Grabbing her hiking supplies and heading outdoors has always been something 13-year-old Annabell Egger has reveled in.

It’s not exactly an uncommon undertaking for young girls, but neither is the way she arrived at something that turned out to be a natural fit.

Egger has trekked along with her twin brother, Douglas, and his Boy Scout troop since she was in the third grade. Since the very first time she joined in on their activities, she was, for lack of a better term, an “unofficial” member of troop.

“We‘ve always had parents who are leaders and help out with our activities and they would bring their daughters with them, and they loved it,” said Robert Blake, leader of Fulton-based Scout Troop 32. “What people don’t realize is this happened a lot prior to girls being officially allowed to join the Scouts.”

In February 2019, the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America confirmed a scheduled launch date for the program to serve girls, ages 11-17. The program offered to girls mirrors the one offered to older boys.

The Cub Scout program allowed girls to join in 2018.

For Annabell and Douglas Egger’s parents, Johnathon and Heidi Egger, allowing Annabell to become an official member of the Boy Scouts – now rebranded as simply “Scouts” – made perfect sense. She was already a member in all but the paperwork.

“What we found, was not only was it a good fit for Annabell, but it was a good fit for our family,” she said. “We didn’t have to waste precious time running to different places and both of our children are loving what they were doing.”

Heidi Egger is currently working on becoming a scoutmaster. She saw early on how much being around her brother’s troop brought her daughter satisfaction and joy.

“There’s so much I really enjoy about the Scouts” Annabell Egger said. “For me, just being there for the outdoor activities like hiking and exploring, I realized how much it appealed to me. The Scouts also have really strong leadership training, and I really like that too.”

Annabell Egger’s adventurous spirit and willingness to take on big challenges has already landed her several badges. She proudly wears merit badges for fitness, fire safety, family life, sustainability, fingerprinting, citizenship of the world, truck driving and traffic safety.

She recently added both swimming and first-aid badges, giving her a Tenderfoot ranking. It’s the her first step toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

Earning Scout badges requires dedication, commitment and often rigorous training. Scouts earning a particular badge are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated in the organization’s guidelines. Those guidelines are the same regardless of the participant’s gender.

For example, among the many requirements for the swimming badge, Scouts must demonstrate strong swimming skills and rescue methods, and must be able to explain the health benefits of swimming.

Although the Scouts now allow girls to join, troops are still gender-divided.

Because Egger is the only female Scout in Itawamba County, she’s recognized as a “Lone Scout.” She currently participates in activities with all-girl troops in Tupelo and Corinth.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends in the troops I’ve been participating in and the staff is really nice. I’m enjoying it, but I’d really like to have a troop in Fulton,” she said.

Blake said the local troop would like to add a unit for girls, although they don’t yet have enough girls participating to form one.

“We had about 13 girls who were a part of our Cub Scouts in 2018,” Blake said. “Since girls weren’t officially allowed to join the Scouts until 2019, we haven’t had the numbers to start a girls troop.”

Boy troops and girl troops can hold group meetings at the same time as a whole, and they can plan events together, as troops currently do, but cannot be combined to form a co-op troop.

Blake said he’s hoping young female members like Egger will help bring in more girls interested in joining the kind of adventures offered by Scouting.

“Hopefully the interest will be there and we’ll have a new girls troop,” Blake said.

For more information on joining the Scouts, contact Blake at 662-255-8336.

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