OREM – Venture Crew adviser Darrin Mellor stood and grinned from his garage while watching about a dozen 18- to 19-year-old boys building kayaks.
Meet Bradford’s Warriors of Venture Crew 1333. They seem to ebb and flow from Mellor’s Orem home working on various stages of preparing their one-man kayaks. One is just piecing together the unfinished skeleton, another is stretching on the canvas, while yet another is putting on the first coat of paint.
“When we started this, we thought we could bust it out in a couple of weekends, and three months later we are still going,” Mellor said.
Every church group or ward for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a Venture Crew.
“Every ward in the stake has a Priests Quorum, the 16- to 18-year-olds, and then by default they have a Venture Crew that is also in the Boy Scouts of America,” said Gary Glover, bishop of the Lakeview 3rd Ward. As their bishop, he is at the meeting to see their progress.
“We have someone who really helps us follow the program. It’s really awesome,” Glover said.
The former Venture Crew adviser was Kyle Bradford and according to Glover and Mellor, is the one who started pushing the program. A year ago, Bradford became ill with an unknown degenerative disease that took his life. Before he died, he came up with an idea to have the Venture Crew make kayaks. He had asked Mellor to find plans for kayak building.
“I kind of dropped the ball on that,” Mellor said. Later, he was reminded of Bradford’s kayak project by his advisers, Steve Tiek and Mark Porter. He printed off the plans he had found earlier from a 1972 “Mechanics Illustrated” online and began.
“Kyle got us fired up to build kayaks, so we are doing this to not only have fun, but as a tribute to Kyle,” Mellor said. “Yep, Kyle Bradford had this brainchild. He got the crew up and running. Before the crew was just basketball and goofing off.”
The kayaks are a little more than 11 feet long and 3 feet wide and can handle up to 250 pounds. After the kayaks are built and ready, the crew plans on using them — more than once — on kayaking excursions together.
Lee Bengry, 18, is a Venture Crew member in the Lakeview 3rd Ward. He seems to have respect for the program when run properly and additionally, for the kayak project.
“It’s a very good bonding experience for ourselves and our leaders. It’s taken a lot of patience on the leaders’ behalf to work with us — to get us to come and work on them,” Bengry said. “We are learning a trade, or part of a trade at least. It’s teaching us how to build, use our hands, and to be creative.”
While each kayak has the distinct personality of its creators, every kayak has the group name of “Bradford’s Warriors” painted on its surface.
For those who have completed their kayaks, they can work on a fence project, an ongoing project for Bradford’s widow and their family home.
The Venture Crew for all appearances is a club, although the organization serves the teens who in turn serve others, preparing the boys for eventually leaving home on two-year LDS missions or college.
One of the members, 19-year-old Josh Day, said he was a crew member because it’s there. Talk to him a little longer and you will find out the reasons for him go much deeper.
“I enjoy doing all the different activities that we do and that we do things that most boys my age would not normally do,” Day said. “For example, building these kayaks. Most people wouldn’t be able to say that ‘I can build my own kayak.’”
Cash value of the kayaks is $60 to $90, while the lasting value may not be estimable according to the crew’s advisers. Porter said the results of the project set a milestone of achievement for each youth and teaches a work ethic.
“I believe in the value of hard work to accomplish something, I believe in the power of creating something to motivate,” Porter said. “People are motivated by seeing their own handiwork come to fruition.”
Cathy Allred is north Utah County reporter for the Daily Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.