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2015 g n i r p S : Friends e u r T te from a d p u An

Sharing our stories Changing Lives

Best Friends Meet at Camp

Maddison and Hannah on their way home from camp

Maddison (Maddi), 17, and Hannah, 19, have been best friends for seven years. They enjoy spending time together on their Special Olympics team and at Friendship Club, going to movies and, most of all, playing Wii Dance. They regularly talk on the phone, a social skill the girls have developed through this bond. Maddi and Hannah met at camp when they attended the same session and were assigned “Camp provides a safe place for to the same cabin. They now Maddison to learn new skills, request to be paired together meet new people and try new each summer. “The friendship things. Each year when we pick between Maddi and Hannah Maddison up from camp, we can is such a wonderful, lifelong see a new maturity in her.” memory for these girls” said -Janice, Maddison’s Mother Janice, Maddi’s mother. “It’s special to have that history with another person. Our girls have maintained their friendship, found at camp, for many years.” Each of the girls said her favorite memory of camp was tubing on the lake with each other. The girls, and their parents, find comfort in having a familiar face when they arrive at camp, with the added bonus of a solid “Camp has been an excellent experience friendship for Hannah. She did not have many friends maintained outside of her school peers, so meeting Maddi throughout the was huge for her. We love seeing the growth year. in independence and confidence and knowing

she is safe and having fun.” -Susan, Hannah’s Mother

Camp Courage Maple Lake

Camp Friendship Annandale

Camp Eden Wood Eden Prairie

Camp Courage North Lake George

Camp New Hope McGregor

New at true friends

More experiences and adventures

MSE at Camp Friendship Shaun, using the current Multi-Sensory Environment at Camp Eden Wood.

These rooms serve the growing population of campers with Autism and other sensory-processing disorders.

hippotherapy with true strides Sharing Our Stories | Page 2

Eric, in a lesson at the Dudley Equine Center located at Camp Courage.

Hippotherapy is prescribed occupational or physical therapy that utilizes a horse in the treatment.

ropes course at camp courage Jack, on the zip-line at Camp Friendship. A new, custom design will allow full wheelchair accessibility throughout the course.

custom, multi-sensory, accessible playground at camp eden wood Matthew, on the current equipment at Camp Eden Wood. This playground will increase free play, physical activity, help sensory needs and foster social skills development.

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robotics and archery Esabel using current archery equipment. A new grant will allow us to develop an adaptive robotics and archery program.

Camper Stories Changing Lives

Former camper finds new meaning as a counselor Chase Swenson first came to camp in the summer of 2008 at age 11. He attended camp until 2011 and at 14, he both attended Camp Independence and volunteered for four weeks at camp. Chase has since accumulated a total of 945 service hours at Camp Friendship.

Chase (R) as a camper, with camper, Tim

“I wanted to work at True Friends because when I was a camper, I had the experience of a lifetime because of the staff. I also wanted to continue to grow with this organization,” Chase said.

In 2014, Chase made the transition into a Counselor in Training (CIT) as well as role model for his two younger brothers, Dennis and Sidney, who also attend camp. While the transition from camper to counselor is very standard, it’s rare and special with the population that True Friends serves. As a CIT, Chase participates in camp as a junior staff member. During activities, CITs discover how to efficiently coordinate a cabin group, assist with direct care and ensure a quality experience for all participants. This program allows counselors to grow into a Lead Counselor position, a role that Chase took on for Winter Camp this year. With his success in these positions, and his unique perspective as a former camper, Chase has been offered a position for the 2015 summer as well. “I hope my brothers make lasting friendships that they will never forget.” Chase said, “I hope they see things the same way as I did and follow in my footsteps someday.”

Chase as a volunteer with camper, Deb

Chase as a winter camp counselor with Emmett

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Dennis and Sidney, Chase’s younger brothers, have been attending Camp Friendship since 2008. While they enjoy doing activities together, they also have separate camp experiences. Together, they enjoy swimming, biking, playing outside and playing video games. Separately, Dennis enjoys bowling and fishing and Sidney loves music and downhill skiing with his school ski club.


Be the difference 2014 Outstanding High School Volunteer

The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration awarded True Friends volunteer, Sierra Hietala, with the 2014 Outstanding High School Volunteer for her work with camp. These awards recognize Minnesota volunteers who have distinguished accomplishments and have shown extraordinary interest in the area of volunteerism. Through their personal examples, these individuals demonstrate the impact volunteers can have on the improvement of their community through an outstanding commitment to volunteerism. While all of our volunteers make a difference, Sierra stands out from the crowd. To date, Sierra has volunteered 579 hours with True Friends by the way of five weeks of Summer Camp, one week of Winter Camp and multiple Respite weekends. Every time Sierra steps onto camp she is outgoing and excited to work with staff, meet the other volunteers, but most importantly, give campers the best camp experience possible.

Sierra receiving her MAVA Award

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Sometimes things at camp change without notice. Staff and volunteers need to not only be adaptive, but to keep a positive attitude during it all; Sierra does that with every change that’s thrown her way. At 15 years old, Sierra’s fun and positive energy is balanced with confidence, maturity and compassion. She sets a high standard for our other youth volunteers. Recently, Sierra shared a story about some classmates using the r-word around her. A friend (who hasn’t been at camp) spoke up and called them out about it because they know of Sierra’s volunteer work. She is an advocate for change and acceptance, without even having to say anything. This seemingly small conversation in a high school hallway is the impact True Friends hopes to have in many communities. Our volunteers make a difference not only at camp, but everywhere they go. Sierra is the proof of that. You can make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities. Visit to learn more about our opportunities and apply today. | 952.852.0101 x399

True Friends can... Be themselves around each other

Alumni Connection Camp Impacts Careers

Former Camp Counselor found his life’s passion with Courage Former Camp Courage counselor, Dr. Ryan Lee, came back to the place that he says “set the direction for his life’s work” in July of 2013 as part of a cross country road trip. After being asked to work at Camp Courage by his brother in 1999, Dr. Lee agreed to be a counselor with little knowledge of or expectations for the position. His experience was life-changing. About his time at camp, Dr. Lee explained, “I was able to spend time with individuals with disabilities in an environment that allowed me to get to know their strengths, weaknesses, preferences and personalities. In sharing life together I experienced with them joy, sorrow, pain, humor and all of the things that make us human. The barriers of a disability were broken down. The campers and camp experience that summer convinced me that I want to dedicate my life to helping people with disabilities.” Currently, Dr. Lee is a Pediatric Neurologist for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Honolulu, Hawaii and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics for the University of Hawaii. He is committed to his long-term goal of setting up a camp similar to Camp Courage in his home state of Hawaii. research

My entire research career has been working with people with special needs and their families! Camp definitely taught me how to roll with the punches and appreciate it when one of my participants with Autism Spectrum Disorder asks “What if a hamster was driving a shoe? What would happen then?”

-Carolyn S.


Camp made me a nurse! I came to camp my first year planning to be a police officer and left with thoughts of nursing, I came back for my second year after completing a degree and I left knowing I was going to be a nurse. Three years later, I’m qualified and loving it. -Kate M.

Therapeutic My original goal was Outdoor Recreation. After a summer at Camp Friendship I added Therapeutic RecreRecreation ation and it became my career. I have since gotten my Master’s in Assistive Technology and Human Services which was first inspired by the AT I observed at camp that made such a difference in peoples lives! -Cat I.

Reconnect with old camp friends and share your stories on our Facebook group! Visit or scan the code to join.

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Occupational I’m finishing up my master’s in Occupational Therapy, and my experiences at camp definitely led me down this path! Working at camp gave me a great foundation for the new skills I’ve learned in my program. Therapy -Derrick H.

What’s happening Events at camp

Camp Friendship Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Damaris and Bernie Friel have been sending their daughter, Kim, to camp for 50 years

Mel Heckt, one of Camp Friendship’s founders, speaks at a gathering of past and present board members

Guests enjoying the weather at an outdoor crafting station, making their own picture frames

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The open house to celebrate 50 years of Camp Friendship was an event to remember! The September weather was perfect as hundreds of alumni, campers and supporters gathered to share memories. There were many things to do during the day like boat rides, hay rides, classic camp arts and crafts, a photo booth and more. Guests enjoyed lunch and a short program where they heard from President and CEO, Ed Stracke, as well as a long-time camper, Ray. Parent Bernie Friel, whose daughter Kim has been coming to camp for 50 years, also spoke. Camp Courage will celebrate its 60th Anniversary this year. An event will be held on October 11, 2015 to celebrate the occasion.

Host your events at camp... and bring them to the next level with Team Quest Open year-round, our inviting cabins and variety of meeting spaces can fit nearly any style of gathering. Escape the daily grind with hiking trails, campfires and many other outdoor activities followed by delicious home-cooked meals. When you stay with us, you support the mission of True Friends. Visit for more information.

Achieve more than ever before with our dynamic team building and leadership programs. These programs give participants the freedom to move out of their comfort zones, conquering their fears through team support and individual determination. Team Quest operates on and off-site year round. Visit for more information.

Giving is good

Donors make camp possible

$309,700 of financial assistance was awarded to campers in 2014! Your

support inspires letters like these:

Bryan enjoyed his time at Camp New Hope. He had lots of fun and was able to go fishing pretty much the whole time and make lasting friendships also. We really appreciate the financial support so we are able to send him to a camp where he can be safe, be himself, have fun and make friends. It really is a relief and a nice little break for us to not have to worry. -Angela and Ray, parents


My girls love the independence of going to camp on their own. The attention and great care they receive at camp is evident in the joy on their faces at the end of the week. They love camping out, swimming and visiting the farm at Camp Friendship. They also love the talent show and the chance to have five days of fun. Thank you for your commitment to helping special needs children by donating. I know the girls can’t wait to return to Camp Friendship. -Becky, mother

Hannah and Lily To make a donation, scan the code below or visit Or send donations to:

No gift is too small Many people believe they need to be wealthy to make a legacy gift. In fact, most legacy gifts are made by everyday people who want to make a difference. A simple way is to designate True Friends and other favorite causes as percentage beneficiaries in your retirement plans such as your 403B, 401K or IRA. Contact your retirement plan administrator today and/ or for more information, contact our Gift Planning Officer at 952-697-2281.

Arts & Crafts supplies for campers


Week of meals & s'mores for a camper in need


Adapted recreation equipment


Financial assistance to help a family afford camp

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True Friends 10509 108th St. NW Annandale, MN 55302


Non-Profit US Postage


PERMIT No. 49 Annandale, MN

10509 108th Street NW Annandale, MN 55302

Board of Directors Floyd Adelman, Chair Jeff Bangsberg John Bredemus Jerry Caruso Mimi Fogarty Gaylen Ghylin Jon Gordon, Treasurer Bob Harnett David Jones, Vice Chair Jan Malcolm Carole Mills, Secretary Greg Wallace Mary Ellen Wells Camp Courage Maple Lake

Camp Friendship Annandale

Camp Eden Wood Eden Prairie


Camp Courage North Lake George



Camp New Hope McGregor

Sharing Our Stories: True Friends Spring 2015 Newsletter  
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