How the Rotary Youth Camp Changed the Life of a Boy Scout with Special Needs

The Heart of America Council’s Rotary Scout Camp offers a long-term camp experience to Boy Scouts with special needs. Through its merit badge program and other activities, the camp helps special needs Scouts with their advancement in Scouting. Since the 1940s, the Boy Scouts have proudly hosted camps for those with special needs at the Rotary Youth Camp.

By: John Baska

Every summer for the past eight years, I have done one of my favorite things – attending the Boy Scout Camp (for Scouts with special needs) at the Rotary Youth Camp.

The theme for this year’s camp was “Winter Wonderland” and the activities included watching the movie, “Elf,” lots of dancing, a photo booth, a Sno-cone machine and a pool party.

I spent a huge chunk of my time doing what I love most – hanging out in the swimming pool with my friends. If they let me, I would spend all day there, only stopping for meals, bedtime – and, of course, the yummy cookies from the dining hall.

One other thing that got me out of the pool this summer – and became a new obsession – was the addition of the large, wooden swing in the main camp courtyard. When I wasn’t in the pool, I was getting as many turns as possible on that swing.

In addition to all the great parties and fun activities, the best part of camp is the counselors and staff – many of which are Boy Scouts and Scout leaders. They are so nice and really work hard to make the camp fun and safe for all of us. And, as an added bonus, I get to spend this fun week with two of my favorite people – my dad, Jim, and brother, Mike (an Eagle Scout) – who have helped out with the camp for several years.

Attending Scout Camp every summer has been a life-changing experience for me. It allows me to be more independent and to make my own decisions about what activities I want to do each day. The staff encourages us to do things on our own, but they will help us, if needed. And we can earn merit badges and rank advancements along the way.