Friday, February 26, 2010

Scouting reborn at Kansas School for the Deaf

Scouting reborn at Kansas School for the Deaf

KSD’s Boy Scout Troop 87 produced hundreds of scouts and more than a dozen Eagle Scouts from when it formed in 1911.

But as America’s culture changed in the 1970s, so did boys’ interests. By the mid-1980s, the KSD troop had disbanded. Yet, it was not forgotten.

“We’re hoping that we can reform the troop,” said Kester Horn-Marsh, who leads Cub Scout Pack 3487 at KSD.

Kester and others in the deaf community got their first glimmer of hope Monday as four Webelos walked over a ceremonial bridge on their way to becoming Boy Scouts.

Noah Fahncke, Cameron Synansky, Aryzona Horn-Marsh and Trevor Johnson will join Travis Waddell and move up into Boy Scouts. They won’t join Troop 87 – there’s not enough boys yet – but they will participate with Troop 86, another Olathe troop with a rich history.

Kester Horn-Marsh hopes these boys will encourage others at KSD to continue from Cub Scouts into Boys Scouts, and one day, they’ll have enough boys to reform Troop 87, he said.

“If not, if we don’t get the numbers, we’ll remain with 86,” Horn-Marsh said. “Either way, it’s a winning situation for the boys.”

The KSD ceremony seemed fitting given that Boy Scouts of America is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Dozens of KSD boys have done their part to perpetuate the organization.

An old photo in the Deaf Cultural Center and William J. Marra Museum in Olathe shows scouts meeting in a “Boy Scout Clubhouse” in 1911. Sometime during the early years, the Sertoma Club—a civic volunteer organization in Olathe—built the Scout Cabin in the middle of the KSD campus.

Mementos from years past hang on the cabin’s walls and its basement contains artifacts and old camping gear. One such item is a photo of Uel Hurd, who was the most influential scout master in Troop 87’s history.

“He taught woodshop at the school for years and was a very well-liked and respected person,” said Sandra Kelly, executive director of the Deaf Cultural Center and William J. Marra Museum.

Hurd came to the school after he participated in Scouts in Kansas City, Kan. The Cultural Center has a 1937 leather “ditty-bag” filled with items Hurd and other scouts used and made.

Hurd took every aspect of scouting to heart, even when it came to the troop’s annual trip to Camp Naish in Bonner Springs.

“They would hike the entire way, pushing these carts filled with camping equipment,” Horn-Marsh said.

Hurd retired from KSD in 1985, about the time the troop disbanded. But the school and community never forgot its scouting history.

The Deaf Cultural Center has incorporated a workshop for Girl and Boy Scout troops that teach scouts about deaf culture and the participation in scouting of deaf and hard of hearing youth. The hour-long workshop includes segments on American Sign Language, deaf story telling, art and history.

A short video teaches scouts how to sign the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout and Boy Scout mottos. Each segment is done by KSD students.

Scouts can earn a patch for the workshop that also specializes in teaching Native American sign language, which was a universal language Native Americans used to communicate among different tribes.

And an actor dressed in a period Major League Baseball uniform teaches scouts about Luther “Dummy” Taylor, a deaf player who pitched for the New York Giants from 1901-1908 and helped develop the signs that coaches still use in games.

“We have had 500 to 600 hundred Girl Scouts go through the workshop and we’re now getting more Boy Scout troops involved,” Kelly said. “It gives them hands-on opportunity to learn and exposes them to the deaf and hard of hearing culture and community.”

A community that’s proud of its scouting heritage.

The Arrow of Light Ceremony on Monday was attended by parents and friends, and former scouts of Troop 87.

“These are the first boys to move up since the troop disbanded and we hope we’ll have more in the coming years,” Horn-Marsh said.