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McEntee: A checkoff box for Boy Scouts? Why not Girl Scouts, too?

Published March 5, 2013 6:32 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Back when we lived in California's San Joaquin Valley, I yearned for the summer day when we boarded a bus and headed for Camp El-O-Win, a Girl Scout horse camp high in the Sierra Nevada.

All year, I saved my allowance, every nickel or dime I earned for chores and anything I found in the couch cushions. The goal was to save half the $40 it cost for two weeks in paradise.

Along the way, I learned thrift, developed a work ethic and kept my promise to my parents to come up with the money.

So don't tell me the Boy Scouts of Utah stand on some higher ground when it comes to a bill that would let taxpayers check a box on their tax returns to donate money to "a youth development organization."

The bill's sponsor, Sandy Republican Rep. Steven Eliason, recently told a Utah House committee that the checkoff box is aimed at the Boy Scouts, which, with more than 200,000 Utah boys, is the only tax-exempt group that tops the 180,000-member threshold required to receive donations under the proposal.

The Girl Scouts of Utah, on the other hand, has about 8,500 girls and 3,000 adult members.

It's no secret that the LDS Church sponsors most Boy Scout troops, which, as Eliason says, help prepare boys to make ethical and moral choices and to develop citizenship, character and personal fitness.

Well, so do Girl Scout troops, whose mission is to help girls build courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place, says Girl Scouts of Utah spokeswoman Annie Cutler.

There's no direct association with any church, she added, because Girl Scout troops are all-inclusive, with no bias toward religious faith or socioeconomic status. The LDS Church is listed among sponsors and partners of the Girl Scouts, however.

In other words, any girls from kindergarten through 12th grade are welcome. This is not to say that boys of equal age aren't welcome to the Boy Scouts. Far from it — pretty much anyone, as long as they're not gay (for now) or atheist, is welcome.

It simply means that the Girl Scouts offers the same rich experience for girls as the Boy Scouts does for boys.

The Girl Scouts has matured since I was a cadette. Today, it focuses on healthy media and healthy living, with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Even within the Girl Scout cookie program, girls learn business ethics, goal setting, decision making, money management and people skills.

As for camps, there's Trefoil Ranch, which served as a substitute for a horse-crazy kid when we moved to Utah, and Camp Cloud Rim with its emphasis on water sports. Both had arts and crafts.

It may happen that one day, as Eliason says, someone will come up with a similar tax donation to help out the Girl Scouts. In the meantime, the group is well-versed in getting donors, securing grants and holding fundraisers.

And while Eliason's bill may not be completely fair, there's a lot to be said for another thing I learned in Girl Scouts: self-sufficiency.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.