Troop helps special needs scouts

Posted 3/24/11

Most boys have the chance to learn the ropes of the outdoors as scouts, but Karen Mansfield decided to take action on behalf of a few who were not …

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Troop helps special needs scouts


Most boys have the chance to learn the ropes of the outdoors as scouts, but Karen Mansfield decided to take action on behalf of a few who were not afforded the same opportunity.

Mansfield, a Highlands Ranch resident for 11 years, is helping pave the way for special needs Boy Scouts in Denver by creating a troop that helps them participate in activities that build lifelong memories and friendships. Scout troop 5280 enables those with disabilities to work at their own pace and eventually transition into a traditional scout team.

“They get to do activities they might have never got to do,” said Mansfield, scout master and founder of the 5280 troop. “We try to help them be more independent.”

The subject is near and dear to her heart. Not only does her 16-year-old son have a mental disability, but Mansfield herself suffers from neuropathy and fibromyalgia and uses either a cane or wheelchair to get around.

Troop 5280 meets twice a month at Bethany Lutheran Church near Hampden Avenue and Happy Canyon Road and draws kids from all over the Denver metro area. Surprisingly, there are no other special needs troops in the Denver region. Mansfield’s intent is to have similar transitional groups in each of Denver’s eight scout districts.

The boys’ disabilities vary from cerebral palsy to Down syndrome to learning impairments. However, they take part in the same fun excursions that other scouts do: swimming, camping, horseback riding and fishing. Most recently, the troop members worked on their fire safety badge. Multiple scout leaders take the different challenges head on and help accommodate every scout’s special need.

“5280 stands out because we go at each boy’s pace,” Mansfield said. “A three-week badge might take three months.”

Scouts who participate gain a sense of pride in their accomplishments and have the chance to socialize with other boys their age, taking away an important “feeling of belonging.” They can also get an occasional break from their parents.

The scouts, who are between the ages of 12 and 18, become leaders and accept positions as senior patrol leader and assistant patrol leader. Those in troop 5280 decide which new and fun adventure they will take on next. Mansfield says she cherishes the “smiles on their faces when they accomplish something they have never done before.”

Special learning needs are accommodated in schools, so Mansfield saw no reason why things should be different in Boy Scouts. She has been involved in scouts for 11 years, but it was not until 2009 that she decided to develop a special needs troop. It is chartered by the Knights of Columbus and Risen Christ. There are nine boys in the troop and there is always room for more, Mansfield said.

It’s clear that the boys get a lot out of the experience, but they are not the only ones.

“It fills me with joy and gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” she said.

Mansfield hopes to take the group nationwide, beginning with a special needs troop in every scout district in Colorado. She has already been contacted by troops out of state that are interested in starting their own chapter.

For more information, call Mansfield at 303-706-9944.


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