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LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Don't let the purple shoes and pink hairtie fool you. Nine-year-old Maya Bashi loves the great outdoors.
"I love the wind, I love the rain, I love the animals, but don't really love the mosquitoes," said Bashi.
For the first time in more than a century, she is a member of an organization that appreciates all of that, with both girls and boys. In fact, Maya is making history. She is the first girl in Greater Lafayette to join the Cub Scouts.
"It proves anyone can be what they want to be," said Bashi. "But you have to work hard!"
Maya showed off her new scout uniform at Cary Camp this past week. She's a regular there. In fact, this past summer, she attended Cub Scout Day Camp -- a first for girls.
The Boy Scouts of America announced in October it would begin admitting girls into its programs. Like Maya, girls can now join the Cub Scouts. In February, they will be able to enroll in the Boy Scouts, and will become eligible to earn the Boy Scout's highest rank, Eagle.
It's a rank Maya wants to earn some day. She's been a regular at her stepfather's Boy Scout meetings for years. Kevin Bump said she's wanted to be a part of the group for awhile now, so when the Boy Scout's made the announcement, he knew Maya would fit right in. He recognizes others may have issues with the BSA's decision. However, it doesn't bother him.
"The great part is the kids don't care," said Bump. "They're in with boys and girls at school every day. It's mainly been the adult attitude."
Maya doesn't mind either. She's just happy that "Daddybird," as she calls him, can now be her leader too.
"I wouldn't have been in Boy Scouts without him," said Bashi.
For 108 years, the organization has been known as the Boy Scouts. Come February when girls can join, Boy Scouts will effectively change its name to "Scouts BSA." The overall organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — the program for 5-to 10-year-olds — will keep its title, as well. But the Boy Scouts — the program for 11- to 17-year-olds — will now be Scouts BSA.
"We are hoping for a 20-percent increase with girls," said Ashley Jelliffe, the West Lafayette/Lafayette District Executive for the Sagamore Council.
A new campaign for the Cub Scouts called "Scout Me In" is now underway. Recruitment efforts are now aimed at both boys and girls. According to Jelliffe, Cub Scout packs have the option to allow girls. She said besides a handful, most of the packs in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties have chosen to allow both boys and girls. Under the new format, there are seperate boy dens and girl dens, but they come together for pack-wide meetings and events.
"We've had more interest from the girls at this point," said Jelliffe. "I think they're just excited. The cool thing about Cub Scouts now is that you're whole family can go into it at the same time."
Suzanne Nirmalan signed her daughter up at a recent recruitment night at Hershey Elementary.
"I'm proud of her because she is really a sweet girly-girl," said Nirmalan.
CBS news reported in October that the Girl Scouts have criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two organizations. The report said Girl Scout officials have suggested the BSA's move was driven partly by a need to boost revenue, and they contended there is fiscal stress in part because of past settlements paid by the BSA in sex-abuse cases.
When News 18 asked The Girl Scouts of Central Indiana to comment on this story, they praised their organization, saying it's aimed at giving girls life skills that only the Girl Scouts provides. They released the following statement about the Cub Scouts now allowing girls into packs:
Only Girl Scouts brings the time-tested methods and research-backed programs that speak to leadership development specifically for girls. Girl Scouts remains committed to a girls-only environment. Offering safe, hands-on, girl-led, girl-centered learning in STEM, the outdoors, and entrepreneurship, and abundant opportunities to develop invaluable life skills, Girl Scouts helps all girls take the lead early and often. And we’re backed by more than 100 years of experience and expertise in the field. Only Girl Scouts offers girls a one-of-a-kind opportunity to engage in leadership at the highest levels while addressing an issue they feel passionately about—this opportunity is the Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious award in the world for girls.
"We don't say one is better," said Jelliffe. "Because honestly, there are girls who just want to do Girl Scouts and there are girls who just want to do Cub Scouts. A lot of them even do both."
That's why Maya is going to stay in both of her troops.She's a proud Girl Scout and a Cub Scout. And her purple shoes will leave behind a lasting footprint, and a step forward for scouts alike.
For more information on the new Scouts BSA program, click here.