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'Venture’ means adventure for disabled scouts

 


‘Venture’ means adventure for disabled scouts

April 13, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Jan Snider*

Venture Crew 1777 of New Windsor, Md., is not like most Scout troops.

Its members range from age 20 to 53 and include both men and women. And all have a physical or mental disability.

The troop is sponsored by Pipe Creek United Methodist Church, a congregation with fewer than 10 active members.

“It’s a faith issue,” says the Rev. Holly Slaugh, describing the church’s commitment to the crew.

It takes a little faith and a great deal of effort. Chartered under the Boy Scouts of America, these Venturers are breaking down barriers and challenging traditional views of scouting in Maryland and beyond. 

“Some of the things that Boy Scouts do I wasn’t capable of doing because of my disabilities,” explains 20-year-old Paul Curfman of New Windsor, a member of Pipe Creek.

At age 6, Curfman suffered liver and bone marrow failure. A resulting stroke left him permanently disabled but not helpless. By age 18, Curfman had earned Eagle Scout. He petitioned the Boys Scouts of America to form a Venture Crew for special needs people like him—regardless of age. Despite ongoing health issues, Curfman is dedicated to seeing this effort succeed.

The Venture program is an outreach of Boy Scouts that typically extends scouting opportunities to young men and women between ages 14 and 20. Venture Crews today are diverse and dynamic, and Curfman’s group of five men and two women is among the most unusual.

Consider members Donald and Kelly Chepko, both in their 50s. “I like to achieve things that I’ve never been able to achieve before,” Donald says. “I’m that kind of person.”

His wife never imagined she could be part of a scouting group. “This is all new to me, but we have a good time doing it,” she says.

Community outreach is part of the Venture Crew mission. The group recently collected 839 pounds of food for a community food bank. It also began doing puppet shows for local community organizations, thanks to an old box of puppets found at the church.

Requests for puppet shows far outnumber the Venturers’ ability to perform because “traveling for the crew is extremely difficult,” according to Wayne Curfman, Paul’s father and committee chairman of Venture Crew 1777. “We have members who are in wheelchairs, and we are a very rural community.”

But crew members are committed to the shows. “They are used to receiving help from others, but this is a way for them to give back,” Curfman says.

Venture Crew 1777 aims to increase its membership in the next year. Because its community has no organized transportation for wheelchair-bound citizens, the group hopes to acquire a bus with a wheelchair lift.


*Snider is a freelance producer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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