BRILLION — Chris Brandt has been in leadership positions with the Boy Scouts organization for nearly two decades. He was a father figure when he started. “I’m a grandfather figure now,” he said, jokingly.
A native of Brookfield, Brandt and his wife Kay moved to Brillion 23 years ago with their children Laura and Eric. They got involved at their parish immediately and enrolled their children in the parish school. “When Eric joined Cub Scouts, I volunteered to be a leader and help with the troop,” he recalled.
Brandt wanted to get into scouting with his son for a number of reasons. “I really wanted Eric to get exposed to camping, but I hadn’t done that much tent-style camping,” he said. “It turns out the two of us love it. It’s a fun thing to do. I also wanted him to have the outdoor skills that you learn in scouting.”
As with other volunteer opportunities, the people who say “yes” keeping saying “yes,” noted Brandt. “Pretty soon, I was a scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 004. I’m a commissioner for scouting and I ended up being a district commissioner for several counties.”
Brillion’s Boy Scout Troop 004 was commissioned in 1944 and since that time it has produced 37 Eagle Scouts, with 22 of those coming under Brandt’s leadership, including his own son. “I like to think there’s a lot of Eagle Scouts walking around because I helped them. I’m still committee chair for Troop 004.”
There’s a program sanctioned by the Scouts called the religious emblem program. “I got involved in that and wanted to start teaching the Catholic one here,” said Brandt. “I started by teaching (the religious material required for) Ad Altare Dei, and there’s another one called Pope Pius XII.”
Brandt eventually got involved with the Catholic Committee on Scouting with the Green Bay Diocese and ended up as committee chairman.
“My son is on the committee with me now as well,” he said. “As part of that, I was asked to be a regional chairman for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.” That Region 7 chairmanship encompasses Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
According to Brandt, Bishop David Ricken is a supporter of scouting. “Every September he does the Mass for scouting at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. All the Scouts who have earned their religious emblem that year are invited,” Brandt said.
Once a year, Brandt and his son run a daylong retreat at the shrine for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who are earning a religious emblem. “We have guest speakers and activities. Eric is really into the rosary, so he invented a rosary made of Scout knots and he shows the kids how to make one at the retreat,” added Brandt.
As part of the religious emblem program through the National Committee on Scouting, they have activity patches and some of the patches are based on the lives of saints. One is called the Marian series. “I wanted one for Green Bay, since it’s the only American Marian apparition site,” said Brandt. “We came up with our own patch, the Marian Series Patch for Our Lady of Good Help.”
Scouts can earn the patch by learning the story of the Blessed Mother who appeared to Adele Brise in 1859. “Two years ago, when I was at the national convention, I submitted it to them so they could make a national one. Bishop Ricken was presented with patch number one,” he added. “Since its inception, hundreds of kids all over the country, even if they haven’t visited the shrine, have earned the emblem.”
In addition to his duties with the Scouts, Brandt, who works at Valley Truck Leasing in Brillion, is also a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus.
“Scouting has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years, some good, some bad,” noted Brandt. “Scouting is facing the same challenges that a lot of other organizations, especially youth organizations, are running into. Kids do not seem to get involved in organizations like they used to, and their parents don’t get involved.”
Brandt considers scouting to be a valuable endeavor. “When your son is in a job interview when he’s 45 years old, he’ll put on his resume that he is an Eagle Scout,” he explained. “No one will ask him in the interview if he played sports in high school. I’ve had three Eagle Scouts who’ve joined the military and they were instantly upped two grades. This is something that is recognized by the world as a valuable thing.”
One year, Brandt said his troop had six Eagle Scouts in one year. “It was the most of any troop in our council,” he said. It is rewarding to see “young men go from goofy kids to Eagle Scouts who are running the troop without any interaction. My own son is what he is today because of his experience in scouting. He got a lot of skills from scouting, it’s amazing.”