BLUE EARTH - Legionville is a unique camp: boys and girls go to learn how to be crossing guards.
Legionville sits on 610 acres along the shore of North Long Lake, north of Brainerd. The 76th annual camps will run Sunday through Friday, June 15 through Aug. 8, this year.
Legionville has 60 to 80 campers at a time and offers typical summer activities.
Legionville campers learn to paddle their own canoes under the watchful eye of a camp counselor during a previous year’s camp. Legionville is a camp set up by the American Legion to teach kids traffic safety and how to be crossing guards.
"They learn everything from first aid, canoeing, swimming, recreation and athletics," said Dave Hanson, who is Faribault County Veteran Services officer and on the Legionville board of directors.
"Who knows what it can turn into in the future?" he said of the camp experience. "Learning first-aid techniques and learning how to deal with certain situations, fellowship of kids together; learn life skills, team-building skills too."
Helping youth learn life skills is what prompted the start of the camp.
"The idea of the School Patrol originated with Sister Carmela of the Cathedral School in St. Paul on Feb. 21, 1921, when the first patrolmen were stationed at the intersection of Kellogg Boulevard and Summit Avenue in St. Paul," according to the Legionville website. "Adopted citywide by the City of St. Paul in 1922, as part of the program of the School System and the St. Paul Police Department, it was also adopted as a statewide program by the Minnesota Highway Patrol.
"Earle Brown, the first chief of the Minnesota Highway Patrol, felt that a uniform program of training and support should be created in the state and came to the Minnesota American Legion in 1935 requesting such assistance," according to the website.
The American Legion began a statewide training program at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds in Brainerd in 1936, according to the website.
"We've got guys in the American Legion who are pretty old, who remember going when they were little kids," Hanson said.
"From the first program in 1936 of two weeks and 157 patrolmen, the enrollment has progressed to more than 1,500 each season, with the training center having a session capacity of 196," the website states.
State Patrolmen serve as certified instructors to the kids between the ages of 10-13. Cost per camper is $250.
"People can sponsor kids," Hanson noted.
Some campers have been sponsored through businesses, individuals or organizations such as fire departments, Jaycees and Lions.
"We care about kids; we care about their safety," Hanson said.
To register, visit legionville.org, click on the "2014 dates" button, then scroll down to "2014 Legionville Patrol Camper Reservation form." When you click on it, a form will pop up. For more information, call (651) 291-1800.