Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

One Heartland: 25 years helping youth


February 8, 2018

courtesy One Heartland

In 1996, Camp Heartland purchased the 93-acre campus now known as One Heartland in Willow River. The campus has a retreat center, cabins, amphitheater, lakes, pool and more. The facilities are available for rent. For more on the camp, visit

Do you remember going to summer camp? It's a tradition full of fond memories for many. Thanks to One Heartland, for the last 25 years, camp has become an option for young people who would never have dreamed of going.

That's because One Heartland's summer camps are geared for kids who face stigmatizing circumstances. It is a normal childhood experience for those whose lives are anything but normal.

The organization started as Camp Heartland in 1993, a camping experience held throughout the Midwest for youth affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1996, with the help of a donation from Minnesota Twins Manager Paul Molitor, the organization purchased its own 93-acre campus in Willow River.

In 2006, the organization expanded its mission and its partnerships, becoming One Heartland.

What has kept its heart beating these 25 years?


A quick perusal of the leadership team on the website shows that, once touched by One Heartland, staff tend to stick around. National Camp Director Jill Rudolph has been with the program for 10 years. Susan Leckey, One Heartland's major gifts officer, has been with the organization since 1993.

It's not only staff who want to be there.

"It's a place where kids want to be," said Tony Koecher of Kerrick, the facility manager for One Heartland. He came on board in May of 2001.

"My experience at One Heartland has been very rewarding and continues to this day. I work with a great staff, and kids who need it most," Koecher said. He takes care of the grounds, buildings, the mowing and snow plowing, among many other caretaking duties.

"I work with hundreds of volunteers every year, some of those volunteers that need to be taught, and some who teach me, and many volunteers who just want to make a difference," said Koecher.


Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. One such volunteer is Jenny Lanoue-Glerum of Moose Lake. A clinical improvement lead for Medica, she looked in the community for volunteer options to make a difference using her nursing skills.

"I noticed the camp sign on Highway 61 and decided to research One Heartland to see what volunteer opportunities they needed filled. I volunteered for one week as a nurse at that time during Camp Heartland and have been hooked ever since!"

"I love the mission of the camp and the fact that it is available for so many underserved populations," Lanoue-Glerum says of the most meaningful part of volunteering. "It is an accepting setting that allows the campers to be themselves. Seeing that personal growth that has occurred among campers, other staff, my daughter, and even myself while volunteering, during a week of camp, or from year to year, has been amazing!"

She says there's a bonus. "The company I work for allows me to use Volunteer Time Off for 16 hours of volunteering, and after I donate 30 hours to an organization, it donates dollars for doers to the organization in my name. Since 2016 I've logged over 435 hours at camp. I truly couldn't imagine a better way to give back!"

Groups and individuals can volunteer. "Camp has great volunteer opportunities for anyone, no matter your age or your skillset," says Lanoue-Glerum.


One Heartland partners with many organizations to fulfill its mission. There are several agencies in the Twin Cities that refer young people to camp, such as the housing services People Serving People and Simpson House.

Rudolph explained that much of the work of getting the camp ready for summer is done by a traveling AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) group. NCCC teams also serve as camp counselors and have helped restore the camp after flooding caused damage in 2012 and 2016.

The Challenge Incarceration Program-Willow River is also a crucial partner, coming weekly to help maintain the facility in any way they can.

One Heartland will host a Day of Service this spring, a chance for community members to help prepare camp for the summer - complete with a camp tour and lunch. More information about this opportunity is listed on the organization's website (below).


According to the website, the cost of camp is based on income and need, but campers are never turned away if they can't pay, and One Heartland can help cover the cost of transportation.

That kind of commitment to kids can only be met by the hearts of generous donors. Though grants are utilized to help cover some expenses, it is through monetary and in-kind gifts both large and small that make camp possible for those families who can't afford it.

Heart muscle cells are organized in layers that, in coordination, squeeze in different directions to pump blood as efficiently as possible. It is a great picture of the efficiency created when One Heartland staff, partners and donors work together to provide camp for kids.

The kids

Lastly, it is seeing courageous young people transformed through the empowerment and hope that a camp experience provides that keeps everyone "pumped" and inspired at One Heartland.

There's Camp Heartland for those youth living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Camp Northstar is for youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Youth striving for a healthy lifestyle can attend Camp 5210 (5210 is a simple daily formula to live healthier: five or more fruits or vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, one or more hours of physical activity, and zero sugary beverages).

Camp True Colors is for youth identifying as LGBTQ+. And Camp Hollywood HEART, hosted in partnership with Hollywood Heart in Malibu, California, helps youth affected by HIV/AIDS through the arts.

One testament to the impact of camp is that campers often return to One Heartland for leadership experience and become staff themselves. Some of their stories are shared on the website to celebrate the 25th anniversary milestone.

Get involved

courtesy One Heartland

Fishing is a favoritte activity for many campers.

What will help keep this heart going to reach even more young people? The care and support of our community. The public is invited to attend a fundraiser this weekend for One Heartland. Meet staff and volunteers and hear for yourself the impact of camp.

A "Party With Heart" is set for 5-8 p.m. Saturday, February 10, at Moose Lake Brewing Company. There will be beer, brats, baked goods, a silent auction, broomball, live music with the Barstool Revelers and more, all with the goal to raise $5,000 to send 10 kids to camp this summer. For every $6 beer purchased, $2 will go to One Heartland. Details can be shared through their Facebook page.

To find out more about One Heartland, to read stories of campers and volunteers, to donate or volunteer, or to register a camper, go to


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