By Angela Bernhardt, Director of Major Gifts
The Boy Scouts and Hammer Residences have been partners for many years. In 1970, under the leadership of two Hammer dads, Alden Keiski and Jim Solinger, a Boy Scout troop was formed at Hammer.
“In the early 80’s I was a direct care staff in the boy’s dormitory,” said Ellen Timmerman-Borer, Hammer’s Chief Development Officer. “Many of the guys who I worked with were proud to be boy scouts. We hosted regular meetings in the Hammer gym, inviting scouts from other troops to volunteer and assist the Hammer scouts in earning badges and planning camping trips. Some of the dads, like Dick Wesley, and I even spent a weekend with the Hammer troop at Many Point Scout Camp!”
Over the years, local boys have done their Eagle Scout services projects to benefit Hammer. From building yard games for our homes and apartments, to making frames for an art show, to organizing volunteers for the basketball program and more, boy scouts have been supportive of Hammer and fulfilled the scout slogan of “do a good turn daily.” Troop 570 Senior Patrol Leader, Ethan Weiche, is currently doing a service project for Hammer and says of his experience, “Being able to contribute something visibly meaningful to this inspiring organization is very rewarding.”
This year, Boy Scout Troop 570 of Plymouth, earned the disabilities awareness merit badge as a troop. The timing was intentional, with the 25th anniversary of the ADA in the news, and having members of their troop with disabilities, the boys determined earning this rare merit badge was important to them.
The disabilities awareness merit badge has several requirements, including learning about the importance of people-first language and proper disability etiquette, visiting an agency that works with people with developmental disabilities (they toured Courage Center) and speaking with a fellow scout who has a disability and learning about his experiences in scouting activities. They also met with an individual who has a disability to learn about his experiences and the activities he likes to do, and finally, the troop learned about myths and misconceptions of people with disabilities.
One of the members of the troop lives with autism. Along with his mother, he spoke to the troop, thanking everyone for being so accepting and following the scout law: “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Because of the scouts, he has had the chance to do things he never imagined he would do, like rock climbing, canoeing and camping monthly (even in the winter!).
Self-advocate Alex Luther and Hammer’s Director of Advocacy and Volunteer Resources Terriann Matejcek spoke to the troop about some stereotypes of living with a disability. The boys had a chance to ask Alex questions and learned he liked parties, games and food. So, they invited him to their holiday party, and to their delight, Alex attended joined in on the festivities. Most recently, Alex was invited to the troop’s Court of Honor BBQ, but he couldn’t make it due to Hammer’s annual fishing trip!
George Wilson, Troop 570 Parent Committee Chair says of the relationship between Hammer and Troop 570, “Through the visits and interaction, both the scouts and their parents have gained a new appreciation for the challenges faced by those with disabilities. We have gained an understanding that while individuals living with disabilities have different challenges, they also have many abilities. It has been a great experience for all of us.”