Georgia couple finds calling in Scout leadership

By Kara Witherow, Special Contributor…

The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.”

But Cathy and Travis Shepherd of Whigham, Ga., weren’t quite prepared for the new path God took them down nearly 20 years ago.

When their son Bobby, then a first grader, brought home a slip of paper inviting him to join a new Cub Scout pack, Travis accompanied him to an informational meeting.

Travis, Thomas and Cathy Shepherd celebrated earlier this year after Thomas, 16, earned his Eagle Scout rank. PHOTO COURTESY OF CATHY SHEPHERD

Of the adults in attendance, only two had ever been involved in scouting. Travis was one. He volunteered to help and ended up becoming the new group’s leader, or Cubmaster.

Nearly 20 years later, scouting has become an integral part of the Shepherd family’s life.

“I was a Scout when I was a kid and had a great time and a lot of good memories,” Travis said. “So we were asked if we would be willing to help start it, and I said yes.”

Back then, the Shepherds had just one son, Bobby, now 26. In the years since, they’ve had Kevin, 21, and Thomas, 16. All three have earned the Eagle Scout rank.

“Travis was a Scout in Thomasville when he was a kid,” Cathy said. “It was a very big part of his life. I was in Girl Scouts when I was young, and when we got married and ended up having all boys it was really a no-brainer for us.”

Sponsored by Whigham United Methodist Church, Whigham’s Cub Scout troop was started by Travis and a group of dedicated parents. But a few years later, Travis was disappointed to learn that the older boys didn’t have a Boy Scout troop to move up to.

That’s when Cathy, an obstetrics nurse, stepped in to lead the Cub Scout pack so Travis could start a new Boy Scout troop in Grady County.

“I started as the Cubmaster with a 5-months-old on my hip,” said Cathy, who completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working full time, leading the Cub Scout pack and raising three boys.

Scouting has given the Shepherd family time together and the opportunity to go places and do things they might not otherwise have gone and done. They camp, hike and serve together, and most of Travis and Cathy’s vacation time is spent travelling with the Scouts.

“Scouting has allowed me to be really close with my boys,” Travis said.

It’s also strengthened their faith and deepened their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Before volunteering to work with the Scouts, the Shepherds weren’t attending church. As a child and teenager, Travis was active in a Baptist church, but had drifted away.

A few months after volunteering to be Cubmaster, though, Travis told Cathy that Whigham UMC was hosting their annual Scout Sunday the next weekend.

“I said, ‘What are we going to do?’ And she said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll go to church there!’”

That Sunday they attended Whigham UMC for the first time. They wore their scout uniforms and sat on the back pew.

“We went to church that Sunday and the next,” Travis said. “From that day forward we have gone. My family and I have been going to church there ever since.

“Scouting brought me back in to where I should have been all along. I was raised in church and knew that my kids needed to be.”

In addition to teaching boys and young men about first aid, fire safety, leadership, responsibility and countless other life skills, scouting goes hand-in-hand with faith, Cathy said.

“This isn’t an organization that skirts faith,” she said. “It’s added another dimension to our walk with Christ, and this is just another facet to our Christian walk; it’s that rooted in the values of our faith and the church.”

Not only has the Shepherd family deepened their faith and found a church home through their involvement with Whigham UMC’s scouting ministry, so have several young men.

One 8-year-old boy calls Whigham UMC “his church” even though he and his family don’t attend worship services there.

“One year we had Scout Sunday coming up, and I was reminding the boys to wear their Scout shirt to their church on Sunday,” Cathy said. “We always invite them to our church, and I asked one boy which church he went to. He looked at me and said, ‘Miss Cathy, this is my church!’ He had never been to church on Sunday—our Cub Scout program was his only exposure to church.”

Even though two of their sons are adults and their youngest will soon graduate from high school, the Shepherds say they have no plans to step away from scouting.

“I keep going even without a kid in Cub Scouts because it’s that important,” Cathy said. “It’s that vital to our church and to our community to have a place for these boys.”

Travis says he can’t just walk away from the 70 or so young men who are a part of their Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops.

“I just can’t walk away from these kids,” he said. “When God wants me to do something else, He’ll make it known.

“A lot of people go through life wondering what God wants them to do. I know that this is exactly what He wants me to do.”

Ms. Witherow is editor of the Advocate, the newspaper of the South Georgia Conference.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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