Man works to preserve history at Camp Courage, a summer hotspot for disabled youth

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Eugene McCarthy at Camp Courage. Photo credit Dan Becker

Camp can create a lot of memories, and when it's a summer hotspot for decades, there's a lot to look back on. 

Now, one man is trying to preserve the past at Camp Courage.     

The camp has been through a lot of changes over the past few years, but a volunteer hopes the camp's history doesn't get lost in the process.

For more than 30 years, Dan Becker has volunteered for Camp Courage and Camp Courage North. It’s been his mission to preserve pieces from the camp's past. But now, the future of his personal passion is in doubt.

"I love history, and the camp's history is important to me," Becker said.

A few years ago, Camp Courage and a handful of other camps for children and adults with disabilities merged under the umbrella True Friends.

Becker said since then, the camps have cleared out hundreds of pieces of memorabilia, like photo albums, dark room equipment and cameras…items he's saved and believes are important links to the camps’ histories and identities.

"So many things are missing. These aren't things that were bothering anybody. They were hanging on a wall and so many campers told me they enjoyed having that stuff there. It made them feel that all the years they'd been coming there had value," he said.

True Friends said they actively preserve the sites they operate, and while they honor their long history in the disability community, their focus is on providing life-changing experiences for individuals of all abilities through programs like a resurrected equine therapy program and a recently built wheelchair accessible high ropes challenge the course.

Becker said the True Friendship Historical Preservation Group has raised a couple thousand dollars over the last few months, but it won't give the money to True Friends until the camps designate a temperature-controlled building to protect their important memorabilia for future happy campers.

"Because that's them. They've been coming there for vacation every summer for years and years. They want to have a voice and a say in the future," he said.

True Friends said over the years, Becker has been given a variety of options to honor his request, but so far, the two sides haven't been able to come to an agreement.

Statement from True Friends:

"True Friends is incredibly proud of our rich tradition of serving individuals of all abilities and is committed to ensuring our life-changing experiences are available today and for future generations.

True Friends has been made aware of allegations regarding a "dispute with the board of True Friends" regarding the preservation of historical materials. Over the last several years, the individual involved in the dispute has been given a variety of solutions to honor his request.

True Friends does actively preserve the sites in which we operate. While True Friends honors our long history in the disability community, our focus continues to be on providing life-changing experiences for individuals of all abilities."

Within the last five years True Friends:

- Resurrected an equine therapy program that offers therapy for individuals utilizing a trained horse

- Expanded accessibility on our camps for all individuals including the construction of a wheelchair accessible fishing pier

- Researched, designed and built a wheelchair accessible high ropes challenge course

True Friends will remain committed to the sustainability of the organization to provide experiences and adventures for all abilities.