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Saying Goodbye to Steve Holst and John Cross

This spring True Friends said goodbye to two incredibly influential friends of the organization.

Steve Holst

In May, Steve Holst, a long-time camper, staff member, traveler and amazing man passed away due to a heart attack. Steve spent over 40 years working at Camp Friendship!

During his eulogy by Steve's friend, Joanne Fieldseth, she had this to say:

"In 1987, Stevie was the very first recipient of the 'Friendship Award' for his help with fundraising and volunteer events. He was a member of the Owatonna Jaycees, Medford Knights of Columbus and Clearwater Lions. Every Memorial Day weekend, Stevie was at camp working on projects with his friends (including this most recent Memorial Day weekend with the Owatonna crew). He was also an avid traveler with Ventures Travel.

The Camp Friendship Auxiliary women loved him also! He may have grumbled when asked to do things at times, but you knew that he would do them and do so with a Cheshire cat grin before you thought about asking again.

A true friend, regardless of your status in life, he wanted nothing in return but your friendship. His gentle sweet soul, his beaming smile around his spikey stubble, the sparkle in those unforgettable twinkling eyes that made his whole face radiate. A beautiful, dedicated, loyal, simple man with a sprinkle of mischief!"

To read Steve's full eulogy click here.
To read Steve's obituary click here. 

John Cross

John Cross, a long-time supporter of True Friends, passed away on May 22, 2019.

According to his obituary, "John was his own man very early in life and throughout. A generous man who loved his friends and family, John always made time to keep in touch with old friends. Donating to many causes throughout his lifetime, especially ones that help disabled children, was just one way John showed his generosity, love, and concern."

To read John's full obituary click here.

True Friends is heartbroken at the loss of these two great individuals; each of whom has made a lasting impact on the organization.

True Friends Serves More People Following Camp Courage Renovation

Camp Cambria Foundation Invested $2.2 Million in Camp Courage Remodel

In 2018, Cambria’s non-profit organization, the Camp Cambria Foundation, teamed up with non-profit True Friends on an incredible $2.2 million renovation to several buildings at Camp Courage in Maple Lake, Minnesota. True Friends manages many camp locations in Minnesota including Camp Courage – home to Camp Cambria each summer. The Camp Cambria Foundation saw the importance and impact to renovate Camp Courage so kids would be able to access Camp Courage year round.

Previously, the dining hall at Camp Courage was closed from October through April due to the cold weather months.  In the last year since completion and with the new year-round use of the dining hall and other facilities, True Friends Camp Courage saw a 46% increase in Conference and Retreat business with an increase of 15 groups, 507 people and $80,300 in revenue.

“The entrepreneurial partnership between the Camp Cambria Foundation and True Friends has launched us into a variety of new opportunities,” said President and CEO, John LeBlanc. “The renovation has enhanced our ability to provide person-centered care to more individuals, all in a beautifully renovated space designed specifically for the disability community.”

Camp Cambria’s donation allowed for an extensive renovation, including a complete gut of the dining hall, kitchen and health center, and major improvements to the arts & crafts building The dining hall was completely transformed into a safe and accessible gathering space with updated bathrooms and a new kitchen with an improved layout to accommodate serving meals to kids with special dietary restrictions. The installation of a new HVAC system now allows the facility to be utilized year-round, owing to the success of last year’s development efforts.

The health center – home to the hardworking nurses and medical staff, was completely overhauled, with the new space better serving the health needs of all campers. There is a fresh, dedicated exam room, new therapy tub, a large dividable medical room, a new staff dorm space and updated bathrooms. Cambria countertops are featured throughout the center, providing a nonporous, medically-safe surface for the staff to work on.  Lastly, the arts & crafts building provides more accessibility with a warm, inviting, and inspirational atmosphere.

Camp Cambria, an annual camp where children living with juvenile arthritis enjoy all the fun activities summer camp has to offer, is one of many organizations that utilize the Camp Courage facility each year. In addition to Camp Cambria participants, 1,300+ children and adults thrive at the facility each summer. “The renovations to Camp Courage contributed greatly to the overall revenue increase,” said Director of Sales and Hospitality Amanda Evens. “Without the investment of the Camp Cambria Foundation, we would not have been able to serve these individuals.”

Marty Davis, President and CEO of Cambria says, “Camp Cambria was founded with a commitment to make a difference in the lives of young children living with chronic diseases, in particular, juvenile arthritis. Camp Cambria is a place where our kids feel good, realize peer enjoyment, form lifelong friendships, and build back up often diminished self-esteem. Thanks to the many amazing donors to the Camp Cambria Foundation, we are able to support our incredible kids living with juvenile arthritis. Through the rebuilding of many aspects of the facilities at Camp Courage, we have been excited to enhance the camp experience for many, many Minnesota kids who suffer from childhood diseases. Children with epilepsy, juvenile diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and many other challenging, debilitating diseases will benefit from these efforts and our commitment to Camp Cambria.”

To view the renovation video featuring Cambria brand advocate Matt Muenster, HGTV and DIY Network host, and to learn more about the project visit

About Camp Cambria

Camp Cambria began in Minnesota in 2014. It was founded by Marty Davis, CEO of Cambria, and his wife Anne, after learning of the disease through close friends who had a niece affected by the illness. Created in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation and funded through the generosity of the Camp Cambria Foundation and its generous donors, Camp Cambria is a week-long experience located in Maple Lake, MN at Camp Courage. Beyond an array of fun camp activities (horseback riding, archery and high-ropes to name a few), Camp Cambria Minnesota features facilities such as a pool heated to the ideal temperature for arthritis and supports campers in gaining new confidence in taking care of their health from trained medical staff and counselors who are there for them 24 hours a day. Camp Cambria serves children ages 8-17 who have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Over $4 million dollars has been raised to-date to support Camp Cambria Minnesota through the Camp Cambria Foundation since 2015.  For more information and to see our generous donors, visit  #CampCambria

 About Cambria

Cambria is the leading producer of American-made natural stone. As a stain-resistant, nonabsorbent natural stone surface, Cambria is strong, safe, maintenance free and easy to care for. Headquartered in Le Sueur, Minnesota, Cambria is sold through an exclusive network of premium, independent specialty retail and trade partners that can be identified at #MyCambria

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See the World with Ventures Travel

Nearly every other year Troy Hunstad has been traveling all around the United States through customized trips with Ventures Travel. From the Grand Canyon to Key West to Hawaii, Troy is an experienced traveler.

Check Out the Spring Sharing Our Stories Newsletter

Each individual who experiences True Friends has a story to share. From caregivers, to participants, to donors, and volunteers, True Friends provides a unique opportunity to experience life in a whole new way.  In our bi-annual newsletter, Sharing Our Stories, we attempt to capture stories that make our participants unique, all while updating you on what is happening at True Friends.

Our Spring 2019 Sharing Our Stories newsletter has a new look and feel.

We hope you enjoy it!

To see the full issue click here. 

Volunteer With True Friends!

Every year True Friends welcomes 400+ youth, adults, groups, and family volunteers who contribute over 20,000 service hours. The hours provided by volunteers save True Friends over one million dollars every year. Support from volunteers like Gabby is invaluable. “I started volunteering because I wanted to challenge myself with a community I was unfamiliar with,” Gabby said. “The more I volunteered, the more I grew. I learned patience, trust, and how to be more kind.”

Team Building With a Personalized Approach

Team Quest is a leadership development program that provides specialized team building, high ropes, and professional development opportunities for youth to adults. Team Quest focuses on empowering individuals and teams to discover their capabilities by providing programs that stretch the boundaries of one’s comfort zone to increase self-efficacy.

Norman C. Skalicky Foundation and Stearns Bank donates $100,000 to True Friends

Annandale, Minn. (Jan. 18, 2019) – True Friends recently received a $100,000 donation from the Norman C. Skalicky Foundation and Stearns Bank to benefit general operations at True Friends.

“This generous gift from the Norman C. Skalicky Foundation and Stearns Bank makes it possible to carry on our mission of high quality, personalized care to our clients,” said John LeBlanc, President & CEO of True Friends said. “I know our clients and board of directors are very thankful for this gift.”

Beyond keeping the lights on, general operations at True Friends supports program development and critical infrastructure initiatives to provide exceptional care for individuals participating in camp, respite, horse therapy and travel services.

“Stearns Bank has always been passionate about giving back to the community, even more so to those needing a helping hand,” Skalicky said. “The work of True Friends to enhance self-esteem and independence aligns well with our mission to help foster growth and success.”

While True Friends programs provide life-changing experiences for our participants, they also offer caregivers a moment of respite; a chance to rest and to relieve the stress that sometimes occurs while caring for individuals with special needs.

About the Norman C. Skalicky Foundation

Norman C. Skalicky is CEO and Chairman of Stearns Bank, N.A. The Norman C. Skalicky Foundation (NCSF) was formed in 2001 with the help of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation. Since then, NCSF has initiated several fund-raising challenges and supported various community causes to benefit those in need. Recipients of this great community resource include Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Clubs, United Way, various food shelf organizations and several disaster relief efforts.

New Year, New Values at True Friends

At True Friends we continually strive to learn, grow and evolve in an effort to enhance our programs and services; to ensure we are offering life-changing experiences to individuals of all abilities. When it comes to making decisions about those programs and services, we look toward our values to guide our thinking. In 2018, as we took a closer look at our values and how they fit into our plans for today, tomorrow and in the future, we found ourselves wanting to say more.

Camp Cambria Foundation Invests $2.2 Million in Camp Courage Renovation

The Camp Cambria Foundation is investing over $2.2 million renovating several buildings at Camp Courage in Maple Lake, MN.

“The gift from the Camp Cambria Foundation will truly enhance the quality of experience our participants will enjoy for generations to come,” said True Friends President & CEO John LeBlanc. “We are humbled by their dedication and commitment to support individuals of all abilities.”

The Camp Cambria Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation team up every summer to offer a specialized camp session for kids and teens with juvenile arthritis called Camp Cambria, held at Camp Courage in Maple Lake. Over the years, the foundation saw an opportunity to not only create a better experience for their campers, but also for over 1,300 children and adults with disabilities who enjoy Camp Courage each summer.

Renovation of the Lakeside dining hall, health center and arts & crafts building began in February and will continue through early summer. The dining hall will be torn down to the studs and rebuilt to be a year-round gathering space featuring an upgraded kitchen and restructured bathrooms. The health center will see new updates in layout, equipment and finishes; while the arts & crafts building will provide more accessibility.

The renovation is supported by several local and family-owned vendors from a variety of fields including electrical, plumbing, roofing, HVAC and many others.

Learn more about the project by visiting

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True Friends Names New President & CEO

John LeBlanc was recently named President and CEO of True Friends effective January 1, 2018.

“I am thrilled to be leading such an inspiring organization that has a strong foundation created by Ed Stracke,” said LeBlanc. “I look forward to continuing to offer the same life-changing experiences for individuals of all abilities, while being responsive to the growing needs of the populations we serve.”

John was first introduced to True Friends through one of his sons.

“Our family initially learned about True Friends when we were looking for a camping experience for our son who happens to have a physical disability,” said John. “When we picked him up from his first camp experience, he was so excited to give us a tour and show us all the things he did during his week of camp. Right then I realized how impactful True Friends is for participants and their families.”

John was inspired by the mission of True Friends and sought opportunities to be further engaged. He came on board later in 2014 as a Development Officer and had the opportunity to expand into the Chief Operations Officer role in 2015.True Friends began the search for a new President and CEO in the summer of 2017 with support from the search firm CohenTaylor. John was chosen from a group of five highly-qualified candidates to succeed Stracke, who had led the organization for over 33 years.

Prior to his career at True Friends, John worked in Fund Development for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities. John lives in Minneapolis with his wife Michelle and their four children.

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