Many parents find themselves encouraging their children to participate in activities. For Jerry and Debbie Backes, it was quite the opposite: their children took them with them.
It all started in 2000, when their eldest son, Zach, a freshman, returned home brimming with excitement.
“He wanted to join Cubs,” Debbie said. “I said, ‘OK, that’s a dad thing. You’re gonna do it.'”
Jerry went with Zach to a meeting, but he wasn’t sure he was supervising rambunctious kindergarten-aged Cubs.
“I went to that first meeting and all these little guys were running around…crazy, doing stuff, not paying attention, and I said, ‘I need to get more organization, I can’t,'” he said. he said, laughing.
“You can’t let it Boy Scouts, we have to be involved,” Debbie told Jerry.
So Debbie and Jerry first swapped, and then Debbie took over attending meetings with the kids and serving as den leader.
Once their sons got to the Boy Scouts, Jerry said it was more his speed. He loved spending time with the boys outdoors and camping and watching them learn.
Today, both are veteran leaders with Scouts BSA, even after their sons made Eagle Scout and went to college. Jerry is assistant scout leader, unit commissioner, and district commissioner for the area, and Debbie is committee chair and local troop representative, unit commissioner, and college merit badge coordinator.
While their sons helped bring them here, it was Scouting’s values that made them stay.
“I think what’s held me back to Scouting and working with Scouts is the values it teaches young people,” Jerry said.
A lot of people think of scouting as just camping, Jerry said.
“The camping part is really not teaching camping. It’s teaching them life skills – teaching them how to do things, how to prepare, how to lead other Scouts on those campsites. It’s a method is not the end,” he said. noted.
Scouting children learn to serve others, to solve problems, to make mistakes and to recover from them.
Parents on Scouting trips often struggle to see their children make mistakes.
“Parents need to learn that they are no longer in charge, Boy Scouts are,” he said. “It’s hard for a lot of parents because they don’t want to see their kids fail. Nobody wants to see their kids fail. But it’s really not failure, it’s learning.”
Jerry said it can also be a place for young people to find role models.
For their children, it is a place to learn, grow and make lifelong friends.
Jerry said he loved seeing Boy Scouts his son’s age grow up to be good citizens.
“They have jobs, they are parents, they have children,” he said.
Debbie said she continues to serve with the Boy Scouts because of the impact it has had on her children.
“It was close to my heart. I try to give back to the kids what other people gave to my kids,” she said.
Now retired, Jerry was an engineer at Ameren for over 40 years. These days, he can be found along a riverbank, fly-fishing and chatting with the people he meets there. Jerry also taught Debbie how to fish and she often joins him.
Jerry loves being outdoors, and his favorite place to visit is the Grand Canyon. He also enjoys photography and teaches the photography merit badge. Growing up in the age of darkrooms, Jerry can appreciate the convenience of digital cameras.
Debbie worked for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with state schools for the severely disabled, then was a stay-at-home mom to her sons.
She’s a collector of nativity scenes, frogs, thimbles, and flamingos, and she loves all things Christmas. She also enjoys baking and cooking and often volunteers to help coordinate events.
Jerry and Debbie have two adult sons, Zach and Jordan. Both grew up in Boy Scouts while playing sports, a feat Jerry says is not impossible if the kids are dedicated and manage their time well.
Debbie recalls a special summer when Jerry and the boys attended the Philmont Scout Ranch, an adventure camp in New Mexico that is, for many, the high point of their Scouting life.
“Every time the boys went out to Philmont, they had to go there for two weeks and then come back for a week for summer camp. And before they left, they said, ‘No, we’re not going to summer camp. ‘summer. They kind of balked at that,” Debbie said. “And then when they got home, they were so excited about their trip to Philmont and the things they had done and learned; they couldn’t wait for me to have their clothes washed and come down to camp so that ‘they can just be with everyone and tell them everything they’ve been up to.
The two eventually made Eagle Scout, which Debbie says was a proud moment.
Jerry and Debbie themselves have some proud moments to show for their years of service. Both received a district merit award and received the Silver Beaver Award, which recognizes those of “outstanding character who have provided distinguished service on a council,” according to the Scouts BSA website. They continued to serve with the Scouts in various capacities, helping children learn the values and lessons provided by Scouting.