troop 97, Kiera will serve as a Den Chief for younger youths at this year’s summer day camp in mid July. She will be helping with stations that include archery, BB guns, crafts, fishing, swimming, den time and Scout skills.
From there, Kiera will spend a week at BSA Camp Tuscarora and taking part in her first-year Trailblazers course. “This program will allow her a great start into helping her advance through the ranks of Scouting with the Scouts BSA program,” Mark explained.
Several other local girls have shown an interest in joining Troop 97. While they will be participating in many activities with their male counterparts, the Scouting organization requires that meetings and campouts have a female leader over the age of 21 who has completed all necessary certification for working with youths. And, as Troop 97 grows, the girls will sometimes partake in separate activities.
Kiera is an active member of the Dimock Community Church and learned to play the clarinet this past year as a member of the band at Elk Lake. Looking ahead, Amanda related that Kiera’s current idea for an Eagle project is to guide the construction of a gaga ball pit for youths to enjoy at Montrose Park on Jackson Street. She would also like to see a pavilion constructed at Montrose Campground for Scouts and campers to utilize.
According to Mark, Troops 97 and 154 currently have 18 active members and are always welcome to new recruits. Interested readers may contact him directly at 570-780-8037 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kellie Amlin at the Baden Powell Council at Kellie.Amlin@scouting.org.
Kiera Griffiths had the opportunity to don a headset before climbing into a medevac helicopter that visited Cub Scouts at day camp last summer.