1 in 6 Scouts has some form of disability or special need.
This estimate comes from the BSA’s National Disabilities Awareness Committee and reflects the variety of physical, cognitive, behavioral or learning disabilities that today’s youth face. These Scouts can be found active in almost every pack, troop, ship, post or crew. They are busy building Pinewood Derby cars and canoeing, earning merit badges and Eagle Scout ranks because, unlike in many arenas in life, they are not separated into their own groups but, instead, “mainstreamed” into ordinary scouting units.
Success stories abound. There is Zach Beckman of Troop 185 in Jasper, IN, who was born with Down syndrome but recently became an Eagle Scout or the set of triplets, born blind, that earned their Eagle Scout rank together in 2017. But these stories aren’t just found in other places. There are plenty of them here in the Quapaw Area Council.
Take Ken Mayo, for example. Ken manages DADS of Arkansas (Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome), but he is also a Scoutmaster. Ken recently wrote this:
As a Scoutmaster, Father of an Eagle Scout, the Director of D.A.D.S. of Arkansas, and father of a child with Down Syndrome, we will always adhere to the motto ” Do Your Best”! Our honorary member of D.A.D.S. whom has DS was awarded his Eagle Scout here with QAC and we are so proud!
Or take Marissa Smith whose daughter recently joined Cub Scouts as one of the first girls to be involved. Last year she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and was told not to participate in sports. After trying other options, she has found Cub Scouts to be the right program. Here’s what Marissa recently told us:
We enjoyed (the other program) but, we didn’t like that we didn’t like that there wasn’t enough camping or outdoor activities. Also, there was not enough character building. We began Cub Scouts in January of this year. She enjoys it a lot more. She likes the camping and hiking that she gets to do. Also she loved the pinewood derby and learning all the different belt loops. Betty is able to be more involved and (is) learning so much through Cub Scouts. She has come so far in character and is so helpful. Our family has become so much closer since we gotten involved with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
So why is Scouting so powerful for kids with special needs? Because they get to be part of the group in a setting that is positive and safe. Though there has been some recent confusion on this, the BSA advancement policies actually specify that advancement requirements can and should be adapted, as needed, for youth with documented special needs. There are even provisions to extend the timeline beyond the normal 18-year old deadline, as exemplified by the 52 year old man who earned his Eagle in 2015.
Because camping can often be a barrier for those with physical limitations, the Quapaw Area Council made significant investments in 2017 to our barrier-free campsite. Through a generous gift by Dr. Robert Skinner, several improvements were made such that the Northpoint campsite offers electrical service for all tents, wheelchair accessible tent platforms and paved walkways throughout the campsite and latrine facilities. We want all young people to be able to benefit from the experience of summer camp and this facility improvement helps make that more possible for those with physical restrictions.
For over 100 years, the Quapaw Area Council has leveraged endless adventures to instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law into the young people of Arkansas. Today, more than ever before, these timeless values are needed and available for everyone.
On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent