On July 2, 2018, a Utah Scout camp published this video, showing their camp staff assisting a Cub Scout-aged girl shoot an arrow at the archery range. Although camp staff often assist young campers in shooting their first arrows, this time was different. The young girl was shooting the arrow with nothing but her feet! Because of a disability, this camper is only able to use her feet. However, her experience at the archery range was still the same and just as exciting as any other camper’s. The staff and her friends showed a dedication to inclusion and made sure this young girl had a Scout Camp experience just like anyone else. 

Just like this Utah camp did, it should be a priority for all camps and programs to make sure that youth of all ability groups experience success at camp.

Scouting for All

The basic premise of Scouting for youth with disabilities is that every child wants to participate fully and be respected like every other member of the troop. While there are, by necessity, troops exclusively composed of Scouts with disabilities, experience has shown that Scouting usually succeeds best when every child is part of a patrol in a regular troop.

In this country, young men and women who have special needs or disabilities are often offered separate activities. There are extracurricular activities just for them. They’re placed in separate classes at school and on special sports teams.

However, this is not the case in Scouting. Scouts with special needs are placed in dens and patrols with everyone else.

“Scouting is probably the one place where a youth who has a disability can be treated as one of the boys without any label attached,” says Tony Mei, a Scouter from Novato, Calif., and chairman of the BSA’s National Disabilities Awareness Committee. “The Scouting program is structured in such a way that a youth who has a disability can achieve — and be accommodated where appropriate.”

As much as 15 percent of Scouts have a disability or a special need — some physical, but most involving cognitive, behavioral or learning disabilities. So there could be several such Scouts in your pack, troop, team or crew. Just like the rest of the unit, these youth want to experience the excitement and sense of accomplishment that Scouting activities can give. 

This video also teaches a very important lesson: inclusion is the key to disabilities awareness. Hopefully, this will inspire participants to learn more about inclusion and its ability to impact ALL Scouts in a positive way.

Camp Jeremiah Johnson

Camp Jeremiah Johnson, often fondly referred to as “Camp JJ,” is found in the Utah National Parks Council and provides day-camps for Cub Scouts and Cub-aged groups of girls. 

“Camp JJ staff members work hard to make sure that youth of all ability groups experience success at camp,” says Anne Shumway, Camp Director at Camp JJ. 

“People have asked me why I would ever spend my summers working here when I could get a “better” job but honestly, there are few things in the world better than getting to watch things like this every day,” said another staff member. 

This video shows the impact Cub Scouting can have on the lives of youth and is an example of what family Scouting is all about—learning, doing, teaching and giving more opportunities to all. 

A Scout is Kind 

An important principle of the Scout Law is “A Scout is Kind.” The campers and staff at Camp JJ were a great example of this as they took extra care to ensure that everyone was able to have the same experience at camp. 

“Everyone should see this kind of friendship. This young woman will have an experience that may last for her lifetime,” one commenter wrote in response to this video. 

The cool part is, a Scout with special needs isn’t the only one who benefits when everyone is kind and practices inclusion.

“It is a two-way street when youth with disabilities are included in the unit,” Tony Mei says. “Often, the benefit is even greater for the other Scouts because it gives them a first-hand appreciation of what the Scout with a disability can do.”

As Scouts celebrate each other for what they can do instead of what they cannot, friendships are formed and Scouting becomes even more meaningful. This is the true power of inclusion. 

For more information and tips for working with Scouts with special needs or disabilities, click HERE.

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Madison Austin
studies Public Relations at Brigham Young University and is a marketing specialist at the Utah National Parks Council. She is an avid hiker and enjoys being outdoors. Growing up in the mountainous regions of Colorado and Virginia enabled her to follow these passions. After moving to Utah to attend college, she has spent her time fostering both a career in Communications and a love for Utah's National Parks.

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