Local scout Venture Crew 577 takes a trip to Iceland

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The Boy Scouts of America Venture Crew 577 traveled to Iceland July 2-8, where members explored the Gjabakkahellir Cave in Thingvellir National Park, hiked up Sòlheimajökull Glacier and kayaked in the country’s waterways.

“I said, ‘Think of a place that you’d love to go to, but you think is out of your reach,’” said crew adviser Mike Sarlo. “One of the choices was Iceland.”

Crew 577 meets at St. Frances de Chantal Catholic Church in Wantagh, and has members from all over Nassau County’s South Shore. Fourteen of nearly 40 participants, including adult advisers and committee members, went on the trip.

“Pretty much every day we did some type of crazy activity,” crew President Julia Kirpalani said.

Venture Crews, part of the Boy Scouts for over 20 years, are co-ed groups ages 14 to 21, whose members want to explore, make new friends and discover the world, according to the Boy Scouts of America website. The Venturing program emphasizes adventure, leadership, personal growth and service. Participants do not have to be Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

The group arrived at Keflavik International Airport on July 2, according to Sarlo, who lives in Wantagh. The group’s home base was a Boy Scout camp, the Ulfljòtsvatn Scout Center, in Selfoss. The center organized the group’s daily excursions and supplied all of the meals.

“Since we stayed at a scout facility there, it keeps down the price of it, so it makes it affordable for them,” Sarlo said. “That’s the advantage with the Boy Scouts, because we have access to camps all over the world.”

The crew kayaked to Hrutey Island, in Blönduòs, on July 4. The following day, in addition to exploring Gjabakkahellir Cave, members joined in a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Icelandic Girl Scouts Association at the camp that evening. The Long Islanders met scouts from all over Iceland, as well as some from Scotland — and Delaware. They joined a communal campfire, singing songs and watching skits performed in the native language.

The crew hiked up Sòlheimajökull Glacier on July 6, and visited Perlan Planetarium, in Reykjavik, on July 7, where they watched a show about Icelandic folklore and the Northern Lights. On their final day in the country, they planted more then 200 trees around Ulfljòtsvatn, as their service project, to help battle global warming.

Kirpalani, 15, of Merrick, said the crew sought to build camaraderie on the trip. “We want to make our crew more close-knit,” she said. “We want the kids in our crew to come to our meetings [and] get excited about going out and trying new things, because a lot of them haven’t done the things that we’ve done . . . on the trip.”

Sarlo said that group members also completed a Kodiak Challenge, a five-day Venturing course in which participants learn about diversity, and how to tackle challenges.

Kirpalani explained that the Kodiak Challenge, for which she was the senior guide, was a leadership challenge that correlated with the crew’s daily activities in the country. “Every day we did an activity, I’d reflect on that and do a presentation,” she said, “and see how that would connect with something like team building or communication.”

Crew 577 has also traveled to Alaska, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, Sarlo said. Sponsored by the American Legion of North Bellmore, the crew has members from throughout Nassau County, and some from Suffolk County, who meet to discuss community service, scouting experiences and fellowship, according to Sarlo. They take part in a range of activities, including seal watching, rock climbing, a weeklong trip to VenturingFest at Bethel Summit in West Virginia and, more locally, food collection efforts for St. Frances de Chantal.

Kirpalani said that since people often communicate on their phone nowadays instead of face to face, spending time with other crew members from all over the world is an important aspect of Venture Crew trips.

“It definitely forms strong bonds that we’re going to keep for the rest of our lives,” she said. “It helps us work together in ways that no one else really can, and it lets us explore new things about ourselves. So when we’re out on those adventures, it really helps us to learn new things, to see what we really love to do and to do it with the people that we love.”