In December 2018, Brett DeVore ’98 participated in an international community service project that brought two of his passions together — occupational therapy and the Boy Scouts of America. DeVore used his knowledge and skills as an occupational therapist to help coordinate an Eagle Scout project with Georgia high school student Cheran Sivlingham, whose family is originally from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Inspired by Sivlingham’s brother, who has autism, their project was to build therapy and sensory rooms for The Ark, a home for children for special needs in Jaffna.
As a youth, DeVore was a Boy Scout, and he remains committed to the organization as an Eagle Scout. “My passion for scouting is rooted in my family and childhood,” said DeVore. “I am thankful to be a part of the scouting organization whose purpose is to help young people make moral and ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”
He recently helped form a new troop in his local area of Alpharetta, Georgia, and is the district chair for the largest Boy Scout district in the Atlanta Area Council. Their district has more than 4,300 youth members and 1,200 adult volunteers. DeVore also served as a director for one of eight national pilot courses for new teaching material in a course called Wood Badge.
DeVore met Sivlingham when they were part of the same Boy Scout troop, and DeVore has remained good friends with Sivlinghman and his family. Since Sivlingham knew DeVore was an occupational therapist, he reached out to him for input on what equipment to use, how the equipment should be installed, and the safe use of the equipment. Once his action plan was finalized, Sivlingham then asked DeVore if he would accompany him to Sri Lanka to help execute the building of the equipment, and to give the teachers at the school some ideas on how to use the items with the children.
“Having the knowledge of setting up my own clinic helped me share what issues I ran into when setting it up, as well as which equipment would be the most beneficial for the circumstances,” said DeVore.
DeVore and his wife, Nell, have owned and operated Kiddos’ Clubhouse, a private therapy clinic for children with special needs in Alpharetta, Georgia, for 13 years, so he proved to be an important asset in helping construct the therapy and sensory rooms for The Ark.
Using an empty room the school already had, DeVore and Sivlingham created a sensory room with the help of the youth and adult scouts of Jaffna Hindu College and contractors. They built a ceiling and partition, painted the walls (one with a mural), installed sensory equipment (such as swings and a rock wall) and a shelf for storage, and put foam play mats down to protect the kids. They also renovated a room for physical therapy, and installed physical fitness equipment that was already at the school.
Every single aspect was enjoyable to me. It was especially rewarding to help Cheran and his pursuit to become an Eagle Scout and follow through with his vision. To be able for a short time, in a small scope, to use my skills and knowledge as a therapist was very rewarding as well, and that all started at Shenandoah.” Brett DeVore ’98
What prepared DeVore the most for his career and projects like Sivlingham’s was the “problem-based learning” utilized by Shenandoah’s occupational therapy program. This learning style allows for multiple ways to get to the end result, and DeVore continues to use this method in his day-to-day treatment and business practices. “I had the opportunity to attend Shenandoah University and get a great education and meet great people, and I am thankful for that,” said DeVore. “Being an occupational therapist and working with children with disabilities is my calling, and I am fortunate to continue to have a great career.”
Because DeVore started a new scout troop, he will continue to work with more scouts who will complete projects to achieve their Eagle Scout ranking and make a difference in his community and abroad.