The Brooks Sisters: Kelsi: Counselor and Nurse (2014-Present); Sydni: Counselor (2015-present)
Kelsi: The first time around I heard about camp from someone who I was going to college with and she had brought it up as one of the best experiences of her life. I was looking for something to do over the summer – I didn’t think that it would turn into such a huge part of my life story. I officially graduated from nursing school in May (of 2017) and part of the reason that I decided to start nursing school was because of camp. I worked with Susan (a longtime nurse at camp) here and there and was really interested in what she was doing. I did have an idea that I wanted to go to nursing school before coming to camp, it just secured that. Now I’m here and I’m a nurse and I feel like it’s a very full-circle turn of events to have something ignite that in you and then come back to the place that ignited it.
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Junior counselor (2015-present)
My mom was in the AIDS foundation in Chicago, so she had a connection with certain other people and they told her about the different camps for people that were impacted by HIV and AIDS.
I started off three years ago here. I’m a JC (Junior counselor) now. I wanted to be a counselor because I’ve seen the difference that counselors have on you when I was a camper. So I just wanted to do the same thing for other campers.
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Club Meds volunteer (2007-present)
I became involved in camp through my son Nate Henry who was a counselor for several years, starting in 2006. Later my son David was also a camp counselor for several summers.
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Camp participant, Leader-in-Training, and counselor (2002-present)
I’ve been coming to camp since 2002 and I started at the Malibu camp when it was called Camp Pacific Heartland [it’s now called Camp Hollywood HEART] and then I came here [to Willow River] as an LIT and I’ve come here ever since. My favorite camp memory would have to be my first year doing the AP, which is the adventure program here at Camp Heartland. I think that just got me to realize how how much of an impact camp has on both me and the kids who come. I think that was the best week of my camp life.
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Fundraising and office volunteer (2010-present)
One Heartland Founder Neil Willenson brought some campers to my place of work to share their stories. Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1992, I connected with them right away. There was no permanent camp yet. My employer sponsored and supported Camp Heartland for several years. I became very involved volunteering for fundraising events, such as the Heart and Soul Concerts.
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JoJo Turtle-Morales and Aysha Turtle
Camp participant (2013-present) and participant mother (2004-present)
JoJo started going to camp when he was 7 years old. He really wanted to go because his older brother and sister had attended Camp previously. Both of them had come home with stories about how great it is. I (mom) found out about the camp through NM AIDS services years ago when they still had funding to reach out to people with HIV. The agency has had to downscale quite drastically the past few years. Other HIV positive parents may not even know about the Camp opportunity.
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Camper and Leader-In-Training, 1993-99, 2001-02
Neil founded the camp after meeting my family and seeing the difficulty it was for HIV+ children to both deal with stigma in their daily life and to have normal childhood experiences like attending summer camp. My brother and I were the first campers to be registered. Neil dubbed me “Mr. Campheartland” (a term that massaged my young ego wonderfully). Thus I became a regular camper throughout my childhood, and also spent many days of my childhood participating in the Journey of Hope program, speaking at businesses, but especially schools and universities all around the country (though mostly in the Midwest). One Heartland was, therefore, a significant part of my childhood, not just in the summer (or the brief winter sessions they used to have), but throughout the year. I also ended up spending many hours at the old Camp office which was located in Milwaukee where I lived.
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Camp Founder, CEO, and Resident Noodle from 1993-2010
My life changed profoundly in 1991 when I met 5-year-old Nile Sandeen and his big brother, 7-year-old Sean. After witnessing the slings and arrows of HIV discrimination, cruelty and sadness, I was motivated to help create Camp Heartland, a true safe haven for children like Nile and Sean who were affected by HIV and AIDS.