A Mom’s View of the Zia Experience

Philmont established the Zia Experience to open more of its activities more Scouts who have special needs or disabilities. The following comments and photo were shared with us by Mary, the mother of Zia participant OIiver.

Oliver on Cope at Zia 2021

Oliver’s Philmont trip was amazing. Not only did he have the time of his life, but he learned and grew as well.

One of Oliver’s biggest fears is thunderstorms. We were heading to the desert, so what’s the chance? It rained every day that we were there, and there was thunder, but it didn’t stop him from participating in every activity that was thrown his way.

In prior camping experiences that Oliver has had, he has always acted out when he doesn’t like the activity. We talked about this before attending the Zia program, and that if he doesn’t like something, he should tell us, and then we can do something else. He tried dissecting owl pellets even though he didn’t want to. When he got to a point where he was obviously done, we stopped, cleaned up and moved on to a different activity. It was wonderful to watch him persevere and try new things.

The dinosaur hike was exceptionally muddy. When he complained about hiking in the mud, I reminded him of everything that he was seeing on the adventure, the fact that his feet were dry, and that we didn’t have to do another muddy hike while we were there. He did the entire hike without acting out. Oliver is also afraid of deer, to the point that he doesn’t like to walk in our neighborhood in New Jersey. We saw deer near our room, and not only did I convince him that they would leave him alone, he let me take his picture with them.

One of the highlights of the trip was the morning that we spent at COPE. He was scared to climb up further, but he kept trying. When I thought he was done with the wall, he went again. He waited patiently for a turn to use the harness to be lifted into the air. He walked out of there on such a high.

The last evening that we were there, he was genuinely afraid of the thunder. I gave him the option of staying in our room, or going to the ice cream social to say goodbye to all of the friends he made. He chose to go to the ice cream social – and instead of obsessing over the weather, he danced, ate ice cream, and had a really good time. Oliver showed that a scout is brave. When faced with his fears, he kept trying and moved forward. The Zia Experience is something he will never forget!

We also received a note from Oliver himself. Here is his summary, as written: “Philmont is better than disney!!!”