Skip Lange's introduction to adult Scouting was fairly typical. He'd been away from Scouting for years when his son, Sandy, joined Troop 510 in Indianapolis. Although pleased that Sandy was signing up, Lange didn't plan to become a leader. "I had not intended to become involved, but it didn't work out that way," he said.
In fact, Lange soon became Scoutmaster, a position he held from 1968 through 1972. During that time, the troop's membership jumped from about a dozen Scouts to more than a hundred, due in large part to what Lange calls his "magic formula": Hold a campout every month, publish an annual program calendar, and "never, never cancel."
Troop 510's shakedown campout each September took place in Lange's 12-acre backyard, but other outings took the Scouts caving in southern Indiana, hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch, canoeing around Lake Michigan's South Manitou Island, sailing the Bahamas, and climbing the Grand Teton.
After a successful tenure as Scoutmaster, Lange went on to other challenges within the program, serving as district chairman, Sustaining Membership Enrollment (now Friends of Scouting) chairman, council president, and area president. He received both the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards, as well as the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
Lange's years of service to Scouting convinced him that Boy Scouting -- as distinct from Cub Scouting and programs for older youth -- was "the core and strength of our movement." And yet, he'd never seen a concerted effort to measure the success of Boy Scouting.
So he created one.
In 2003, Lange and his Eagle Scout son, Sandy, approached Scott Clabaugh, Scout executive of the Crossroads of America Council, with a unique challenge. Their family trust, the ADL Charitable Trust, would donate $100,000 to the council each year for 10 years -- if the council met certain goals. Specifically, each year's gift would be contingent on three things: an increase in the number of Boy Scouts in the council, an increase in the number of the council's Boy Scouts attending a long-term summer camp, and an increase in the number of Eagle Scout Awards given in the council.
Lange named the grant the Vitz-Norris Challenge to honor two Scout leaders who had a tremendous impact on his life. Hubert Vitz was Scoutmaster of Troop 60, where Lange became an Eagle Scout; Max Norris was a fellow Troop 60 Eagle Scout who went on to serve as both council president and president of the National Eagle Scout Association.
Council officials embraced the Vitz-Norris Challenge's goals, successfully meeting the challenge for 2003 and 2004, the first two years of the grant. (Results for 2005 are pending.) More importantly, Clabaugh said, "The Vitz-Norris Challenge has focused our commitment to growing the Boy Scout program. It has sparked creative, new ways of thinking about Boy Scouting."
Lange has been active in numerous other community activities, both in his hometown of Indianapolis and in the Four Corners area, where he and his wife have a second home. An avocational archeologist, he helped the people of Bluff, Utah, purchase and preserve an Anasazi site in the center of town; the University of Colorado now holds its Southwest Archaeology Field School there. Lange is also a former competition driver in the Sports Car Club of America. He served in the Air Force during World War II and today pilots his AirCam experimental plane for archeological photo surveys.