“Accepted” is how 14-year-old Beau Murphy feels when he participates in Wyldlife Club. Club leaders and kids immediately embraced all of him – including his cerebral palsy – which gave him a sense of belonging.
“One of the things we emphasize to our leaders is that Young Life and WyldLife is for every kid,” said Emmett Penke, area director for Rainier Hills Young Life. “No matter who they are, where they come from or challenges they face in life we are here to walk with them and help them see their incredible value.
“One of the slogans in Young Life is ‘Every Kid, Everywhere for Eternity.’ We want to be an organization that as soon as a kid walks in the door they know they’re loved,” Penke said.
Beau told his mom – using a communication device because he’s nonverbal – that he “feels like a leader and gets to do everything.”
“It’s hard when you have a child with a disability,” said Beau’s mother, Melissa Murphy. “Everyone seems to run away from you, but at Wyldlife everyone was running toward us.”
Beau started attending Wyldlife club when his older cousin became a student leader. His mom wanted something for him to do that was independent from his parents.
For Eddie Scipper, Beau’s Wyldlife Club leader, their interaction has been life-changing. “Beau inspired me,” Scipper said. “Being able to connect and work with him at summer camp changed me. It really made me feel like what I was doing was worthwhile.”
Scipper accompanied him to Wyldlife camp at Washington Family Ranch Creekside in Oregon. The camp schedule included a hike up a rocky hillside to look at the stars – quite a feat for someone in a wheelchair.
“Right then and there all of the Wyldlife campers in his cabin decided that if Beau doesn’t go, then none of us go,” Scipper said. The leaders hooked a hammock to their backpacks and carried him up the hillside.
Rainier Hills Young Life is expanding its outreach to more youth with disabilities by starting a program called Young Life Capernaum, led by Melissa Murphy.
While WyldLife focuses on middle schoolers and welcomes any kid, Capernaum gives young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure in an atmosphere specifically designed to meet their needs, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp and other exciting activities.
“Our friends with disabilities have the same desires, hopes and dreams but way less opportunity than their able-bodied peers,” Penke said. “We want to give our friends with disabilities the same opportunities. It’s time for this area to stand in the gap and create those opportunities.”
These programs are overseen and directed by the local Young Life area, which currently has three paid staff members and 40-plus volunteer leaders and is known as Rainier Hills Young Life. The area extends from Black Diamond to Carbonado to Auburn and everywhere in between and has been operating for 37 years. All funding comes from within the local communities via personal donors, businesses and churches and two main fundraising events.
Capernaum will have it’s first meeting to share needs and vision for the program beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Mount Rainier Christian Center, 43801 244th Ave. S.E. in Enumclaw. Anyone interested in being a part of the program is welcome to attend.