Camp Courage Maple Lake

Camper sweethearts and nature lovers Billie and Mark have visited Camp Courage in Maple Lake over 19 years together.

Camp sweethearts and nature lovers Billie and Mark have been coming to Adult Retreat at Camp Courage for quite some time now.

Billie has been attending camp for 23 years and Mark has been attending for 19 years.

“I came the same year as she did one time,” he said with a smile. “We met and that was it.”

Billie’s side of the story reveals she wore a shirt representing her high school football team and it just so happened that Mark’s family was moving to that same town. From that experience a friendship was formed and then more. Today, Billie and Mark have celebrated 12 years of marriage.

The time at camp helps the couple feel refreshed and relaxed; like no other place in their lives.

“I definitely feel rejuvenated after being here,” said Billie. “I feel empowered after being here because somebody gets where I am at…it’s in your mind and in your heart…I’m not alone in this.”

Mark added “I think we get to sharpen our advocacy, you know, for ourselves here too… which helps us then in general life.” Billie agrees saying camp gives her “the tool of people, a community of people to have fun with, to get support from,” and “reaffirm our support system here and carry that through the year.”

And with each year comes growth and further understanding Billie discovered.

“I’m stronger than I thought I was, I have more of a voice than I thought I did recently… I think you can surprise yourself,” she said. “It’s a place to come and be free to be just myself… I am just being me throughout this time and I think that gives people the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

For Mark, camp allows him to get away from the “general monotony of life”.

“[Being at camp gives me] the ability to be in this kind of landscape, which is generally pretty hard for people in wheelchairs,” he said.  “I can’t imagine rolling through the woods, here you have trails that go through the woods.”

The two of them have such gratitude for the opportunity to be at camp. Mark says he “feels fortunate for the fact that there’s places like this that exist.” He is also thankful for those that are donating their time, money, resources and knowledge. Billie is just “thankful that I have this opportunity. I’m thankful that this place is here for me, it gives me something to look forward to.”

“Camp Courage was built on the pretense of being a place that was made for us, and this place is still made for us,” said Billie. “I used to tell my friends at school about it and I would say ‘it felt like a piece of heaven to me,’ a heaven in the sense that everyone is welcome, everyone is accepted, that is another thing that True Friends means to me, that’s the biggest thing that True Friends means to me, is overall you are accepted. Disability and all.”