NORFOLK -- A passenger van from New Hope Church of God in Christ pulled up to the ABC13 studios Friday morning. Inside, there were scouts of various ages from Troop 112 in the Fairmount Park section of Norfolk.
ABC13 program manager Deborah Shollenberger has hosted countless Boy Scout tours over the years, but this tour was different.
Not one scout, not even the troop leader, wore any portion of the Boy Scout uniform.
Troop 112, founded only one year ago, is a special case. In an effort to address the gang problem in Fairmount Park, a local attorney convinced New Hope pastor Dr. Calvin Durham to open his church doors to a scouting program. The first meeting for the new group was held under a tree on the church grounds. A year later, the troop has only about a dozen members.
Many of the boys come from financially challenged families that cannot afford uniforms, camping trips, and equipment needed for scouting. The troop even has difficulty hosting fundraisers.
The boys, two mothers and Pastor Durham were treated to a VIP tour of ABC13 and the 13News Now operation. From the newsroom, they got a behind the scenes look as reporters, photographers and producers planned coverage for the day.
From the 13 News Now studio, Shollenberger showed a few boys how to work the controls on studio cameras, while other boys stood at the chroma-key wall to see how 13 News Now meteorologists use electronic weather maps. Many of the scouts were already familiar with "green screen" technology.
Dr. Durham said he is appreciative of ABC13's efforts to expose the boys to a potential career choice.
"I think it will open their possibilities on what they can become and how they can set their goals for the future," said Dr. Durham.
After the tour, Shollenberger treated the boys to burgers, fries and chocolate chip cookies at the nearby Cafe 143 on Colley Avenue. Each scout was also given a large paper paper bag which was loaded with trinkets and school supplies.
"I just want to give because I know this is going to come back to us in a positive way," said Shollenberger.
Troop 112 was featured in a 13 News Now story that aired in July. Since the story was published, Dr. Durham has heard from people all over Hampton Roads, and as far away as Texas who want to help the boys. Dr. Durham says because of community support, he may be able to provide uniforms for the boys by September.