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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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.”