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Scouting for all

A traditional form of scouting gets a 21st century makeover

Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts are household names. For many, it’s a family tradition and the only scouting they know. However, these organizations aren’t the only scouting options available to families. Let me introduce you to the BPSA, a co-ed, all-inclusive scouting group that is

making a name for itself right here in the Hudson Valley.

The 91st Sojourners participated in the Riverkeeper's River Sweep volunteer litter cleanup at Sojourner Truth Park in Saugerties last spring. The co-ed scouting group removed an entire dumpster of trash from the site. 

BPSA stands for Baden-Powell Service Association. They are an independent and traditional-style scouting association. The BPSA was first formed in the United Kingdom in 1970, and the U.S. association was formed in 2006. The organization is based on the principles and guidelines of the founder of scouting, Robert Baden-Powell. Their aim is “to promote good citizenship and wholesome physical, mental and spiritual development, as well as training in habits of observation, discipline, self-reliance, loyalty, and useful skills.   

Grisah Yashayev, a Timberwolf with the 91st Sojourners, hikes at the Ashokan Center in Shokan. Many local parents are finding the co-ed, all-inclusive scouting group is a great alternative to the popular Boy Scouts of America. 

Kingston husband-and-wife team Andy Bicking and Jenny Lee Fowler have created the first BPSA group in the Hudson Valley: the 91st Sojourners. “91st” stands for Hudson River Mile 91, Kingston’s mile mark on the river. “Sojourners” honors Sojourner Truth.

Bicking was an Eagle Scout who wanted to continue scouting with his wife and two children. However, he no longer felt that the Boy Scouts of America was a good fit for his family. What drew them to the BPSA, he says, was the traditional scouting, along with the all-inclusive policy. Joining forces with one other family, they began their journey of forming the 91st Sojourners in October of 2012. Within a year, they had grown to 40 members and are going strong.   

Rovers Kate Johnson and Haida Mohammed teach Otters the square knot at the 91st Sojourners’ first annual Family Camp at YMCA Camp Seewackamano in Olivebridge last fall. 

A large appeal of the BPSA for many families is that they are welcoming of all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion 

Carrie Wykoff of Rosendale, mother of 7 year-old Maitreyasays she chose BPSA for its co-ed practices. 

“The girls are not relegated to home economic-like experiences,” says Wykoff. Since the groups are divided only by age and not gender, the whole family can participate together. Carrie and her husband are both volunteers.   

BPSA is 100% volunteer-based on a local, regional, and national level, as this helps keep membership fees minimal. For a group to continue growing and still retain quality, volunteers are crucial players, says Bicking 

As a volunteer, one gets the satisfaction of helping to make their community a better place, watching kids grow and making positive changes in their lives,” he says. “We’re passing on knowledge and skills to the next generation, instilling values of community pride and a sense of belonging, and simply feeling good about taking action on a daily basis.” 

 BPSA emphasizes remaining outdoors, skill building, direct service and nature; everything they do is hands on.  

Farmer KayCee Wimbish leads Otters on a tour of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project community garden last summer.

Georgia, an 11-year-old from Palenville, was previously a Girl Scout and is now a BPSA Pathfinder. She says she loves camping along with her family, which includes her younger brother, Rowan, 9, who is a Timberwolf 

“We had to dig our own latrine!” Georgia said proudly. With two skill-building meetings, one hike and one weekend camping trip per month, the 91st Sojourners know a lot about traditional scouting.  

The scouting groups are broken down by age: Otters (5-7), Timberwolves (8-10), Pathfinders (11-17) and Rovers (18+). 

The adults-only “Rovers Crew” sets BPSA apart from some other scouting groups because being a scout doesn’t end when you reach the age of 18. The vision of traditional scouting is that it is a lifelong learning program — you never stop developing your outdoor skills or serving your community.   


Gloria Darmanin lives in Saugerties with her husband and two sons. She is a social media coordinator for Hudson Valley Parent magazine.   

BPSA in the Hudson Valley 


Interested in starting your own chapter? It’s easy to do.  

There is a fee of $35 to receive your charter license and you’ll need at least two registered adult leaders and a minimum of two youth members in the same section.  

Reach out to your neighbors, friends, family and other parents to get the word out. Social media is a great tool to reach out to your community, and to recruit scouts and volunteers.  

BPSA also has a section on their website that lists people who have emailed the site directly stating they would be interested in learning more. With the closest chapter to Kingston currently being Brooklyn, the 91st Sojourners would love to see some more local chapters to meet up with. 

For more information on the Baden-Powell Scouting Association, visit bpsa-us.org. 

If you would like to inquire about joining the 91st Sojourners, e-mail Andy Bicking at 91stSojourners@gmail.com for more information about their next open house and open enrollment. You can also visit their Facebook page.