Wheelchair drives scout's determination

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MUNISING, Mich. (WLUC) - Camp Hiawatha is known for pushing scouts to do their very best and wheelchair bound, Joey Gavlek is no exception.

"When I’m with my friends, I don’t even think I have the disability," said 15-year-old Life Scout, Joey Gavlek.

Joey Gavlek may have been born with spina bifida disease making him paralyzed from the waist down, but he was also born with a positive attitude and determination to accept any challenge, even when it comes to scouts.

"I did what was called the iron scout challenge and it’s a two mile canoe, 12 mile bike and a five mile hike and I did the biking and the hiking in this wheelchair and the canoeing without the chair," said Gavlek.

His scoutmaster said he has seen his motivation grow since he joined the troop five years ago.

"If you give him a task he always makes sure he completes it to the best that he can," said Scoutmaster, Erick Kestila of Troop 408. "We challenge him, we don’t just say 'well you are in a chair, you can’t do this,' he is in a chair, so we just tell him to try. The nice thing is the other boys will help chip in if there’s a big hill he has to get up to."

Even though Gavlek has been coming to camp though scouts for years, he said he still he faces many challenges.

"I mean I get frustrated with bunch of things and I just have to stop myself and if I can back track and then I redo it or just fix it little by little," said Gavlek.

Gavlek will use his time at Camp Hiawatha to work on his merit badges and eventually start his Eagle Scout project where he hopes to work on accessibility for the Gladstone beaches.

"I want to put beach mats on Gladstone beach so it’s more accessible than having to truck through yards of sand for wheel chairs and for strollers so it’s easier to walk to the beach," said Gavlek.

Kestila said that scouts is not only accommodating for physical disabilities like Joey's but helpful for kids of all background.

"It gives them a stable environment," said Kesila. "It gives them role models to help them learn basic living needs and leadership."

Gavlek added that he hopes to inspire others to join scouts with his story.

"If your disability will let you do this, go out and do it, try new things that’s what I’ve been doing," said Gavlek.

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