Confidence Learning Center - also known as Camp Confidence - is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporation dedicated to the belief that persons with developmental disabilities have the right to experience life to the fullest. This idea led Dick Endres, founder of Camp Confidence, and a group of Brainerd businessmen to form a non-profit corporation in 1967 called the Minnesota Therapeutic Camp, Inc.
Today it is know officially as Confidence Learning Center although its original name of Camp Confidence is used also. This was indeed a pioneering project — as it was the first program of its kind in the northern 24 states of the United States. Dick Endres had a vision — to establish a permanent place where people with developmental disabilities could develop the skills necessary to become full, contributing members of society.
The corporation purchased 140 acres of land on Sylvan Lake with brushing and clearing beginning in April 1969. Tent camping equipment was purchased to provide for eight campsites. Each campsite consisted of a tent erected on a pad, a fireplace, and picnic tables.The local unit of the U.S. Army Reserves assisted in the construction of a road access into the property as well as development of the main beach area and ski hill. They have continued to help with the construction of picnic shelters, the nature playground, and the timber trestle bridge. Three years later in 1969 Camp Confidence was born on the shores of Sylvan Lake near Brainerd. A unique year round facility and program dedicated to the physical and social adjustment of people with developmental disabilities.
For the past 40 years, Camp Confidence, now called Confidence Learning Center, has enriched the lives of tens of thousands of campers. Bringing them joy, self-confidence and a new sense of self worth through hands on learning opportunities.
Today, Confidence Learning Center continues its mission, serving more than 11,000 camper days a year. A self-supporting facility, Confidence Learning Center operates successfully without the aid of government grants or programs.
The first cabin to be constructed as a lodging facility for visiting campers was “Foster Grandparents”, which was built in 1971 with funding provided by the Foster Grandparents Organization located at the Brainerd Regional Health Center. Later that year, Camp Confidence staff constructed the Ski Chalet, which also serves as a day camp area. Funding for the ski chalet was provided through various donations.
In the fall of 1972, Brainerd School District #181 provided the help for the construction of the cabin, which was appropriately named “181 Cabin”. This cabin has since been adopted by the Twin Cities Airport Kiwanis Club.
In the summer of 1973, the Burlington Northern Cabin was constructed on top of the existing Ski Chalet. Burlington Northern Foundation and local Burlington Northern employees provided the materials and labor. The upper level serves as overnight accommodations for campers. The Brainerd Jaycees has since adopted this cabin.
The next addition was “Blandin”, a two level cabin used as additional lodging facilities for Camp Confidence campers. The construction of Blandin was made possible through a grant from the Charles K. Blandin Foundation. The labor was provided by the Green Thumb Organization with the help of Camp Confidence staff. Blandin was officially retired, moved, and is now the home of maintainance worker Rob Sawyer.
The next cabin was “TI”, which was constructed in 1989. The State-Wide Minnesota Vocational-Technical Student Association funded it. The Brainerd Rotary Club has since adopted this cabin.
The MBJ House was completed at the end of February 2000. This outstanding facility was donated by the Maynard Johnson family and will house many large camping groups in the future. Since then two more large roomy duplex cabins donated by the Johnson family complete our facilities. MBJI and MBJ II are known as Oak and Pine.
Other areas of Camp include the future Family Camping Area, the wilderness area, Confidence Course, Les Kouba Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Pioneer Camp. The Pioneer Camp consists of a log cabin, slab cabin, and a picnic shelter. This area was developed in the summer of 1971 with the help of Camp Confidence staff and the students and staff of the Minnesota Learning Center. Landmark Volunteers provided later development.
Other facilities include the central bathhouse and supply room, the pole barn for storage of maintenance equipment, and the resort building, which for ten years provided the setting for “special needs” students from the Brainerd High School Resort and Recreation Occupations class. This course taught vocational skills related to the resort industry, i.e. landscaping, maintenance, small engine repair, power tool usage, marina and bait shop operations, etc. This building currently houses our winter recreation equipment.
A Grand Opening Celebration Friday, June 20, 1997 was the culmination of a 10 year effort to complete John Mariucci’s dream of a beautiful big lodge for the use of campers and friends of Camp Confidence. Nor-Son, Inc. of Brainerd constructed the Mariucci Lodge which currently houses the Nature Center, Woodworking/Arts & Crafts, Camp Store and staff offices. The Mariucci Lodge also contains two large activity rooms to accommodate large groups and meetings. John Mariucci was a man with a big heart. He knew Camp Confidence was not just a building; it is a spirit composed of the “hearts” of the thousands of people who have been made just a little bit happier by a visit to this little place nestled in the pine trees of Sylvan Lake.
Thus, the progress Camp Confidence has made over the years is tremendous. We are proud of the accomplishments we’ve achieved with our programs and you should be too. Celebrate success honored Camp Confidence as the TOP OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER serving people with disabilities at an award ceremony on October 6, 1994. Celebrate Success, a coalition of non-profit agencies who work on behalf of people with disabilities, promotes awareness for people with disabilities to our schools, work places, and our communities. The programs at Camp Confidence, including adapted activities such as tubing, sailing, rock climbing, archery, and dog sledding, were recognized as having accommodated people with disabilities, programmatically as well as physically. Celebrate Success, along with Confidence Learning Center, hopes to provide examples of how our communities are enriched when people with disabilities are offered unlimited choices.
Mr. Dick Endres with the help of volunteer Pam Sachs recently completed and published the fascinating history of Camp. His book, entitled In Pursuit of Confidence is available at local bookstores.
Mr. Dick Endres passed away Summer, 2012.