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Camp Joy Provides Summer Memories For Special Needs Troop

October 22, 2018

Every summer since 1987, special needs Troop 334 from Red Bud, Illinois has spent a week at Camp Joy. It was a promise Eileen Williams made all those years ago with founding Scoutmaster Jim Brandon and one she continues to keep to this day with the help of her husband, Gary, and many other dedicated volunteers.

The troop functions just as any other unit with regular meetings and campouts and attendance at as many Order of the Arrow events as they can make. However, summer camp has always been a favorite for the Scouts. Their participation at summer camp has become a favorite for other units too.

“We always go first week to Camp Joy,” said Gary. “But we have units that start asking in April, ‘Are you guys coming to camp,’ or ‘How many guys are you bringing to camp?’ We have different units that will camp with us on our campsite because they want to spend that week with our guys. They would invite us over for their campfires and things like that. These guys give more and teach more than what they learn, but they also come and have a great week at camp.”

Although the Scouts of Troop 334 have different physical and mental abilities, Eileen sees to it that they are treated just like any other kid.

“We don’t really expect them to be treated any differently,” explained Eileen. “When the counselors in camp would ask, ‘How do I approve merit badges?’ You approve them based on their ability. You can’t just look at them and say they all don’t get it or I already signed off on it because they’re just there. We’re not looking for that. We want them to learn something.”

Life Scout Eugene H. has been to every summer camp since 1987. Now in his sixties, he often tells Eileen that his goal is to complete his Eagle. So he can retire.

Troop 334 at a Klondike campout in 1991.

The council special needs committee is designed to offer support, training and resources to help Scouts and units be more successful. To access special needs resources, including committee contact information, visit  stlbsa.org/programs/special-needs-scouts.