Courage North (recently renamed to True Friends retreat) is a camp for children of all disabilities to go and get a really cool, immersive outdoor experience. Rob actually went to the sister facility Camp Courage as a camper himself for a couple of years when he was a kid. Later he went to Courage North, which he liked much better. He remembered the experience so much that he wanted to give back for other kids when he got to be an adult.
The center is about 3.5 hours northwest of the Twin Cities and is very close to the Mississippi River headwaters. There are a number of cabins for students, a large dining commons and a King center with a basketball court, and lots of places to relax and hang out.
When I asked Rob what the hardest part of camp was, he mentioned a couple of things. The first was campers that became really homesick and couldn't snap out of it. He said that was always difficult for him, in part because he experienced a bit of it the first time he went up. He quickly got over it though and, being the socialite he was, he eventually thrived.
The second hard part was a bit dicier. It involved the campers who had toileting issues, and to save you any further description, well suffice it to say it was the crappy part of the job. He and I had some great laughs about it though. I loved his face when he described some of the experiences. It was priceless. Kind of took some of the allure of being a camp counselor away for the rest of us who thought it was the best job going.
Courage north also happened to be a stop for us on our way to the Boundary Waters in the Late 80's. Because of Rob's working relationship with the camp caretakers we were able to use camp canoes and some of their equipment. This was a financial boost, as renting canoes and equipment can get expensive. The downside was that Courage North was located in the north central part of the state. The trip there added about 2..5 hours onto an already long ride. Gas was cheaper then, so it was a no brainer to a bunch of thrifty twenty somethings.
One of the best things that ever happened to Rob at Courage North however was meeting another counselor named Jane. She was new to camp and when they met the first time there was an instant attraction. I don't know the full story, but it was one of those summer camp fall-in-love stories that usually happens between campers (or the slightly weirder ones where a camper falls in love with a counselor.)
Their love blossomed over the summer and well, I don't know much beyond that, except that it was strong enough that they married a few years later. Jane is a sign language interpreter/special needs teacher in suburban Minneapolis. She is as beautiful as Rob was handsome, so they made for a beautiful couple that later made two beautiful girls, Alison and Amanda.
So Courage North will always remain a special place in my heart. It was the halfway point to the BWCA. More importantly it was the place where kids with disabilities could experience the great outdoors in ways they might never had the chance to.
More about Rob next time.