Twin Cities-based nonprofit celebrates 25th summer of life-changing camp experiences for the kids who need it most

One Heartland welcomes 600 youth affected by social isolation and serious health challenges

Minneapolis MN, June 7, 2017 – On Thursday, June 8, Twin Cities-based nonprofit One Heartland will welcome approximately 80 youth ages 7-15 living with or affected by HIV/AIDS to its camp facility in Willow River, MN to kick off its 25th summer of life-changing summer camp. Over the course of the summer, One Heartland will welcome approximately 600 youth over 14 sessions of camp.

In 1993, seven year old Nile Sandeen wanted to go to summer camp. He dreamed of a camping adventure where he could have fun and make friends, and talk openly about AIDS, a disease he had been born with. “Everyday” summer camps wouldn’t and couldn’t meet Nile’s medical and emotional needs. Wide-spread fear of those infected with HIV coupled with insufficient medical care at the existing camps made it impossible to make Nile’s dream of summer camp come true.

Neil Willenson, a college senior, read about Nile’s dream in his hometown newspaper and knew he had to do something. Neil and his friends raised enough money to rent an established campsite and provide a unique camping experience for children with AIDS, their siblings and for children who had lost loved ones to the disease. With the support of hundreds of donors, nurses, social workers, physicians and volunteers, in that first year, Camp Heartland gave 73 children with AIDS increased self-confidence, hope and a reason to live.

Since that first summer Neil’s vision to provide children living with HIV/AIDS with a weeklong summer camp program has grown into an organization dedicated to children, young adults, and their families in isolating circumstances including homelessness, challenges facing LGBT youth, and those working to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Through a variety of outreach programs nationwide more than 12,000 children from across the country have been welcomed into the One Heartland community since 1993.

When and Where:

The first session of Camp Heartland runs from June 8-June 14, with other camp sessions continuing throughout the summer until July 28. Media members are welcome at camp in Willow River during camp sessions. Other interview arrangements can be made for media outlets that can’t make it up to camp. Visit for more info about camp.