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Scouts bring camp to urban neighborhoods

Updated: 2013-07-24T02:16:35Z

By JENNIFER BHARGAVA

Special to The Star

Every summer, millions of Cub Scouts across the nation look forward to camp.

It’s a time to play with friends under a bright blue sky and learn cool new skills.

But for a large percentage of scouts living in the Kansas City urban core, summer camp isn’t a reality. They can’t afford to go or they don’t have a way to get there.

So, for the second year in a row, Boy Scouts from the Heart of America Council brought camp to them. At 15 locations all over the Kansas City area this summer, hundreds of excited little boys enjoyed an afternoon of activities such as archery and arts and crafts.

The event is part of the organization’s Urban Scouting initiative, which encourages inner-city kids to participate in the organization.

Last week, nearly 60 Cub Scouts gathered at Garfield Elementary School in Kansas City for one of the urban camps.

“It feels great to see these kids smiling at the smallest little things,” said Julian Marshall, a program aide for Boy Scouts’ Frontier district. “You can’t beat learning and having fun at the same time.”

The 18-year-old is not only a big fan of the new urban camps, but of the Urban Scouting program itself. He’s a product of it.

Marshall joined the Boy Scouts with the help of Urban Scouting 10 years ago.

“Growing up, I didn’t have a brother, so Boy Scouts offered a way for me to make friends and just be around guys doing guy things,” he said. “I think that’s why a lot of boys stick with scouting. You’re meeting friends for life.”

Now an Eagle Scout, Marshall sees it as his duty to help the next generation.

“I just wanted to give back to the program that gave so much to me,” Marshall explained. “It was the only thing that made sense. It means a lot to these kids that I’m able to sit down and tell them I was once in their shoes.”

He’s not the only one.

James Vaca, the vice-chairman of the Frontier district, stopped by the site because he grew up nearby. He couldn’t be more thrilled at how well the new camps are taking off.

“We’re hoping to get more kids in urban areas interested in scouting because it teaches them good solid moral foundations,” said Vaca, who is also a sergeant for the Kansas City Police Department. “It gives them a chance to do things they normally wouldn’t do, in a safe environment, plus introduces them to great role models.”

Ralph Reid, the vice president of corporate social responsibility for Sprint, agrees.

It’s one of the reasons Sprint sponsors the Urban Scouting program, he pointed out.

“Boy Scouts turns our youth into leaders,” Reid said. “We want to create positive members of society in the urban core.”

The message isn’t lost on the Cub Scouts, either.

“They teach us to be respectful to others and responsibility, which is good,” said Abdullah Hussein, a soon-to-be sixth grader at Garfield Elementary. “I’ve made a few friends.”

His favorite part of the camp was playing with the plastic bow and arrows and decorating leather necklaces and key chains.

His friend, 11-year-old Pape Diagne, agrees that scouting is a ton of fun. He plans to stick with it as long as he can.

“I like scouting because you get to build cool stuff and take field trips,” he said.

The boys’ enthusiasm pleased the Boy Scouts, especially Kenn Miller, the Scout Executive for the Heart of America Council.

His goal is that every kid who joins Boy Scouts in the urban core sticks with it, or at least keeps a part of it with him forever.

“There are a lot of bad things kids can do, so if we can provide a positive alternative for urban youth, then they won’t get in trouble,” he said. “It’s good for the community and the kids as a whole.”

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