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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Testing the Limits

Harley is 11 years old and has a smile that can light up a room. He just attended Summer Family Camp at Camp Courage in Maple Lake and it was his second time attending camp. “It’s nice to get away from my parents every so often,” he said with a laugh. “I get to meet other children like me. At camp I see them every single day, it’s so cool.”
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Growing in Volunteerism

With the end of summer on the horizon it’s always fun to look back on the past few months and reminisce about the fantastic volunteers that joined True Friends for weeks of great adventures. On June 10, Camp Friendship welcomed its first week of volunteers. Summer staff are always excited for volunteers to arrive as they often become unsung heroes of camp. Volunteers are the helping hands that give campers new smiles, hugs, and friendships.
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A Place to Be Welcomed, Accepted

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.”
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Youth Volunteer Wins Respect Life Scholarship

Jenny Fournier, 17, volunteered at Camp Friendship for a week summer 2015. Jenny came to CF with her youth minister, Rita Sherepa, and a friend from her youth group from St. Raphael’s Church out of Duluth after a former CIT/current respite staff spread the word about True Friends.

In confirming dates with Rita for this summer (we now have 6 youth interested in coming), she mentioned an essay Jenny wrote about her volunteer experience with us won 2nd place in the Respect Life scholarship through their church diocese. Jenny was kind enough to share her essay with us, and we’d like to share it with you!

Tori - Jenny Volunteer Essay Blog
“Common belief in society would have one believe that the only life worth living is one of a physically and mentally “perfect” person. However, while volunteering at Camp Friendship, a camp for people with disabilities, first hand experience led me to realize the importance of every life. Two campers in particular demonstrated that every life is worth living.

The first camper did not fit society’s definition of a “perfect” person because he was mostly nonverbal and seemingly simple tasks, like dressing himself, eluded him. Society would have one believe there is no joy in this lifestyle. However, his parents had spent endless hours teaching him to read. He carried a binder with him, which he used to communicate by pointing to pictures. His parents’ care and commitment helped him receive a master’s degree in botany, a subject he was passionate about. While many citizens would be devastated if they could not put a sock on their [...]

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Viral Content Roundup – Changing the way we see ‘differabilities’

By Erin LaVine, Manager of Camping

Everyone knows how quickly viral news stories can spread awareness. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the Light it Up Blue for Autism campaign and the Polar Plunge are just a few examples of how people are using social channels to affect change and awareness. I’m not sure if it’s because I follow a lot of amazing parents, caregivers, service providers and educators, but in the past two weeks my social media has been filled with amazing stories about individuals with differabilities and their families achieving new heights. Below are thoughts on my three favorite viral stories.

First, my heart was burst into at least 3 million parts when I saw the video of Atticus hitting the skate park with his dad. Atticus is a young gentleman who has Cerebral Palsy, he utilizes a wheelchair and he is a cutie! His mother explained in a blog that after seeing a dad pushing his child in wheelchair at a skate park, her family dropped everything and went to do the same. I mean, how cool is that? Make sure you watch the video to the very end, Atticus’s reaction is priceless!

Later in the week while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a wonderful series of photos Glenn Gameson-Burrows has taken to help the public better understand his daughter and other people on the Autism Spectrum. His photos showcase the calm and sometimes tumultuous behaviors of a handful of children and two adults. If you just saw these pictures, there would be no way of knowing these individuals had ASD and that’s the point. The photographer wants us to be less judgmental. He wants us [...]
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Lily’s Lessons: Outcomes of a Therapeutic Riding Program

Lily is a spunky seven year old girl who loves her American Girl Equestrian doll and playing outside. She was not always this way, in fact, when we first met Lily she was very shy, suffered from severe anxiety and was very affected by sensory processing difficulties. As a soon-to-be graduate of her therapeutic riding program, Lily has shown great improvements in balance, strength, coordination and behavior. Watch the video for demonstrations of how these results have been achieved over the past eight months with True Strides.

Lily’s Lessons:

Self-confidence and decreased anxiety

Lily has worked hard at overcoming fears and developing inner strength. Riding horses has allowed her to develop new skills in the areas of communication, eye contact, as well as boosted her self-esteem. Her smiles during all the games gives evidence to this outcome. Increased strength and coordination

Lily is seen maintaining jump position while trotting. She also plays volleyball holding herself in jump position which demonstrates her growth with coordination and motor planning.

Improved communication skills

Lily is all smiles while playing her favorite game like ring toss or scoop ball. She is quite capable now, of requesting games, as well as sharing with staff her excitement about her new American Girl Equestrian doll.

True Strides is now offering Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy year-round in our new state of the art indoor riding arena. We provide one-on- one hour long lessons given by an American Hippotherpay Certified Occupational Therapist and Path certified therapeutic riding instructor. Our motto is “where therapy is fun goal are reached and dreams become reality!”

True Strides works with both children and adults with a variety of disabilities including autism, MS, Cerebral Palsy, [...]

December 27-31, 2015


FFA Providing ‘Truckloads’ of Support

Corn Drives

In the mid-1950’s, an FFA chapter from Freeborn, MN took to local corn fields to ask farmers if they could pick up corn after a damaging storm. These FFA students walked the fields picking up corn; they sold this corn and donated the proceeds to Camp Courage. This very first corn drive raised $90 for camp. Since that first chapter and first corn drive, over 80 chapters have joined the “Corn Drive for Camp Courage,” and turned that $90 into a 60 year tradition and over $5.5 million donated to our camps, where children and adults with disabilities attend camp, make friends, learn new skills and have fun.

Evolution of the Corn Drive
Last year, 61 Chapters of the MN and WI FFA took part in the Corn Drive for Courage. This number continues to increase as more and more chapters learn about camp and the impact their donations have on children and adults with disabilities. There are different ways chapters can participate in the fundraiser. Some still physically collect the corn from farmers and sell it at a local grain elevator. Others set up a table at a local elevator to accept donations as farmers come to sell their corn. FFA Chapters without corn to sell conduct other fundraiser activities including other grain drives, battery drives, dessert auctions, fruit sales and flower sales.

History of True Friends, Camp Courage and the FFA

Over the past 60 years, True Friends and Camp Courage have had the great joy of working with hundreds of FFA students and advisors and these students are bright, dedicated and hard-working. The Minnesota FFA has an amazing history of philanthropy towards Camp Courage. The FFA motto is: Learning to Do, [...]

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