TEXARKANA — Opportunities, Inc., a local organization that provides assistance to people with disabilities has teamed up with the Boy Scouts' office here to bring the Scouting experience to those who might otherwise not get it. Such initiatives exist elsewhere, but this one is the first of its kind for this area.
"One of our council's priorities is serving the underserved," said Anthony Escobar, Boy Scouts America-Caddo Council Executive.
This aligns well with Opportunities, Inc.'s mission, he said.
In May of 2019, Sherry Young, Opportunities's executive director spoke at a Rotary Club meeting. She talked about Opportunities Inc.
"Several months after that, we came up with jointly serving this underserved population," Escobar said. "The idea just clicked. A natural fit, it just fell into place."
"Scouting, building confidence, self-esteem, life skills, leadership skills, how to make good life choices, that is also what we try to do here," she said. "What our two organizations do reinforce each other."
The Scouting organization at Opportunities Inc., has two troops, one for males, one for females. The boys' troop has 10 scouts, the girls' 14.
"Because of adult developmental disability, documented medically, adults in these troops are classified as youth members and treated as such," Young said.
"We have two courts of honor, merit badges, rank advancement, the works," Escobar said. "They get to hike, camp, shoot (BB guns and bows), fish, just like any other scout. Some of them are on course to make Eagle Scout."
The two organizations combine their expertise in working with these special populations and the scouting experience respectively to bring this to the population of Opportunities Inc. There was some complication in getting set up. They started early in 2020, and like many plans, thing were disrupted by the onset of COVID. But they adapted and the scouting experience for these people continued.
"We just had to work around COVID conditions," said Escobar. "I can't stress enough how successful the partnership has been, mostly for the scouts."
Caddo Council is working on a similar program advancing the Cub Scout experience.
"This is for the elementary-aged boys and girls, which will also be handled at Opportunities Inc," he said. "There is a need for this at this level, for developmentally disabled younger kids."
Young and Escobar said the program has a strong appeal.
"We don't believe there is an 8-year-old who doesn't want to fish, shoot BB guns, or make a s'more around a campfire," Young said, " — even ones with disabilities."