The city of Eden Prairie is seeking $6.2 million in state funds for renovation and expansion of historic Camp Eden Wood, a facility for children and adults with disabilities near Interstate Hwy. 494 and Crosstown Hwy. 62.
The camp came into existence in 1925 as the Glen Lake Children's Camp, set up for children who were exposed to tuberculosis but who were not showing symptoms of the disease. Located in a wooded area near Birch Island Lake in Eden Prairie, it now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the city and operated by Friendship Ventures, it serves people from across the state.
At a reception for the Senate Capital Investment Committee held at the camp on Friday, senators heard from a mother and a father who talked about how much it means to them to get a break from the demands of care while knowing their children are at a safe, caring place enjoying nature and having fun.
Barbara delCaro-Scaia, of Plymouth, recalled how her now-teenage son, Trevor, was severely brain damaged as a child after he was injured while playing.
The injury left him unable to speak and doctors did not know how to help him, she said. But, she said, he has been welcomed at Camp Eden Wood and given experiences that have brightened his life.
David Ring, of Jordan, said that his daughter Kelcy, 15, had such severe and recurring seizures that doctors recommended removing part of her brain. Sending his daughter to Camp Eden Wood has helped him cope with the vastly different demands of raising one child with disabilities and another who was high-achieving, he said.
Expanding and updating the camp would allow it to serve more people and offer better facilities, said Georgann Rumsey, president and CEO of Friendship Ventures, a nonprofit group that runs three such camps in Minnesota.
"The No. 1 issue for families with children with disabilities living at home is the need for respite care," she said.
Camp Eden Wood now serves about 1,200 people a year -- 300 of them from June through August, when campers can come for respite care for several days or a weekend.
Eden Wood currently has beds for 32 campers and would expand to 100 if state funds are granted, Rumsey said. That would allow the camp to offer 400 to 500 summer camp opportunities, she said.
By updating parking lots, landscaping and other buildings, the camp could also realize another goal -- to make the center more appealing year-round for use by groups for meetings and outings, she said.
About 85 percent of the people who go to the camp ask for financial assistance, and Friendship Ventures continually holds fundraisers to be able to offer scholarships, Rumsey said. This past summer the camp's fee for six days was about $1,100, Rumsey said; the current weekend rate is up to $650, depending on care.
The nonprofit agency operates without government subsidy, relying on donations from individuals, service organizations, businesses and people who volunteer their time.
Eden Prairie City Manager Scott Neal urged legislators to include funds for the camp in the next state bonding bill, which could make the money available for design work in 2008. Construction would begin in 2009 with completion by 2010.
"We think it's a good investment of our state public money,'' Neal said.
Laurie Blake 612-673-1711