When asked what it is about Craig Lebakken that made Owen Michaelson want to nominate him for a Connecting with Kids Award, Michaelson says, “His level of commitment to the boys and the troop is so noteworthy.”
Lebakken is the head scout master for Boy Scout troop #62 and Michaelson is an assistant scout master (and member of the Edina School Board). The two have worked together for over eight years. According to Michaelson, Lebakken sets a high bar that not only energizes the boys, but also the parents.
“Other parents are inspired,” Michaelson says. “They think ‘If he’s going to step up like this maybe I can do half as much, or a quarter as much.’”
The Connecting with Kids awards are given by the Edina Community Foundation at an annual leadership breakfast. The awards recognize adults who have given their time to making a difference in the lives of young people.
Lebakken became involved with the Boy Scouts when his oldest son, who is now 21, was 6 years old. Lebakken hadn’t gone beyond Cub Scouts as a boy, so he had a lot to learn about scouting, if he was going to be a leader. “I got to go through the learning process with my son,” he says. “And it was fun.”
In addition to the weekly meetings and monthly camp-outs, troop #62 goes on a couple of longer adventures each year, including a high adventure week. The time commitment for the adult leaders is significant, but Lebakken says it’s worth it because the experiences are often transformative for the boys.
“The summer weeks push them out of their comfort zone. Within the period of one week, you see an amazing amount of growth,” he says. “By the end of the week you sometimes see a really profound change in a boy … that’s really rewarding.”
In addition to scouting, Lebakken also volunteers with the Edina High School swim team and local swim club. Michaelson says Lebakken never seems to let the stressful scoring table at the meets overwhelm him. “He’s excellent with organization and logistics,” Michaelson says.
Assistant scout master Chris Kellick has worked with Lebakken for years and says that “as long as he keeps doing it, I’ll keep doing it with him.”
“He’s a teacher … he teaches by example. It’s in the way he lives his life,” Kellick says. “He doesn’t tell the boys what they have to do, he puts them in charge and then follows up by asking questions that help them see what they may have overlooked.”
In his acceptance speech, Lebakken highlighted the fact that scouting isn’t just about working with boys who “excel at everything,” he says. “Our program … is designed for all youth, the kids that need extra help often have more to learn, and therefore more to gain … We work with scouts from the time they’re 11 years old until they’re 18, and it’s amazing to see how much personal growth happens over that time. The experiences and lessons they learn through Scouting will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Know someone who is connecting with kids? Nominations for 2020 open on January 1st. Check the Edina Community Foundation on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the Connecting with Kids director Patty Dronen at firstname.lastname@example.org.