Confidence and Trust at Camp Knutson


When Mona and Kurt Hjerpe brought their daughter, Meghan, to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Camp Knutson for the first time, they were a bit nervous. They hoped she would make friends, be alright without them and learn skills to enhance her independence.

But what was different for the Hjerpes from many parents, is that Meghan has Down syndrome. That meant that though they talked about camp, and Meghan was excited to go, they weren’t sure exactly how much she understood about being away from them for a week. As a teenager with a disability, Meghan had not experienced being on her own without her close-knit family nearby.

Camp Knutson partners with the Down Syndrome Foundation to provide summer camping experiences for young people with Down syndrome. Last year, Camp Knutson served over 1,000 campers with medical or developmental needs.

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The Courage to be Different


Every time a shooting star crossed the sky. Every time a four-leaf clover was picked from its stem. Every time a coin was tossed into a fountain. Every time birthday candles were blown out.

Every time, Ally Taubenheim made the same wish. To live a life without a rare autoimmune disease and skin disorder causing pigment to disappear, leaving white patches in its place. But most of all, she wished to look and feel normal.

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Confidence Found in Experience


“Kendall has always been a strong personality,” shared her proud father, Dana Theide, who easily recalls vivid memories of his exceptionally active and vocal child. “She was talking and telling stories as early as two-years-old,” he said.

Then, Dana and his wife, Karen, began to see a change. Their social, playful daughter was suddenly keeping to herself and having difficulties relating to and interacting with others. A variety of tests revealed Kendall had Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), closely mirroring Asperger’s Syndrome.

As Kendall grew older, community support played an integral part in her development and in keeping her family connected to helpful resources.

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