CENTRAL CITY — Elliott Hodgson,17, has trouble coming up with one favorite thing he likes best about being in the Boy Scouts.
“Canoeing. Swimming at the Y. Eating,” Hodgson said, going through the list of his favorite scout activities. “Everything. I like everything.”
Hodgson is a member of Cedar Rapids Boy Scouts Troop 2, which has a special focus on children with special needs. Many of the boys in the troop have autism or posses mental disabilities of some kind.
The troop began last fall by a group of parents who felt a regular Boy Scouts troop might not be the best fit for their sons. But Scoutmaster Lloyd Plume is quick to point out that he sees no difference between Troop 2 and other local groups, proclaiming their motto to be “Second to none.”
“These boys are trusted and expected to perform the same tasks regular Boy Scouts are,” Plume said. “It’s maybe just a bit different techniques.”
The boys were among many of the Eastern Iowa troops at the Howard H. Cherry Scout Reservation in Central City on Saturday for the Council Camporee celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. More than 1,400 scouts from the Hawkeye Area Council and their families came out for the day’s activities, with many staying for an overnight camping trip.
Activities at the Camporee ranged from traditional scout pursuits, such as archery, to more recent additions, such as Guitar Hero and a realistic flight simulator. Plume said the boys were looking forward to doing some fishing, using BB guns and watching the balloon glow, providing the weather cooperated.
Hodgson joined the troop last spring when Plume spotted him during a Special Olympics practice at the YMCA and invited him to join. Hodgson’s family moved to Cedar Rapids from Maryland in the last three years, and being in the group has really helped him grow socially, according to his mother, Maggie Hodgson.
“Scouts has given him the opportunity to make friends,” she said. “He hangs out and plays video games with them, it’s really been great.”
Cindy Zenk said the troop has become the highlight of the week for her son, 16-year-old Zachary.
“As soon as Tuesday rolls around, he knows right away and says ‘Tuesday, going to Scouts,’” she said. “He’s doing it his way.”
There are about four dedicated members in the troop right now, but the group is hoping to recruit more for its first full year of operation. The troop has an open house Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids, which is the group’s sponsoring organization.
“We’re trying to grow it,” Zenk said. “We’re all learning how to get this off the ground and find something things that work for the kids.”