Marnie Wells, Camp Fire Minnesota CEO, talks with Shawn Wischmeier, Board President, about our campaign to build a new Community & Dining Center at Tanadoona.
Marnie: How did you first get involved with Camp Fire Minnesota?
Shawn: I first heard about Camp Fire when I started sending my kids to Tanadoona in 2014 and joined the board shortly after. I live on Lake Minnewashta and had long been familiar with Tanadoona.
As Board Chair, neighbor on the lake, and most importantly, father of three former and current campers, it’s been an honor to see how Tanadoona has grown and changed over the years.
Marnie: Since you started sending your kids to Tanadoona in 2014, so much has changed. For example, we’re serving 208% more youth in 2019 than in 2014. Since joining the board, in what other ways have you seen Camp Fire Minnesota grow?
Shawn: It’s been incredible to see Tanadoona programs more than double in size. The flip side of that though, is that the demand often exceeds our capacity: as program numbers have grown, so have waitlists. But even with increased demand, we’ve doubled down on our commitment to accessibility and affordability. Currently, over 40% of Camp Fire Minnesota youth attend programs though financial support. I’m especially proud of that fact.
Over the past few years, I’ve also seen changes in the type of programs we’re offering. The addition of field trips as well as year-round, nature-based programs shows a return to our roots as an environmental organization. It’s clear watching my kids grow up that screens and devices continue to get in the way of what’s important: connecting with nature and the world around us.
Marnie: I hear that so often these days. Whether it’s a 4-hour field trip or a full week of summer camp, our programs provide so many opportunities for people to engage with nature.
Shawn: That’s why I’m so committed to this campaign. The need for more environmental education/nature-based opportunities is clear. I want to preserve any greenspace we have in the Twin Cities metro area so my kids (and their kids) can have a space to play, learn, and grow.
Marnie: Exactly. And building a new Community & Dining Center will ensure that we have the space and facilities to serve future generations. Why else do you think this campaign is important?
Shawn: Tanadoona’s potential as a community resource has been limited by the weather. The new building will include program and bad weather space, a teaching kitchen and herb garden. These will allow us to serve schools throughout the year, host more weddings and rental groups, and offer a wider range of summer camp and family programs.
Marnie: With construction starting in September, we’re encouraging supporters to make a contribution this spring. I’m happy to say we have raised $3 million of the $5 million goal, but we still need donors at any level to get us to construction. Invest in the new Community & Dining Center today and be part of building a brighter future for Minnesota youth.