Author: pinewoodcup

Criminal Convictions and the Boy Scouts of America

If you’re gearing up for the upcoming Scout season, and would love nothing more than to be part of the group leadership – but have a couple of black marks on your criminal record and aren’t sure of how well you’d be received – you’ll want check out the info we have for you below.

The Boy Scouts of America (and most other youth groups) are really cracking down

In the early days of the Boy Scouts of America, youth baseball, basketball, football, and soccer – amongst pretty much every single other youth group or youth activity imaginable – the only qualifications necessary for leading a team, running a chapter or organization, or becoming a part of the leadership group was that you had a boy or girl in the activity.

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Today, literally nothing could be further from the truth.

In a world where there are threats all around us – a world where attacks against children by adults that have been put in positions of leadership or responsibility for those individuals are happening at a seemingly explosive rate – it’s impossible to just “hand over the keys to the car” to a Boy Scout group, a baseball team, or a soccer team and hope for the best.

No, it’s impossible to have this kind of cavalier attitude to the individuals that are allowed to run and interact with our children after incidents like an attack in early 2003 by a man named Thomas Hacker.

Hacker was (by all accounts) a relatively normal fellow, a man that was looking to get engaged in a local Boy Scout chapter in the Burbank, California community. An older man without a child in the group himself, people still were looking to unload a bit of the responsibility and burden of running an active Boy Scout chapter to another man – and they welcomed him with open arms.

Unfortunately they did so without running a background check beforehand.

If they had taken the time to do so, they would have learned that this seemingly normal fellow was anything but – he was a convicted sex offender that preyed on children in the 1980s.

This would (unsurprisingly) lead to an unfortunate situation where he sexually assaulted one of the 11 year old boys under his charge as a scout leader. And though he was sentenced to a 100 year prison term for this sexual assault, that young boy is going to have to deal with the pain and repercussions of this attack – and the lack of a background check – for the rest of his life.

Background checks are the norm when looking to get involved with children

Instances like the one involving Hacker aren’t exactly commonplace by any stretch of the imagination, but they aren’t the rarest thing any longer, either.

This is why the overwhelming majority of groups out there that deal with young people – including the Boy Scouts of America, the American Youth Soccer Organization, Little League Baseball, and a whole host of others – require each and every one of their volunteers to disclose criminal offenses and also host random screenings and background checks to verify that the people volunteering are qualified to be trusted with these young people in the first place.

Sex offenders are universally disqualified, while violent offenders and those with a DUI or substance abuse related issues may be disqualified as well. Those that have been involved in nonviolent and nonsexual crimes will be given special consideration, as well as those that have only a handful of blemishes from the early part of their life decades ago.

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The important detail to remember here is that you are going to want to voluntarily disclose any and all issues during the volunteer application. If you hesitate, or if you leave something off of the application that is uncovered in a random background check later on, you’re almost always going to be removed from the group and may have litigation pressed upon you as well.

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI or other nonviolent and nonsexual crimes, make sure that you provide this information up front and be honest about the situation. Your odds of becoming a part of the leadership group go up substantially when you do so.

Pinewood Derby

Any boy that has spent any amount of time in the Cub Scouts (the little brother of the Boy Scouts of America) has fond memories of the major event at the end of the year – the Pinewood Derby.

Regardless of how anyone finishes, boys (and their parents or grandparents) are always going to remember the process of building, shaping, and designing the car that they were going to stack up against the rest of the competition.

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These are the kinds of memories that last a lifetime, the kinds of memories that so many boys look forward to sharing with their own children and grandchildren when they grow up.

Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of America have reported that attendance in the Cub Scouts is getting lower and lower each year. This means that a lot of boys are missing out on the opportunity to create their own Pinewood Derby vehicle, and missing out on the opportunity to create lifelong memories along the way.

Hopefully this trend will reverse in the future – but only time will tell.

The Past

The very first ever Pinewood Derby was held in Manhattan Beach, California on May 15, 1953.

Cub Scout Pack 280C (now Pack 713) Cubmaster Don Murphy cooked up the idea after learning that his own son was going to be too young to compete in the Soap Box Derby races. Because his son was so heartbroken over the news that he wasn’t going to be able to embrace these oversized wood “cars”, Murphy decided to come up with a miniaturized version so that all boys his age – and even younger – would have the opportunity to race.

Thousands and thousands of brochures were sent out worldwide after the first Pinewood Derby race was hosted at the Harmer house, and interest in this activity exploded exponentially. Boy Scouts of America made it an official part of the Cub Scout experience, and by 1954 thousands of Cub Scout packs across the country were rolling out their own versions of the Pinewood Derby and their gravity powered vehicles.

The Present

For the most part, the Pinewood Derby remained unchanged from its original concept idea: Small wooden cars that the Cub Scouts themselves would build (with help from their parents or grandparents) with material that was provided by the Cub Scouts themselves.

However, in 1980 there were small changes to the actual design of the wooden blocks that were provided to Scouts. Instead of a cutout block that looked a lot like a front engine Indy 500 car from the 1940s, Scouts were provided with a rectangular solid block so that they’d have the opportunity to shape and craft it in any way that they’d like. The tires were also change from narrow hard plastic tires to “racing slicks” that were a little bit wider for improved performance, stability, and speed.

Today, Scouts are given a block of pine, four plastic wide wheels, and four nails with which to build their vehicle.

Scouts are required to use all nine pieces in the construction of their vehicle, though there also able to use other outside materials as long as the vehicle does not exceed 150 grams or 5 ounces in weight, isn’t any wider than two and three-quarter inches, and isn’t any longer than 7 inches.

It must also fit on the track that has been created for that particular Cub Scout pack.

The blocks can be shaped, whittled, or transformed using any variety of different tools, and decals or paint is also accessible for Cub Scouts that want to really customize their racecar. Cub Scouts are also able to attach extra sources of weight usually in the form of coins, lead pieces, and other heavier objects) to bring the car just as close to its maximum weight as humanly possible – though they must be careful not to go over, as they will be disqualified from the race.

On race day Scouts will bring their vehicle to the race location, will be separated into “racing heats”, and will have the opportunity to compete for an award. It’s generally a bunch of fun for all involved!

The Future

Unsurprisingly (when you’re talking about a group of competitive boys and their parents), the future of Pinewood Derby racing is really about enforcing the rules as they have been established.

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Aftermarket car kits are being sold on places like eBay for anywhere between $100 and $500 – and though they are “legal”, they have been designed and over engineered to give Scouts a competitive advantage and aren’t really in the spirit of the event at the same time.

As mentioned above, enrollment in the Cub Scouts is down across the board but hopefully that will change in the future to keep the spirit of the Pinewood Derby alive.

For those that weren’t able to get in on the action, Revell has been licensed by the Boy Scouts of America to produce kits available for sale if you’d like to cook one up on your own!