Filling a Community's Special Needs
By Carolyn Collazo
For more than three decades, a Youngstown, Ohio, troop, like a loving, extended family, has made Scouting available to young men with mental and physical disabilities.
- Troop 3 Celebrates Its First Eagle Scouts
- Information for Leaders Who Serve Scouts With Disabilities
In the late 1960s, Mike Magalotti was unable to find a Boy Scout troop in the Youngstown, Ohio, area that could meet the needs of his brother, Donald, a boy with mental retardation. Magalotti then joined forces with two of his fellow instructors from the Mahoning County program for persons with mental and developmental disabilities and started Troop 3.
With instructor Dave Virtue serving as its first Scoutmaster, the troop welcomed young men with mental, and also, in some cases, physical disabilities. And it wasn't long before Troop 3 began to have an impact on the lives of its Scouts, its leaders, and the northeastern Ohio communities it touched.
A spirit of helpfulness
Through three decades the "special needs" troop in the BSA's Greater Western Reserve Council has become an extended, loving family whose members are recognized as exemplifying the finest traits of Scouting.
Most of the Scouts in Troop 3 are men in their 30s and 40s; some have been with the troop for two decades or longer. And in June 1999, five of them achieved what some had once considered impossibleearning their Eagle Scout Awards. (See the story below.)
During the emotional Eagle court of honor, Tommy Wills, 31, had trouble getting out of his seat to receive his award. Robert Nick and the three other new Eagles hurried to assist him.
Troop leaders noted how the incident demonstrated the way the Scouts of Troop 3 are aware of each other's abilities and disabilities and are always ready to help one another.
This spirit of helpfulness extends beyond the troop's own membership; it is one of many reasons other Scout troops and the community look forward to participating in activities with this special group.
"They are honest about everything they do, and strive to do 100 percent," said Bob Wilson, a Troop 3 assistant Scoutmaster, Silver Beaver Award recipient, and now Whispering Pines District unit commissioner. "They are a loving, caring, and appreciative group that I would rather work with than [almost any other unit]."
In 1968, the troop held its first meetings in Youngstown at the Leonard Kirtz School for students with mental retardation, where Mike Magalotti was a teacher. They later settled in at the Western Reserve United Methodist Church in Canfield, and have met there for the past 11 years.
John Trimboli, secretary treasurer of the Mahoning County Council 233, United Commercial Travelers of America, has held the troop's charter since his son, Mike, joined. Mike, who is now 57, is still an active member.
Timmy Gilboy joined in 1969 and brought along his older brother, Marty, who became Scoutmaster in 1977 and led the troop for 20 years. Marty continues as an assistant Scoutmaster and Tim is one of the troop's five Eagle Scouts.
Walter Wills became active in Troop 3 in 1979 when his son, Tom, then 12, was unable to keep up with a mainstream troop. Walter became an assistant Scoutmaster and, in 1992, committee chairman.
The troop is constantly looking for more members. Walter Wills goes after possible recruits "wherever I see themat the Special Olympics, bingo nights, the county schools, workshops, and special events for the disabled."
The troops' favorite activities include fishing, bowling, miniature golf, eating, and camping. In 1976 the Scouts traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico; in 1985, they attended the Canadian National Jamboree in Guelph, Ontario.
In summer, they attend a camp in Pennsylvania that offers special accessibility for campers with disabilities. For example, on hikes and other camp outings, Eagle Scout Joe Chiricosta, who walks with crutches, rides a special bicycle which pulls a small trailer that holds the Scouts' gear.
A major troop service project is an annual disability awareness program at the Canfield Fair. Fairgoers learn more about the nature of disabilities by using a wheelchair to navigate an obstacle course or wearing a blindfold and using a cane while walking a balance beam.
Other community activities include marching in area parades, providing an honor guard for the Leonard Kirtz School graduation and Special Olympics opening ceremonies, and assisting the annual Knights of Columbus "Measure Up" campaign in support of adults with mental retardation.
Members of the community, in return, offer their time and help. Some examples: Austintown firefighters conduct sessions on fire safety, while police officers do the same for citizenship; a photographer offers tips on using a camera and a middle-school teacher gives art lessons; Youngstown State University makes its planetarium available.
Troop 3 leaders have guided the Scouts in learning self-confidence and pride. The Scouts know what they can do, how to better take care of themselves; and some are able to live more independently. And the leaders have learned patience and understanding, and to rejoice in each Scout's small but important victories.
Assistant Scoutmaster Bob Wilson recalls a visit to Camp Stambaugh. The Scouts were playing touch football; but upon seeing him approaching, the whole troop broke into a run. Shouting, "Mr. Wilson! Mr. Wilson!" they lavished him with greetings and hugs.
"I was hooked," Wilson recalls.
Later, when Bob Wilson married, his best man was Bob Lash, a Scout from Troop 3. And in 1997, his wife, Patty Wilson, became Troop 3's fourth Scoutmaster.
Carolyn Collazo lives in Warren, Ohio. Part of this article was adapted from a feature she wrote for the Town Crier, a local suburban community newspaper.
Troop 3 Celebrates Its First Eagle Scouts
In October 1998, five Eagle Scout candidates in Troop 3 began their Eagle projects in Berlin Reservoir. Despite some of the worst winter weather that Ohio could throw at them, the five completed their efforts before the end of the following January and were ready to become the first Eagle Scouts in the troop's 31-year history.
Park rangers cooperated by suggesting suitable projects that would assist visitors or improve wildlife habitat.
Assistance was also available from Pete O'Connell and the Army Corps of Engineers. "The Scouts were enthusiastic over their projects, and the results show," said O'Connell. ''For example, the benches installed in the camping area are great and are being well used."
The benches were the project of Tim Gilboy, 43. Of his 30 years in Troop 3, he especially remembers a 1976 trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. "Troop 3 went to Philmont, and we [went on] a big hike in the woods in the wild," he recalled. "I enjoyed the adventure."
The other Eagle Scouts and their projects included:
Bob Lash, 43, a Scout for 30 years. His project involved building and installing nesting boxes for wood ducks. His health kept him from being present when the boxes were installed, but he kept control of the project by phone, relaying such directions as "Make sure the Scouts keep moving so they don't get cold," through Whispering Pines District unit commissioner Bob Wilson.
"I joined the Boy Scouts in 1969, and I enjoy it very much," Bob said. "I like the camp-outs. We have worked on many badges; all have been challenging and fun."
Bob Nick, 34, a Scout for 15 years, intended to collect Christmas trees to place in a lake as fish attractors. Extreme winter weather forced a change to installing brush piles for small wildlife habitat, which park rangers will utilize during their nature education walks.
"Since becoming a Boy Scout, my main goal has been to become an Eagle Scout," Nick said. "I enjoy everything about the Scouts, including the camping trips, fund-raising, weekly meetings, and, most importantly, the friendships I have made."
Joe Chiricosta, 41, said this about his 15 years as a Scout: "Scouting is one of the most important things that I do. I feel lucky to be able to be a Scout." His Eagle project was building and installing bluebird nesting boxes.
Tom Wills, 31, has been a Scout for 20 years. "I have been with Troop 3 since 1979, and I want to stay with it," he said. His projectpruning 15 apple trees in a previously untrimmed wild areahelped prolong tree life while making the area safer and more attractive for park visitors.
Information for Leaders Who Serve Scouts With Disabilities
The four-page pamphlet "Scouting Resources for Serving Youth With Disabilities" (No. 89-120) lists the wide variety of BSA materials available for council, district, and unit leaders. Included are such titles as:
For Council and District Scouters
For Cub Scout Packs
For Boy Scout Troops
October 2000 Table of Contents
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