Cubmaster Denise Sims received a prestigious award Saturday during a council ceremony in Loveland, Colorado — but she might have preferred not to.
The Boy Scouts of America’s Long Peak Council — comprising parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska — bestowed on Sims the Silver Beaver Award, recognizing her many years of service with the Cub Scouts.
It was a gesture Sims — a reticent mother of four and grandmother of five — found exciting but unnecessary.
“I’m nervous and embarrassed,” she said. “I don’t like a lot of attention. That’s why I like to work with kids.”
But Sims’ passion, dedication and skill for working with children is exactly why she’s receiving the award, Troop 137 Scoutmaster Ben Jordan said.
“She’s so quiet and shy most of the time, but she just gets things done, which is something I’ve always appreciated about her,” he said. “(The Silver Beaver) is the highest award that our scout council can give and our council is made up of parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska and has over 10,000 youth members.”
Council leadership receives nominations from a pool of 3,500 adult volunteers and can select up to 11 winners.
“A lot of times, 11 awards aren’t given out, because we just don’t feel that they raised to the bar so to speak,” Jordan said. “You have to have a long tenure, and you have to show meaningful impact on the lives of young people, not just in the movement, but also outside of scouting.”
Sims also dedicated her time to children outside of scouting, caring for 21 foster kids at various times, in addition to her own.
“I just wanted to help kids that couldn’t be with their families for whatever reasons, so they had a place where they could feel loved,” she said. “It’s a scary thing to be taken out of their home.”
In 1984, expecting her first child at 19 years-old, Sims was asked to give her time as an assistant den leader for a Cub Scout pack attached to her former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward in St. George, Utah.
“I was just helping out at the time,” Sims said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
She would stay involved in scouting throughout the years that followed, even as she and her family moved to Laramie around 2000 and she joined Cub Scout Pack 118.
“Over and over again, Denise has been called to be an active member of scouting just because she does such a good job of bringing scouting to life and teaching the young people what it is they need to become better young men,” Jordan said.
Sims said she tries to make every meeting and event interesting for the Cub Scouts.
“They’re learning skills and they’re not always thinking about the fact that they’re learning skills,” she said.
Jordan recalled a particularly memorable Blue and Gold Banquet — an annual celebration put on by most scout packs across the country. The theme was “Out on the farm” and Sims was responsible for planning it.
“There were hay bales, there were games galore,” he said. “The tables had been made up in the red-and-white checked cloth. It was just amazing, because it didn’t look anything like the room normally looked like … She just made things so much fun for all those kids. That’s just one thing she does very, very well.”
Sims has served as district day camp director and put serious effort into helping train other cubmasters and den leaders, Jordan said, even preparing what he called “meetings-in-a-box,” which are themed plans for meetings.
“Essentially, she gave you the ingredients for the recipe,” he said. “If you went and gathered that stuff up and put it together for your cub scout pack or your dens, you would have a successful meeting.”
As camp director, Sims rallied 20-25 other adult volunteers around a given year’s theme — be it “Jungle,” “Knights of the Round Table” or “Space” — even dressing up in, or assigning, costumes if applicable.
Sims dressed up as Amelia Earhart for one airplane-themed camp — something leaders do not get to do in the older Boy Scout packs.
“I like Cub Scouts because you get to dress up,” she said. “Costumes are always fun.”
Silver Beaver Awards are given to those of “exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a council,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.
Jordan said Sims, while humble, deserves the recognition.
“I liken her to the Great Oz,” he said. “There’s this great big fun event going on and all this activity and all this commotion, and she’s behind the curtain throwing all the switches and stuff, saying ‘Don’t look back here — there’s no one here’ … I could never pull off something like what she does.”