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Cubmaster Dowling Plans to Retire

By Evan Zilber | November 17, 2021

Montgomery is home to a vibrant community of scouts whose modus operandi includes pinewood derbies, pumpkin patches, and overnight stays at museums. On a deeper level, the Boy Scouts of America — one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with about 1.2 million participants — instills values of charitable giving and leadership.

Among the many scout groups in the Montgomery area is Pack 850, led by Cubmaster Thomas Dowling. He, his wife, and their three sons have been in scouting for a decade. “Our community needs people who give a damn,” Dowling, who is a Montgomery Township resident, said. Pushing kids to care for their peers, guardians, and community is one of Dowling’s biggest motivators.

Cubmaster Thomas Dowling (top left) with his wife Nicole and scouts.

To foster these virtues, Dowling says he is empathetic and respectful rather than punitive and stern. “Kids are in school all day, all week,” Dowling said. “You can’t make scouting school part-two if you want to engage the scouts.”

To distinguish their approach from academia, the scout leaders focus on physical activity and outdoorsmanship. They host hikes and campouts, teach scouts about local ecology, and hold bonfires in Montgomery Park.

Cubmaster Thomas Dowling and his son, Arman Dowling.

Dowling’s oldest son, Ahmad, who graduated from Montgomery High School last year, said these campouts and overnight stays prepared him to be on his own for college. The seemingly niche skills of tying special knots and learning pocket knife safety translate into rugged independence for scouts in their future endeavors. When scouts progress in these skills, they earn badges and move their way up in the scouting hierarchy.

“Badges are cool,” said Kyle Sharma, a senior at Montgomery High School and 11-year scout, “but scouting is more about becoming a better person.”

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When asked to reflect on his time as Cubmaster, Dowling recounted a freedom in evolving the Cub Scouts’ M.O. He and his wife proposed a last minute Pumpkin Patch last year to host workshops and pumpkin carving.

Thomas Dowling is retiring from the scouts along with his oldest son next year, but he says he “hopes the next leaders of this organization will continue the pumpkin patch as an annual Montgomery tradition.”


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