Scouts BSA has its first official all-girl troop now meeting weekly in TaylorsvilleSep 08, 2022 12:04PM ● By Carl Fauver
The first-ever all-girl “Boy Scout” troop in Taylorsville – and only the fifth or sixth such troop throughout our state – is now meeting, working on merit badges and preparing for their first overnight campout. Troop 1996G, G for girls, received special permission from the Crossroads of the West BSA Council to launch with only four young ladies. The normal required minimum, for male or female troops to begin operating, is five scouts.
So that means sisters Natali and Atzari Unzueta, along with Diana Godinez and Kaitriel Svedin are making a little Taylorsville history – even if all they are really thinking about is getting to do the same kinds of outdoor things their brothers have been doing for years.
“All four of these girls have brothers in my boys’ Troop 1996B,” said Scoutmaster Jason McDonald. “We’ve supported the idea of forming a girls’ troop for a long time. But, until now, we’ve not had enough girls – or potential leaders. But that all changed a little more than a year ago, when the Svedin family moved back to our area from Las Vegas.”
Kirt and Karene Svedin returned to Utah with their four sons and one daughter after living seven years in southern Nevada. During that time, the family became completely immersed in Scouting. They were there at the start of 2020, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued its affiliation with BSA. They were there when the Boy Scouts of America changed its name to Scouts BSA. And, perhaps most significantly, the Svedins were in Las Vegas when Scouts BSA began establishing all-girl troops in the area.
“My husband was a Scoutmaster in Vegas and I was a Cub Scout leader,” Karene Svedin explained. “First Kirt was Scoutmaster for a boys’ troop. Then, during the shakeup (when the Church broke from Scouting and when girl troops began to form) he became Scoutmaster for a girls’ troop. That was allowed because his Assistant Scoutmaster was female (and required to always be present for troop activities).”
The Svedin's only daughter, Kaitriel, began her scouting adventure as a third grader, in a Nevada Cub Scout Pack. By the time the family moved back up here a year ago, she had earned 15 merit badges and was well on her way to joining her older brothers as Eagle Scouts.
Upon their return to the Salt Lake Valley, Karene quickly located Jason McDonald’s Scouts BSA Troop 1996B for son Caleb. But she couldn’t find a girl’s troop for Kaitriel within a convenient distance of their home. That’s what got the wheels rolling toward the creation of Taylorsville Troop 1996G.
“I agreed to become Scoutmaster for a new girl’s troop as long as (husband) Kirt would be one of the Assistant Scoutmasters and Jason (McDonald) would be the other,” she added. “I knew they had enough experience to get me trained. When they said yes – and when we located enough interested girls – we filled out the paperwork and started our troop.”
Troop 1996G became “official” in mid-August. Through September, Karene says the girls will study Scouts BSA basics like the oath and motto. And they’ll be heavy into recruiting. She hopes to double the size of the troop, up to eight girls, over the next several months.
Troop 1996G is scheduled to make a little more history on the night of Oct. 7, when they are scheduled to spend their first night in tents. The girls and leaders will go to Utah County for an overnight trip to Camp Maple Dell, BSA in Payson Canyon.
Meantime, in addition to assisting his wife with her new troop, Kirt Svedin is also now the new Cubmaster for Pack 4996. Those are the younger kids, including some girls already, who feed into Troops 1996B and 1996G.
Scouts BSA Troops 1996B and G, and Cub Scout Pack 4996, are all sponsored by St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Taylorsville (2700 W. Builders Drive, about 5160 South). That’s where the groups also meet during the winter. But as long as the weather cooperates, the girls and boys meet with their leaders across the street from the church at Valley Regional Park (5100 S. 2700 West).
Finally, in the midst of all these changes – and the creation of the all-girls troop – Scoutmaster Jason McDonald has also recently seen seven of his scouts achieve their prestigious Eagle rank. Since becoming Scoutmaster in June 2020 – at the height of the no-vaccine-yet pandemic – McDonald has doubled the size of Troop 1996B from 12 to 24 active scouts. His first seven Eagle Scouts are: Cayden Anderson, Sam Barlow, Walker Christopherson, Landon D’Huart, Gavin Lundgren, James Mills and Franco Unzueta, brother to new girls' troop members, Natali and Atzari.
Earlier this summer – and for the second year in a row – members of Troop 1996B spent a week camped on the shores of Bear Lake. McDonald says if they return again next year – and if the female Troop 1996G scouts also attend – both groups should be completely comfortable.
“They reduced the number of scouts at this year’s Bear Lake camp because it was just so crowded last summer,” McDonald said. They broke it into two different weeks, with about 250 scouts there – compared to the nearly 500 we had last year. The change made it much easier for our boys to get into the merit badge classes they wanted – and it shortened the food lines.”
One thing that did remain consistent from a year ago was the percentage of female scouts in attendance. That’s why Jason believes if the new Taylorsville Troop 1996G chooses to go up to Bear Lake next year, they won’t feel alone – or surrounded only by boys.
“Both years at Bear Lake, I would estimate about 25% of all the scouts were girls,” McDonald concluded. “Of course, they slept at opposite ends of the camp, away from each other. But they attended the same merit badge classes and participated in many other camp activities together. My 12 scouts who attended averaged earning four or five merit badges each. I’m sure the girls (from other areas) did the same or better.”
Boys interested in joining Troop 1996B can call or text Scoutmaster Jason McDonald at 801-651-0159. Girls who want to know more about Troop 1996G can reach Scoutmaster Karene Svedin at 801-205-2287. And parents of Cub Scout age kids, boys or girls, should text or call Cubmaster Kirt Svedin at 801-712-8975. λ