There are people who try several careers across the course of their lives.
Former Boy Scouts of America Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer Gary Butler was always sure what interested him. From a very young age, he knew he wanted to be in the non-profit industry and have a career in Scouting.
Butler, now 57 and living in Florida, is one of five boys, all Scouts. Three, including Gary, were Eagle Scouts. All but one, this brother Stephen — the athlete in the family — attended Yawgoog, as did Gary’s son, father and grandfather.
“Scouting was important to my parents,” he said. Butler remembers being a Cub Scout and going to Yawgoog while his brother John was a camper. “I couldn’t wait to go,” he said.
After three years of being a camper, he joined the Yawgoog staff as a dining-hall dishwasher, working at Medicine Bow at the same time as his brother Jim.
It was a whole new perspective of camp.
“It was a transition from observer to being part of … the group that’s putting on the play. It had a profound impact on me.”
Butler tells of a time, as a camp commissioner at Medicine Bow, when he talked a homesick boy — also named Gary — into staying at camp. But two days later, the boy went home. “It was perplexing to me why someone couldn’t understand the life-changing experiences camp offered,” said Butler. “I couldn’t imagine life without working at Yawgoog.”
In fact, Butler graduated from Providence College with a degree in political science, choosing a school close to camp so he could still work there over the summers.
What followed were progressive roles and relocations as a Scout director, group director, assistant chief Scout executive for operations, and finally, as chief operating officer of the national organization until his retirement last year. He was part of a transition team to change the culture of BSA in the mid-2000s.
From a business perspective, he says, Scouting faces the challenge of keeping true to traditions while building in experiences kids want: such as kayaking and paddle-boarding vs. canoeing, for example. “The changes, in many ways, are very subtle,” he said, preserving the value of unique experiences at Camp Yawgoog.