People of all ages often point to Scout participation as significant moments when they learned life skills and developed positive leadership traits they still draw upon.
The Barry Robinson Center provides these kinds of Scout learning opportunities to its residents while they’re in treatment. For 10 years, the Center has sponsored Scout Troop 397, part of the Tidewater Council of Boy Scouts of America. The Center has a Cub Scout pack, a younger Scout troop and an older leadership Scout group.
Willie Linn, the Center’s activities coordinator, established the troop and continues to lead it. He said he appreciates the strong, consistent support from the Center’s administration and the Board of Trustees.
“A lot of our residents don’t have Scouting backgrounds, so this is an opportunity for them to have a positive group experience,” Linn said. “I introduce myself as the Scoutmaster and invite them to come see what we do.”
During their time at the Center, Scouts participate in service projects including presenting and retiring colors at campus events and building items for the campus community. On several occasions over the years, the Scouts have held flag retirement ceremonies.
This summer, Scouts built a portable stand from PVC pipe that will have multiple uses, including popcorn sales and produce sales from the Center’s Garden Program. They also are making plans to construct picnic tables for the campus.
Even while in residential treatment, the Scouts go “camping,” with overnight sleepovers in tents in the Center’s gym. At these events, the Scouts enjoy pizza and activities that may include arts and crafts, video games and movies.
“We do things a little differently, and I need to be creative,” Linn explained. “I work closely with the clinicians because a lot of what we do reinforces skills the residents are acquiring in therapy.”
He outlined what the different age groups focus on during their weekly meetings. For example, the Cub Scouts learn how to play together through activities like drawing with sidewalk chalk and making play dough.
With older Scouts, Linn teaches them the Scout law and oath through fun activities like playing Jenga. Questions about the law and oath are on the blocks, and residents take turn pulling blocks and answering questions.
Due to time and logistical constraints of residential treatment, few of the Scouts are able to work on earning merit badges. Instead, Linn offers opportunities for them to earn patches that adorn red Scout vests they take home when they discharge.
“They learn more while having fun,” Linn said. “They become part of something and have opportunities for success. Scouting can really boost their self-esteem and put a smile on their face.”
Retiring Flags Respectfully
Flag Day 2018, June 14, marked the Center’s third flag retirement ceremony, organized by Linn and the Recreation Therapy team. Six teen Scouts from the leadership group carried out the ceremony with respect.
Residents and staff gathered along the sidewalk near the gym. Linn welcomed the group and explained the ceremony’s elements.
One by one, the Scouts stepped forward and reminded the audience about various aspects of the American flag’s symbolism. Then, they solemnly placed several carefully folded flags into a cauldron for burning and stood by monitoring the burn.
After the cauldron cooled, the Scouts collected the ashes and placed them in a container. They later buried them in a small garden on campus where two previous boxes of flag remains lay.