Time was, in North America, you couldn't turn sideways without running into a boy scout.
At its height in the mid-1960s, the venerable organization boasted approximately 350,000 members in Canada. As of last year, that number was down to just over 100,000. The Yorkton area is no exception, but Dean Rugland, area commissioner for Yorkton-Melville-Esterhazy, says Scouts Canada is in a rebuilding phase.
"We are starting to see a slight increase," he said. "Retentions have been pretty good lately." In all, local enrolment is just about 100 kids across the three age groups, Beavers (5-7), Cubs (8-10) and Scouts (11-14).
In July, a small, but dedicated cadre of Yorkton area scouts including Matthew Linsley, Evan LaJambe, Christian Hansen and Braden Matkowski, along with leaders Derek LaJambe and Mark Hansen attended the 2013 Canadian Scout Jamboree at Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
Held every three years, the national jamboree brings together scouts from all over the country for a week of camping, water sports, physical activities, music, archery, leadership training, badge trading and more.
This year, more than 5,000 scouts and 1,500 leaders attended.
"It was so much fun," Linsley said. "It was wonderful. I made a lot of new friends."
Matkowski echoed his troop mate's sentiments. For both boys the highlight of the week was white water rafting on the Red Deer River.
But while the kids may be in it for the fun, Rugland says there is much more to it than that.
"The whole point is to promote learning development of young people," he said. "That's why I'm involved."
Rugland explained that the kids often don't even realize while they're having fun that they are developing skills they will carry with them throughout their lives.
"It's great to see what I call the little 'aha!' moments," he said. "Watching them do something for the first time is fantastic. It's exciting to see them take on leadership roles. You can always tell the difference from the start to the end of the year."
Although scouting may have struggled with relevancy in recent decades, Rugland believes it is more relevant than ever with the proliferation of sedentary activities such as video games and a national crisis with youth obesity.
To that end Scouts Canada is currently engaged in a bit of a rebranding campaign focussed on adventure and program revitalization. The organization has even ousted the Governor General as Chief Scout giving him a more ceremonial role as Patron Scout.
The new Chief Scout, Terry Grant, is no stranger to the outdoor life. A veteran of the Foothills Search and Rescue Team, Grant is best known for his hit reality-TV show Mantracker.
Scouts Canada is hoping the new hands-on approach to the position will pay dividends by raising the organization's profile.