Local scoutmasters reflect on first year of Troop 811

by Dan Holland

For Boy Scout Troop 811 scoutmasters Brian LeRoy and John Brunovsky, the establishment and growth of the group, open to residents of Independence, Brecksville and surrounding communities, was a rousing success in its first year of operation. LeRoy leads the girls’ troop, while Brunovsky leads the boys.

“We were looking to create an experience that was unique from any of the other troops around,” explained LeRoy, whose daughters Bryanna and MaryAnne – both Eagle Scouts – are part of the troop. “We were looking for a whole family experience – something for everyone; boys, girls, and really engage the community equally and encourage participation by everyone.”

Boy Scouts of America began to allow girls into the newly branded Scouts BSA program in 2019. The troop is an outgrowth of Cub Scout Pack 297 in independence, according to Brunovsky.

“Both Brian and I had kids at the troop level and the pack side,” said Brunovsky. “We had developed a culture that we wanted to extend not only at the pack level, but also having a troop that would [accompany] it that had both boys and girls. BSA has a policy in which boys’ troops are separate from girls’ troops, but we wanted to have a troop where we had room for both boys and girls in order to continue to work cooperatively.”

“There are some other troops in the area that are boys only or girls only,” added LeRoy. “But that doesn’t present a great way for a family that might have both gender siblings. The boys may go hiking on one side of town while the girls might go hiking on the other side of town, and if I’m a parent, how do I get them to both places at the same time? We really wanted to have a cohesive environment that was really friendly to families.”

The troop, which is sponsored by and headquartered at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, saw an opportunity at the location after a previous local church’s denomination made a decision to no longer sponsor Boy Scout troops.

The troop has engaged in at least one activity each month since its founding, according to Brunovsky, beginning with participation in Wreaths Across America at Maple Shade Cemetery in Independence, which was followed by a winter campout on the wooded grounds of their new church base in January 2022.

The group engaged in two summer camping trips in 2022: one at Beaumont Scout Reservation in Ashtabula County and a second at Camp Powhatan in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Virginia. Plans in 2023 call for a trip to Summit Bechtel Reserve located in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia. Activities often include rafting, canoeing, rock climbing, rappelling, high ropes courses and team building activities.

The troop, which began with five boys and five girls, has grown to 25 Scouts. During its first year, more than 100 merit badges were earned and a dozen rank advancements took place, according to Brunovsky. Ages range from 11-17, but plans call for adult-age Eagle Scouts to continue with the troop in leadership roles to mentor its younger members.

Scouting numbers within the BSA Lake Erie Council, to which the troop belongs, dwindled by more than 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic; a trend the duo is hoping to reverse, said Brunovsky, whose son Nate is currently in the troop. Both scoutmasters have younger children who will advance to the Scout troop level in 2023.

“We’re not looking to be the biggest troop in town; we’re looking for quality people who really want to be engaged along with their whole family,” said LeRoy. “We want everyone to feel welcome and encouraged to join and to lend a hand and help teach and mold the younger kids.”

For more information, email 811Scoutmaster@gmail.com. ∞