Camp programs team up to provide services

Friendship Ventures of Annandale and Courage Center Camps of Golden Valley are collaborating to create a new camp organization to […]

Friendship Ventures of Annandale and Courage Center Camps of Golden Valley are collaborating to create a new camp organization to serve people with disabilities. The partnership became effective Nov. 19. This brings together two of Minnesota’s largest and most dynamic camp providers in the disability community.

The new organization will be called “Camps of Courage and Friendship” until a formal name study is completed. It will be governed by a volunteer board of 12, with equal representation from Courage Center and Friendship Ventures. In 2013, campers, volunteers and staff will see traditional programs continue. Behind the scenes, new methods and approaches will be developed to incorporate the strengths of both organizations. Information about the camps is at www.CampsCourageFriendship.org

The partnership comes at a time when several Minnesota groups have closed or scaled back their camp programs. The Salvation Army, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are among the groups that have had to make changes. Dwindling participation and finances have doomed some popular camps. Other camps around the Twin Cities have been swallowed up by suburban sprawl.

The partners in the new effort hope to keep providing camp experiences. Friendship Ventures and Courage Center Camps have rich histories of providing exceptional and much-needed services. Camp Courage was established in 1955 to serve individuals with physical disabilities. Friendship Ventures was established in 1964, serving participants with developmental disabilities and special needs.

Between the two organizations, there are five lakeside camps in Minnesota. Camp Courage lies on 305 acres of beautiful lakeshore, woods and fields near Maple Lake, about 50 miles west of the Twin Cities. Camp Courage North is set amid 105 acres of towering pines on Lake George, near Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota. Both camps feature accessible lodging and facilities.

Camp Friendship began in 1964 as a resort near Annandale. Camp Eden Wood was acquired by Friendship Ventures in 1995. That facility was established in 1925 as the Glen Lake Children’s Camp, originally serving as a summer haven for children with tuberculosis. In the late 1950s, Arc of Hennepin County operated the site as Camp Indian Chief for people with developmental disabilities.

In 2005, Camp New Hope, near McGregor, merged into Friendship Ventures. The camp was originally established in1968 by four Cambridge State Hospital doctors who saw a need to get patients with disabilities out of the hospital.

Recognizing that camp programs continue to provide strong benefits, both Courage Center and Friendship Ventures share the goal of preserving and enhancing the camp experience for children and adults with disabilities. A lengthy study process revealed the entities could offer innovative camp programs and serve more families by combining strengths, methods and assets.

This exciting partnership enhances programs to the nearly 4,000 people currently served by Friendship Ventures and Courage Center Camps. It also expands positive outcome options to the larger disability community.

Leaders are confident the partnership will create one of the most dynamic and comprehensive camp programs for people with disabilities in the upper Midwest.

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