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More than 100 Kansas City girls have joined Cub Scouts. Here's why

Karmen Dungans was The Cookie Mom.

She was responsible for all things Thin Mints and Caramel deLites. Though Girl Scouts sell cookies from January through March, the season felt longer.

"It was a stressful time," said Dungans, of Overland Park. "The focus on cookie sales took away from family fun and family activities."

Now she's team Cub Scout. Her 8-year-old daughter, Kyra Hiener, is one of more than 100 Kansas City-area girls who joined Cub Scouts after the Boy Scouts of America opened its doors to girls earlier this year.

Kyra likes to put bugs under her magnifying glass and use her scouting pocketknife — something she never did as a Girl Scout.

"Girl Scouts was more like fun activities," Kyra said. "I was learning stuff in Girl Scouts but Cub Scouts is more scout-like."

"Scout-like" means outside activities. In her Cub Scout den of four girls, ages 7 to 10, more than half the meetings so far were outside.

In October, Boy Scouts of America announced it would allow girls to join — the first time the organization has fully included girls since its founding in 1910 — as a way to get the whole family involved in scouting.

Kyra is part of an early adoption program launched by the Boy Scouts to get younger girls involved before the program expands in 2019 to include girls ages 11-17 and the name of the program changes to Scouts BSA.

Now, the organization is pushing for an all-inclusive, family focus.

In 2013, the Boy Scouts voted to allow openly gay members. Two years later, it approved gay troop leaders as well.

Girls have participated on a limited basis through select co-ed, career-oriented programs for years. Though girls will be fully integrated in February, troops and dens will not be co-ed, said Matt Armstrong, director of marketing and communications for the Boy Scout's Heart of America Council.

The October announcement that girls could join sparked a backlash from some who said the Boy Scouts organization was self-destructing to others who called for girls to just stay in Girl Scouts.

And it didn't leave Girl Scouts of the USA happy either.

Kyra joined Cub Scouts because her 19-year-old brother was a Boy Scout. He earned his Eagle Scout at 13, and she wants to earn her own.

Joy Wheeler, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri, called the "the lack of knowledge" about Girl Scouts an opportunity.

Boy Scouts have their Eagle Scout — an award that burnishes resumes and college applications. Girl Scouts have an equivalent, the Gold Award, yet Wheeler said many people don't know what it is.

"I believe this is really stereotypical female behavior," Wheeler said. "We don't want to talk about something profound that we did. We don't want to be seen as bragging or bossing, all these negative words that are used.

"Girls are raised (with) this inclusive thing. Give all the credit away. Don't shine the light on yourself. Don't be perceived as being stuck up. So the Gold Award, we haven't promoted it enough."

Girl Scout membership has declined recently, from 2.3 million girls in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2015, according to the Girl Scouts' annual reports.

Jill Hacker, of North Kansas City, said her daughter's Girl Scout troop seemed to focus on quantity, not quality.

"It cost like $25 a meeting because by the time you bought the book that went with this and the craft that went with this and you did the badge — and we would do three or four badges — and they would try to get it all in," Hacker said. "It was like, 'What did you get out of it?' 'Well, I don't know — we got to get finished.' "

Now, Hacker has her 9-year-old daughter Anna in Cub Scouts along with her 8-year-old son Joseph — the Scout Oath and Scout Law hang above their household computer.

Joseph, who joined Cub Scouts before Anna, told his mom it was "guy time."

"I was told it was a 'man thing' and I didn't need to know about it," Hacker said.

But even Joseph is coming around to the idea of girls in the Boy Scouts. He loves playing with the first girl Cub Scout registered in the Heart of America Council, Ruthie Davis, who lives outside Excelsior Springs.

He is only a little bummed that Anna can bring her pocketknife to campouts — he hasn't learned the safety rules yet.

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