February 27, 2003

Troop 48 back on top
Determined parents ensure survival, success of Sherman Boy Scouts
By Nancy Sohl

Michael Monahan, 13, gets help from other Troop 48 scouts during a trust-building exercise at a recent Monday night meeting.
The News-Times/Carol Kaliff

Michael Monahan, 13, gets help from other Troop 48 scouts during a trust-building exercise at a recent Monday night meeting.

Leaders in the Sherman Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs include, sitting, from left: Frank Spaziani, Alvin Tuck, Larry Lynch and Tony Carpanzano; and standing, from left, Ron Blois, Ted Karas, Carol Havens, Fran Frattini and Hugh Delage.

Leaders in the Sherman Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs include, sitting, from left: Frank Spaziani, Alvin Tuck, Larry Lynch and Tony Carpanzano; and standing, from left, Ron Blois, Ted Karas, Carol Havens, Fran Frattini and Hugh Delage.

SHERMAN — Everyone knows the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared.” But there’s a different directive for adult volunteers in this town. It’s "Don’t Give Up.”

The effort to revive Troop 48 began in 1991. Membership had dwindled until there were just two boys left. Scoutmaster Ted Karas and Alvin Tuck, troop committee chairman, decided to stop meeting.

"It just wasn’t worth it,” says Tuck, 57, who owns A.J. Tuck Co. in Brookfield and has been involved with Boy Scouts for 23 years.

Karas blames the troop’s troubles on "a pretty low population of scout-age boys. "I remember going through the (school) class rosters,” he says. "I knew just about every boy between sixth and eighth grade and whether he was in or out (of Scouts).”

In addition to too few boys, Tuck and Karas were the troop’s only adult leaders. A healthy scout troop also has an assistant scoutmaster, troop committee members, activities coordinator, secretary and treasurer.

"We didn’t solicit more help properly, and we didn’t understand the importance of it at the time,” Tuck admits.

"There’s quite a bit of planning involved in executing this program,” Karas agrees.

Today, Troop 48 has 33 Boy Scouts and 22 adult leaders. Nine boys have become Eagle Scouts in as many years, and seven of them work with the troop whenever they can.

But it took concerned and enthusiastic parents who believed in scouting — and who didn’t wait for someone else to do what they knew had to be done.

Parents like Town Clerk Carol Havens, 58, and Francis Frattini, 53, administrative coordinator for the Candlewood Lake Authority. Their sons, Daniel and Stephen, respectively, were first-graders in 1989.

"We signed our boys up for Tiger Cubs,” Frattini says. "We waited and we waited and we waited for someone to tell us that the Tigers were going to meet.”

After a year, believing Cub Scout Pack 84 "was pretty much falling apart,” she and Havens met with other parents to reform the pack. They became leaders of one of two dens and persuaded Tom Walstrom to become cubmaster.

In 1993, five Webelos were ready to "cross over” to Boy Scouts. But Troop 48 was on the brink of breaking up.

"We went to Mr. Tuck and said you’ve got to hold the troop together,” Frattini says.

Craig Richardson, 52, of Corporate Compensation Plans of Connecticut in Danbury, was a Cub Scout troop committee member at the time. He says he and Walstrom spent weekends "beating the bushes” for boys and adult volunteers.

Boy Scout regulations require at least five boys in a troop, a trained scoutmaster, two assistant scoutmasters, one of whom must be trained, and a troop committee of at least three.

"The difficult process was finding someone to be the leader. I didn’t really feel qualified,” Richardson says. He and Walstrom asked Tuck to return to Troop 48 as scoutmaster.

"I said I wouldn’t do it alone,” Tuck says.

Larry Lynch 56, an investigator with the New Milford Police Youth Bureau, and Tony Carpanzano, 49, a pharmaceutical scientist with Purdue Pharma in New York, both had boys in Cub Scouts and agreed to spend a weekend training to be assistant scoutmasters.

"It consists of veteran scoutmasters talking about everything you need to know,” Carpanzano says. "Boys basically run their own troop, and the training teaches you how to do that.”

"The ultimate goal is to get the kid to Eagle,” Lynch says, "and there’s a lot to it.”

Tuck decided to meet with Danbury Troop 9 "until we could get our feet back on the ground.”

"It was like a family get-together,” Carpanzano says of the weekly drives with Tuck, Lynch and six boys to St. Gregory Church, where Troop 9 met.

The drives ended a year later, in 1993, when the troop moved back to Sherman. "What (the boys) learned enabled us to start the troop again,” says Tuck.

The biggest factor in attracting boys to Troop 48, according to all these men, is the year-round camping program — to Ski Windham, Boston Navy Yard and the USS Constitution, Gettysburg, and Block Island, among others.

"Most have parents telling them you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Carpanzano says. "They say, ‘We want to go skiing,’ We go skiing during the day, we camp out at night. They don’t want to come home.”

Campouts also are a safe way to learn by making mistakes. Carpanzano remembers one boy who brought only a bagel for breakfast. "No butter, no cream cheese, no jelly,” he says. "The only other thing this kid had was a Hershey bar.”

You can be sure that won’t happen on the next trip. There is always an evaluation session at the end of each campout.

Adult leaders sit down with the boys and take a look at what went wrong and what went well. Lynch describes the questions: "Did you kids have a really balanced diet? If your feet got cold, what was the problem? How can you cure it in the future? Did you get wet in the tent? Maybe you pitched it in a valley and when it rains it all ponds.”

"That’s how you learn to be prepared,” he says.

Boy Scouts certainly prepared Carpanzano’s son Anthony, one of the six boys who joined Troop 48 after it had lain dormant for about a year.

"I was the troop’s first senior patrol leader,” the 23-year-old says. "In a way, I think I had a unique leadership experience. I had this troop that was basically trying to become a troop and I basically had to try and guide that. And the lifesaving badge was tougher in a lot of ways than anything I did in the Marine Corps.”

Carpanzano earned his Eagle, then joined the Marines and attained the rank of corporal. He now attends the University of Connecticut.

The troop itself is doing well, too, recently acquiring a 14-foot trailer to store its gear — tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, cooking utensils, stoves, hatchets. Tuck calls the purchase "a major accomplishment.” And the number of boys is still increasing. Five or six Webelos will cross over in the spring, Tucks says, and seven Life Scouts are working toward Eagle.

One of them is 14-year-old Kevin Richardson. When asked what the biggest loss would’ve been if Troop 48 hadn’t survived, Kevin doesn’t hesitate. "Campouts, they’re a lot of fun,” he says, "and also the guys.” He’s a freshman at Shepaug Valley High School and some of his friends go to other schools. "Being in Boy Scouts, I get to see them,” he adds.

The number of adult volunteers has risen, too. "Fathers just started joining because it was like a club,” says Tuck, then jokes, "If I didn’t have Boy Scouts, I wouldn’t have any friends at all.”

Dan O’Connell, 48, is among the fathers who volunteer their time. He is an assistant scoutmaster and has been with Troop 48 for seven years.

"My wife was den mother (of Pack 84) and my son was transitioning from Webelos into Boy Scouts,” he says. "I was a member of Troop 48 when I was a kid, so that was part of my motivation.

Son Daniel is now 19 and an Eagle Scout.

"It’s something I really think I have a knack for,” O’Connell answers when asked what keeps him involved. "A lot of kids need a male influence. And it’s rewarding to see them progress.”


Division of Ottaway Newspapers,Inc.
333 Main St. Danbury, CT 06810 (203) 744-5100

The News-Times Online Edition is published daily Monday through Sunday.

All items copyright © 2001 by The News-Times unless otherwise noted.

Questions or Comments contact webmaster@newstimes.com