Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an organization rich in history. Their motto, Be Prepared, sums up the organization’s desire to create a good foundation in kids. Scouting develops skills, confidence, leadership and the good judgement that will guide young men and women throughout their adult lives. While the Scouts have made news in recent years for being inclusive to girls and boys, did you know that the Scouts are also inclusive to kids of all abilities?
“We’ve always been inclusive,” shared Workforce Development Director and Special Needs Scouting Advisor, Caroline Altizer, about the organization. “We’re just trying to be more visible [about it] and to let people know.” Altizer explained the meaning behind the BSA’s Scout Me In campaign. Its purpose is to ensure that all kids know they are welcome. Altizer emphasized that it includes kids of different abilities, too.
Northeast Ohio’s Great Trail Council and Summit DD are teaming up to open additional opportunities to kids who have special needs. Their emphasis for this collaboration focuses on summer camps.
“Camp is the pinnacle,” she explained enthusiastically. “It’s easy to go to a meeting in a church basement. But it’s summer camp that the kids really look forward to.” she continued. “The main goal is to include everyone, and make sure they know this is for them.”
About the Partnership
Summit DD is providing Inclusion Specialists to be on-hand for the summer camp season. This year, Summit DD will have two Specialists available to provide support to the Day and Residence camps. Their job is to identify challenging situations. They then offer tools to make camp a more welcoming experience for all campers, no matter what their needs may be.
“They work with [the camp staff and volunteers] to show them why a child might be struggling,” Summit DD’s Joan Bauer said of the summer camp Inclusion Specialists. “Then they offer ideas that can help.” Bauer explained that offering solutions like universal design can benefit all children, not just those who may have a disability. These techniques ultimately enhance the camp experience that all Scouts look forward to each year.
Summit DD and the Great Trail Council piloted the successful partnership last year. “It was phenomenal. We had families participate that previously had not,” Altizer shared. “And they are planning to come this year after seeing the support,” she continued.
Leading the Way
The Scouts are also working with Kulture City to become the first Inclusive Council and camp in the country. Kulture City, who has also worked with Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (formerly Quicken Loans Area), the Akron Zoo and other well-known entities to train their staff to provide inclusive experiences for all families, recently hosted a training for the Great Trail Council staff.
In addition to inclusive efforts with other organizations like the Autism Society of Greater Akron, NAMI, and GreenLeaf, the Great Trail Council also participated in the Adapt-a-Car workshop with Summit DD and the Inclusioneers earlier in the year. The Adapt-a-Car event gave them Wild Thing – an adaptive, all-terrain vehicle for navigating Camp Butler and Camp Manatoc. Wild Thing gives kids with mobility challenges the opportunity to tackle rougher terrain throughout the camp.
Altizer and the organization are working hard to ensure all kids have opportunities to be part of the camp experience. She expressed her desire to let families know that the organization wants to help kids with different abilities. They want kids to participate in camps alongside their friends and classmates. “The endgame is to make sure families know we are open to try anything [for them].”