No! St. Thomas welcomes families of all denominations into all of its youth programs, provided they respect and support the parish's mission. At present, about half of our scouts and half of our scoutmasters come from other religious traditions.
St. Thomas runs a very active program in order to meet the needs of boys age 11 to 18. That means there's an almost daunting array of activities. Each boy chooses activities and outings according to his interests and needs at the time. There’s plenty to keep a 6th or 7th grader busy, and there will be plenty more available when he needs new challenges as a 9th or 10th grader.
The middle school program runs one campout a month and one meeting a week, while the high school program runs two longer expeditions each year with pre-trips leading up to each. As a rule of thumb, most boys participate in about 2/3 to 3/4 of the activities available to them. Going below 50% will put them behind their peers in skills and usually lead to them dropping out after a year or so. The more they participate, of course, the more they get out of the program!
We recommend that boys try to do at least one of the longer-term outings each year (like summer camp), because these tend to be real "bonding" experiences for their friends and patrol mates.
Cub Scout programs are generally parent-run endeavors. That can be great fun for a bit, but it does take a lot of time! The boy scouting program functions like a teen youth program in that there are a number of non-parent adult leaders who have primary responsibility for operations. This allows us to offer a very special educational opportunity to your son while you get a bit of relief. You can come on some events you enjoy with your son, and also have the chance to spend some “quality time” with his siblings while he’s away on a weekend campout!
We are of course not a baby-sitting service. We ask your help with 2 short-term fundraisers each year, occasional driving on a trip (usually twice a year), and filling one volunteer job for the troop that fits into your interest and schedule. A few parents camp with us, others handle a segment of paperwork, others help organize one of the fundraisers, etc. We want you to be involved in something you enjoy and can contribute to. That's a good example to your son, and "many hands make for light labor” for the troop.
There are some initial costs for basic gear (sleeping bag, uniform, a bit of clothing, mess kit, etc.), depending on what your son/family already own. Most boys slowly acquire personal camping gear over the years, usually as the result of Christmas and birthday gifts. The troop provides all “group gear” including tents, stoves, etc., and has some gear available to loan to boys who need it in their first year or two.
Dues are set for a six-month period, which covers almost all camping fees (except personal things like ski rental if needed) as well as awards and once a month “fun nights” doing things like Laser Tag and Whirly Ball. A few trips, like Boy Scout summer camp or downhill ski lift tickets, are separate expenses, but our costs for group rates and camp are generally significantly less than for family trips or other camp experiences.
Additionally, as a parish youth program, Troop 8 exercises a “preferential option for the poor.” We work hard to make scouting activities available regardless of difficult family financial circumstances.