Norwich Scouts Make Political Point With Pancakes
Ian Surat-Mosher listens for an egg order as John Olszewski monitors the grill during yesterday’s pancake breakfast, hosted by Boy Scout Troop 253, at the Norwich Grange Hall to raise money for a gay and lesbian youth support organization. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Boy Scout Dakota Hanchett, 12, talks with friends Avery Monahan, 14, left, Will Smith, 14, and Lucas Blackmore, 14, all of Norwich, during a pancake breakfast hosted by Troop 253 at the Norwich Grange yesterday. The event raised money for The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention support for gay and lesbian youth. “We could quite simply tend to our camping and our merit badges,” said Scoutmaster Tom Porter. “But there is this groundswell of public opinion that the boys just can’t ignore.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Harry Olszewski, 13, serves Natalie Thompson, 11, center, while Max Porter, 15, back left, talks with Wendy Thompson, right, during yesterday’s pancake breakfast. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Norwich — Pancakes sizzled on the stove. An older Boy Scout chatted with a volunteer about his college plans. Paper plates, piled high with classic breakfast food, sat atop picnic-style tablecloths.
In its sights, its smells and its tastes, there was nothing extraordinary about the pancake breakfast put on by the Norwich Boy Scout Troop 253 yesterday at the Grange.
But all the money raised was set to go to The Trevor Project, a national organization that provides suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
So, as much as yesterday was about breakfast, it was also about a local troop breaking with the policies of the national Boy Scouts of America.
“We don’t get very involved with the politics of Boy Scouts, normally,” said Tom Porter, the leader of Troop 253.
But no longer.
His troop normally is one that would rather go camping than talk Scout politics, he said, but the breakfast provided an opportunity to demonstrate for a cause.
I personally love that we’re doing this,” said Alexander Olszewski, 11. “I don’t think we should be prejudiced against people.”
He continued: “Part of the Boy Scout motto is, stay morally straight and help other people out at …”
“… all times,” he and Dakota Hanchett, 12, said in unison.
Last summer, Boy Scout headquarters reaffirmed its policy of excluding all but heterosexual adults and Scouts from the organization. It’s set to take the issue up again in May, and can overturn its policy, keep it in place or defer judgment to individual troops, Porter said.
In the meantime, the national organization has sent out surveys to troops, offering various hypotheticals and asking for thoughts. One question reads: “A gay male troop leader, along with another adult leader, is taking a group of boys on a camping trip. ... Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip?”
“This really bothers me,” said John Olszewski, Alexander’s father, said of the question.
The Norwich troop isn’t alone in its views.
Last year, the Northern Star Council, which serves Minnesota, came out as inclusive.
But the Norwich group’s statement was still made yesterday, alongside a line of eggs, pancakes and bacon dished out to residents by some of the Norwich troop’s 16 members, all between 11 and 17.
Pitchers of blueberry batter stood at the ready in the kitchen behind them, among packages of bacon — “I need a bacon separator!” yelled John Hanchett, Dakota’s father, at one point.
Later, Porter estimated about 200 residents, some of whom came as usual for the monthly Grange breakfast, but most of whom came for the cause. After expenses are covered, $1,029 will go to The Trevor Project, he said.
At the Grange entrance yesterday, potential breakfasters were offered a Norwich Boy Scouts fact sheet, which set out its ideals simply: “Norwich Boy Scout Troop 253 is open and inclusive, and stands in strong opposition to this ban,” the sheet read.
“Thank God,” said Richard Corum, of Norwich, as he finished off several pieces of bacon. “At last. It’s about time.”
“Why bring children up as bigots?”
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.