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Venturing into adulthood

Venture crews build leadership skills and teach life lessons

Venture crews build leadership skills and teach life lessons

November 07, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - After dinner, the teenagers planned their funerals.

The 16- to 21-year-old members of Boonsboro's Venture Crew 20 recently wrote their obituaries, chose their pallbearers, discussed funeral-related costs, examined death certificates, learned about embalming, cremation and burial, and picked out their caskets and urns at Bast Funeral Home in Boonsboro as part of a Boy Scouts of America program aimed at developing leadership and life skills.

Planning for death "is a life experience," said Bast Funeral Home Funeral Director Paul Dean, who also teaches juveniles with first-time drug and alcohol offenses about funeral planning as part of the Reality Program through the Maryland State Police and Washington County Sheriff's Department. "It's something we're all going to face sooner or later. So many people, especially young people, are never exposed to it."

But Venturers are different.

In addition to learning how to make funeral arrangements, members of Venture Crew 20 have learned life skills ranging from how to cook a gourmet meal to how to rappel off a mountain, buy a car and prepare income tax returns, they said. They tackle community service projects, go camping, dine out together and discuss such current issues as same-sex marriage, the 2004 presidential election and terrorism.

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"Venturing is so different from other Scouting programs. It's really unique," said Marie Bikle, who advises Venture Crew 20 with Sidney Gale. "It's much more driven by the young people. We just sit back and watch it happen."

The program is open to males and females ages 14 to 21, though some crews - including Venture Crew 20 - have increased the minimum membership age to 16 to discourage migration from Scout troops to Venture crews. Scouts may participate in both groups, Bikle said.

Membership on a Venture crew is an opportunity for young people who aren't interested in traditional Scouting to learn valuable life skills, and the next logical step for Boy Scouts who have risen through the ranks, said Bob Holsinger, senior district executive for the Hagerstown-based Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America. And, unlike Boy Scouts, Venturing is open to females.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for girls," Holsinger said. "Venturing has been somewhat of an unknown wonderful thing in the Mason-Dixon Council."

Holsinger said the council includes about 10 Venture crews in Maryland and Pennsylvania, each of which develops its own unique rules for members.

"It's a lot more liberal than Boy Scouts," said Matt Bikle, 18, of Boonsboro, vice president of Venture Crew 20.

Crew member Brandyn Shoemaker, 18, of Keedysville, said the Venturing format suits his personality better than Boy Scouts did. He dropped out of Scouts after only a few weeks because he found the organization to be too rigid for his taste.

"Venturing is more laid-back and fun for the members," agreed Matt Adkins, 16, of Boonsboro, who both serves as senior patrol leader for Boy Scout Troop 20 and a member of Venture Crew 20. His girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany Kettoman of Keedysville, also is a Venturer. But you won't catch the couple holding hands or smooching during Venturing activities; crew members included the prohibition of overt displays of affection in the group's bylaws, Bikle said.

Matt and Tiffany don't mind. That's not why they're there.

"I get to do new things and explore more," said Tiffany, who traveled outside Maryland for the first time when the crew went to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio earlier this year.

Because of a Venturing activity, 19-year-old Eagle Scout Andrew Gale of Sharpsburg said he'll be able to complete his own income taxes next year. Several crew members said the group's preparation of a complete meal - pasta primavera with chicken and homemade Alfredo sauce, salad, bread and bananas Foster - was their first real culinary adventure.

"I learned how to make a mean salad," said Venture Crew 20 President Andrew Gay, 18, of Sharpsburg. Gay, who has no Boy Scouting experience, said future crew plans include visiting a prison, learning about firearms safety, honing test-taking strategies, white-water rafting, horseback riding, snow tubing, helping to build a Habitat for Humanity of Washington County house in Boonsboro, and fixing up the area around the town spring in Sharpsburg. Three Venture Crew 20 members attended the Ku Klux Klan rally in Sharpsburg in August in order to gain an understanding of racial intolerance; crew members managed a fishing derby for kids in Sharpsburg; and they helped set up tables at the 10th annual Washington County Multiple Sclerosis Walk in April.

"They're fine young men and women, and they know how to get the job done," Bikle said.

Crew member Mike Coe, 16, of Boonsboro, is organizing the group's work to fix the water bars along the Appalachian Trail near the Washington Monument in Boonsboro - a task that will help Mike complete his Eagle Scout project for Boy Scout Troop 20, he said.

Andrew Gay and Life Scout Peter Dale, 17, of Sharpsburg, said Venturing also fosters camaraderie among like-minded individuals.

"We're all one big family in this group," Gay said.

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