Although the age limit for Scouting is ordinarily 18, there are no limits for those who are disabled.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Imagine trying to catch a ball you can't see. Or trying to write your name when your brain turns the letters inside out.
These are everyday challenges for people with disabilities.
The Boy Scouts of Troop 3, based in Austintown, know all about it. All 12 members have some disability. Even so, half of them have earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
To help others understand the challenges that people who are disabled face every day, the Scouts of Troop 3 set up a variety of activities at the Boy Scout camp at the Canfield Fair.
Fairgoers can play catch blindfolded with a beeping baseball. Or, they can play tic-tac-toe using blocklike playing pieces and their sense of touch. They can trace words in a mirror to simulate a learning disability or make their way through an obstacle course in a wheelchair.
"I do this to give people insight into what it's like to be disabled," said Joe Chiricosta of Youngstown, motioning to the wheelchair obstacle course. "It's something I really enjoy."
Chiricosta is one of five members of Troop 3 who made Eagle Scout in 1999; he's been a Scout 20 years and uses a wheelchair.
Although the age limit for scouting is ordinarily 18, there are no limits for disabled boys, said Carol Warneke of Austintown, Troop 3's program chairwoman.
Two of Warneke's four sons belong to Troop 3. Her husband, Jim, is scoutmaster.
"You don't have to be disabled to join our troop," Warneke said. "The Boy Scouts usually like to integrate disabled boys into the regular troops, but sometimes it doesn't work."
Warneke's youngest son, Jeremy, who has Down syndrome, was in a regular Cub Scout troop in the primary grades, she said. "Then he was just a little slow. But as the boys got older, Jeremy got further and further behind."
Jeremy is 18 now and continues to work toward Eagle Scout.
The majority of scouts in Troop 3 live in Mahoning County, but there is no stipulation as to where they can live, Warneke said. "We've had people come from Trumbull and Columbiana counties, too.
"My goal is to have two new leaders and six more boys this year. We're looking to grow," she said. Volunteers are also welcome because some of the activities require one-on-one interaction with the boys.
Volunteers need not make long-term commitments, Warneke said; they could be other Scouts working to earn a disability awareness badge or youth organizations looking for a community-service project.
Troop 3 meets twice a month at Western Reserve United Methodist Church in Cornersburg. For more information, call Warneke at (330) 270-3666.
Some 1,400 boys in Mahoning County are involved in Scouting. There are 26 Cub Scout packs for boys in grades 1 through 5 and 25 Boy Scout Troops for boys ages 11 to 18.
During the fair, the troops take turns running the fairground camp. There is room for 50 to 55 tents that comfortably accommodate about 85 Scouts and 25 adults, said Dave Chauvin, camp master. Chauvin is also scoutmaster for Troop 54 in Brownlee Woods.
As part of the display, Scouts demonstrate the skills they've learned by building and operating a variety of attractions, including a "monkey bridge" made of rope that children are encouraged to cross and an enormous see-saw style swing powered by biceps and rope.
Scouts staff each activity and are all encouraged to contribute.
The Scout camp is designed to inform fairgoers about what Scouting involves, recruit new members, and allow everyone to have fun, Chauvin said.
It is between Gates D and E at the southeast corner of the fairgrounds.