SALEM - While membership in local Boy Scout units has declined slightly, supporters say the programs remain a fun way for youths to learn the importance of teamwork, friendship and community service.
During the first-ever Scout Fun Night, held Friday evening, members gathered in the Salem High School cafeteria to reach out to the next generation.
Wearing freshly ironed uniforms, Cub Scouts polished up their Pinewood Derby cars for a little friendly competition and tried their hand at an indoor target practice. And Boy Scouts showed off their camping and survival prowess, setting up tents and sharing slides of some of their most recent outdoor excursions.
Thomas Hueber, assistant district commissioner of the Nutfield District of the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said he hopes the Fun Night will become a yearly tradition. "Over the past two years, we've definitely seen a bit of a decline in memberships. Hopefully, by having an event like this, we'll get some new recruits. We'll show families what we're all about and have some fun while we're at it."
The Nutfield District encompasses Salem, Windham, Pelham, Derry and Londonderry.
Salem currently has eight active troops, ranging from Cub Scout packs for boys in grades one through five, to the Boy Scout program for boys ages 11-17, to the specialized Venturing programs for boys and girls ages 14-21.
Hueber said he thinks one of the reasons for the decline in memberships, locally and nationally, is simply that "the old recruiting system just isn't working anymore." Traditionally, youths learned about Scouting opportunities while at school, "which just hasn't been very effective lately."
In Salem, scouting troops meet in churches, the VFW Post, the Elks lodge and the Knights of Columbus center.
Scoutmaster Owen Hurley of Troop 159 said he has 14 boys in his troop, a number that has remained steady over the past two years, but he is concerned about what might happen when his current group of kids eventually outgrows the program. Fortunately, that won't happen anytime soon, since five new recruits just signed on.
"Our goal is to go out camping every month," he said, sharing anecdotes from their recent trip to Franconia Notch, where they encountered a lone moose.
Nearby, Hurley's son, Liam, 16, who serves as the troop's Senior Patrol Leader, furrowed his brow as he carefully tied three poles together to create a teepee-like structure, which could be used for an emergency shelter as well as a hanger for cooking pots. "We learn a lot about surviving: the skills we need if we're every lost in the woods."
For more information, go to nhscouting.doubleknot.com