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I was invited to ride with the Friendship Wagon Train for Camp Winnebago this past week. I did so want to go, but there were so many things in the way. I should have given way to my desire and put  other obilgations aside because I kept thinking about the ride. So I can only imagine what brings riders from all over the country to take part.

In talking with some of the participants I learned there were riders taking part this year from Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa and Minnesota. Speaking of Minnesota, I did see a familiar face, Donald Morris of Albert Lea.

Those who participate in this event put other things aside and come to Minnesota for the week for this charitable cause — which this year was hoped would raise $38,000 — and for so much more. The quality of the people is outstanding. I've always wondered how early settlers were able to take the trip of their lives that were filled with discomfort, obsessive heat, endless rains, crossing rivers and over bumpy, rocky trails. It was accomplished because of the unity of the people. They had a purpose and endured the pain as they also took sight and mind to environmental heights. Watching the birds, the clouds and photo perfect sunrises and sunsets has to be outstanding.

Today’s wagon train is not without some discomfort. But there were no thoughts of "could have been home in a easy chair in air conditioning." What they experienced during their week in Southern Minnesota June 21-28 is enviable. There’s a history behind it and a future ahead so that challenged children can experience life like other kids at Camp Winnebago, swimming, tenting, cooking and other activities adapted to their age and ability with a “partner" to assist and act as guides and companions.

The mission of the wagon train is to enhance, through a diversity of experiences of self worth, independence and quality of life of people with development disabilities.

What the over 100 men, women and children experienced has to be a forever experience. I talked with some of the children and young people. What character. The responsibilities, the love for their animals, the realization that they can be supportive of less fortunate children all because they could be a part of something important in their life. I know I came away richer for the experience of just attending and visiting with these adventurous people.

On Wednesday, June 25th, a bus load of kids from Camp Winnebago were taken to the site of wagon train so they too could take part in a short ride.

The Friendship Wagon Train rotates its route each year, so over the course of four years they will have made the entire circle, ending up where they first started. This year’s Friendship Train started at Farmamerica in Waseca, then on to Otisco, New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale, Geneva, Clarks Grove, Hollandale, Moscow, Austin, Lyle, E & H Farms and Adams, where the wagon train ended. It will start in the same place next year.

The wagon people set up camp behind the elevator in Ellendale Sunday night and enjoyed a bountiful breakfast served by members of the First Lutheran Church. The riders were provided a spur-of-the-moment pot luck dinner, by the "park neighbors" in the Geneva Park, along with subs and chips. In Clarks Grove on Monday night they camped behind the Gopher Stop and got a chance to stretch their legs and communicate before they were bussed to Clarks Grove Baptist Church where they were fed more than their fill with indoor food and an outdoor barbeque.

The Clarks Grove Firemen have jobs, so they arranged for help to serve a breakfast catered from Albert Lea Hy-Vee. From Clarks Grove the wagon train traveled on to Hollandale, and I am sorry to say I ran out of time to spend with them.

Some of the Friendship Wagon Train participants from those first couple of days had to drop out as they had to return to work on Monday morning, but others joined the group so the covered wagon train gained momentum as they cruised along. They were thankful that God was good and gave them sunshine instead of rain and left this reporter wishing she had accepted their invitation to ride with them instead of mentally enjoying the experience.

What wonderful people there were on the ride and what wonderful people came out to welcome them to their communities and helped give them nourishment. There are a lot of good and caring people here in our little corner of the world. And that is one of the reasons we choose to live here.

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Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, July 3rd: Danika Marie Jensen, Lorry Pelzl, Amy Storlie, Amy Walterman, Cynthia Nelson, Sara & Chris Ihrke, Rachel & Michael Schmidt, Phillip & Karen Briggs

• Friday, July 4th: Happy 4th of July!  Bethany Miller, Carlie Sevcik, Pam Nelson, Trina Churchill, Ellie Rose Meiners, Brent Meiners, Brian Meiners, Denise & Scott McGowan

• Saturday, July 5th: Emma Harold, Abby Harold, Brenlee Anne Knudsen, Jessica Wayne, Brad Tufte, Burt Scripture, Chad Sommer, Russell Thostenson, Rhonda Grunwald, Issac Paulson, Danny Burns

• Sunday, July 6th: Kylie Titus, Austin Nord, Linda Aronson, Scott Briggs, Gary Grosland, Wendy Kammerer, Travis Hanson, Paul Richards, Darrin Stadheim, James Van Riper, Kyle & Bethany Miller

• Monday, July 7th: Collin Christensen, Elizabeth Eder, Cheryl Boverhuis, Casey Johnson, Chad Quam, Scott Reese, Jon Spatenka, Anna Jacobson, David Anderson, DeAnn Skroch    

• Tuesday, July 8th: Zaine Augustine Briedenbach, Parker John & Payton Lorraine Bunn will be 9 in 2014, Barb Hagen, Al Lee, Adam Arends, Jacob Terry Phillips, Deacon Thomas Lang, Summer Paulson, Deb Jacobs, Marlene Jensen

• Wednesday, July 9th: Larry Otto, Corey Pence, Mavis Knudtson, Joni Calderon, Lisa Worke, Dale Peterson, Jenny Bunn, Julie & Dean Hunt, Jennifer & David Lageson

• Thursday, July 10th:  Kalene Larson, Ethan Green, Brett Dunlap, Sally Hanson Sadden, Suzanne Skroch Larkin, Carley Ray Talamantes, Holly Swearingen, Anna Uetsch, Todd Borchert, Kym Cameron, Paulette Nelson, Ryan & Amy Crabtree their 8th, Dustin & Jenna Quimby

• Friday, July 11th: Zoie Marie Jensen, Shirley Wallace Tennant, Nicholas Lee Shultz, Helen Scripture Schubert, Kelly Sauke, Nataniel Lizarazo, Michele Degan Reistad, Rochelle Thompson, Lisa Goodnature Noble, Christopher Olson, Jessica Mangskau, Elaine Peterson, Naomi Hemingway, Randy Borchert, Scott Knutson, Celina & Richard Drecher, David & Bonnie Jensen, Carrie (Thompson) & Danny Wichmann

Hope you have a day filled with things that make you smile!

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