The Ordeal Ceremony is a highly anticipated event for candidates that marks the next step of their journey towards becoming full members of the Order of the Arrow. Unfortunately, many Scouts do not have access to opportunities like this because of their special needs. Many lodges and units struggle to find ways for Scouts with disabilities to actively participate in their programs or fail to recognize how easy it can be to modify and adapt programs to meet the needs of individual Scouts. Recently, Mowogo Lodge of Northeast Georgia Council inducted a Scout with disabilities, setting an example for other lodges to take similar initiatives.
Meet Duncan Lawrence.
Duncan Lawrence, a Scout from Troop 101 in Blairsville, Georgia, has a disorder called cerebral palsy, which significantly impacts the body’s nervous system, affecting muscular function and general strength. It also primarily affects an individual's ability to move or maintain good balance and posture. In Duncan’s case, cerebral palsy has affected his muscles and his ability to walk, which is why he uses a wheelchair. Duncan also has a visual impairment, making seeing shapes or faraway figures difficult. Despite these challenges, Duncan has become active in the Scouting program and has attended multiple summer camps at his local council camp, Camp Rainey Mountain. While at camp, he broke many boundaries, earned multiple merit badges, and even had an opportunity to swim in the lake.
When Duncan was elected to join the Order of the Arrow, he was excited to start. Duncan knew the ordeal would present a new set of obstacles he had not yet encountered in Scouting. The first obstacle was quickly overcome by having his father, Tom Lawrence, who was inducted as a youth, trained to serve as an elangomat for his son. In the weeks before his son’s ordeal, Mr. Lawrence worked with both Vice Chief Alex S. and Lodge Adviser Rusty Royston to design an ordeal experience that would continue to reflect the OA’s long-standing values and expectations for ordeal candidates: the 10 Induction Principles in the Guide to Inductions. They worked with the rest of the lodge executive committee to find an area at Camp Rainey Mountain suitable for Duncan’s needs. This required making sure the ceremony rings and other ordeal areas were wheelchair accessible. Precautions would also have to be taken by Service Chair Patrick M. when planning projects that Duncan could participate in despite his mobility challenges.
For Duncan’s ordeal, he helped to move downed limbs and branches from the roads and campsites around Camp Rainey Mountain to the camp’s firewood pile. While Mr. Lawrence occasionally helped his son break down larger limbs, the extra planning allowed Duncan to actively work throughout his ordeal and participate as much as any other candidate. Despite Duncan's unique challenges during his ordeal, he never gave up on his tasks.
After the day’s service projects, Duncan participated in the Ordeal Ceremony. While many of Camp Rainey Mountain's ceremonial rings are not accessible for wheelchairs, Vice Chief Jayce W. was committed to providing a ring with an adequate pathway for Duncan to access. In the months leading up to the Spring Fellowship Ordeal, Jayce worked with other volunteers from the lodge to clean and rebuild a ceremony ring to meet Duncan’s needs and future candidates with special needs.
At the end of his ordeal, Duncan spoke about his experience by explaining, “I had a great time, felt welcome in the program, and was relieved that the work projects could be adapted without taking away from the same experience anyone else would have received.” He also said that he was very tired and ready for bed!
Because of the lodge’s efforts, this experience is now something that Duncan will remember forever. Duncan’s experience has helped to open the eyes of many of Mowogo Lodge’s members.
“Just because some Scouts may have a disability does not stop them from pursuing their interests. Duncan has changed how Mowogo Lodge will go about ordeal weekends for years,” reflected Vice Chief Elizabeth B.
A bit of extra care and planning can ensure that Scouting is accessible for all Scouts. Planning ordeals and other events that are accessible for those who have a physical or mental disability will help make the program more welcoming to all Scouts. Over the past few years, the Boy Scouts of America have worked tirelessly to create an inclusive environment for Scouts with disabilities. They have put together a “toolbox,” providing leaders and advisers with many helpful resources that allow them to include these individuals in all activities.
The Scouting program and the OA offer a unique and valuable experience that teaches essential life skills, and by making accommodations and creating an inclusive environment, Scouts with disabilities can participate in the same activities and learn the same lessons as their peers. The quick adaptability of lodges can be a powerful example for promoting acceptance, understanding, and respect for people with disabilities within the broader community. Ultimately, Scouting and the Order of the Arrow becomes a more diverse and enriching experience for all involved when we account for different abilities.