As a former Boy Scout raised in Iowa, Todd Schweikert wanted his 7-year-old son to share in the experience. But the Brooklyn-based father of two hated the idea of signing up with an organization that openly discriminates against gay people. So he used his scout's ingenuity to strike out on his own, starting a new Brooklyn troop that welcomes boys and girls and doesn't discriminate against gay members.
"I think the need and the want is there," Schweikert told DNA.info. "A lot of people want their children to be in scouts, but a lot of people have issues with their policies."
While it's not uncommon for local chapters to ignore official policies against admitting girls or gay members, Schweikert opted not to join the national organization. Because he didn't want any of his dues money to go toward supporting the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies, he asked an alternative scouting service, Baden-Powell Service Association, to anchor his troop.
Schweikert's troop, the "Fifth Brooklyn Scouts," will meet weekly at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. They will explore nearby Prospect Park for "nature observation," and venture out of the city for overnight camping trips and weekend hikes. He plans to teach the troop all of the classic knot-tying and elderly-assisting skills they'll need -- without any of the homophobic baggage.
There are already more than 40 kids and parents who have expressed interest in joining the troop, and Schweikert is excited to introduce scouting to a new generation.
"It really builds character," he explained. "It prepares them for leadership roles. It's not just running around in the woods with knives."