Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Handiham World for 26 August 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Big news: Radio Camp moving to Camp Courage

By Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager

Tom, KB0FWQ, addresses campers at Courage North
Image: Tom Fogarty, KB0FWQ, Director of Courage Camps, addresses the gathering of campers and volunteers as we prepare to move to a new location, Camp Courage.

Handiham Radio Camp 2009 is a wrap. Campers departed on Sunday, 23 August 2009 after a week of fun on the air, studying for licenses or upgrades, and catching up with their friends who return to the annual Minnesota camp at Courage North.

Courage Center's Camping Department has hosted the Radio Camp at the northern location for 20 years, so it was difficult to say goodbye to Courage North, our camp near the headwaters of the Mississippi, deep in the lake country of northern Minnesota.

Sometimes it is necessary to make a move, though.

Over the years, it has become more difficult and expensive to get our Handiham members and volunteers up to Courage North, which is about four hours by road from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Campers used to be able to take a bus from the metro area, but bus service has been cut back in recent years until there is no longer daily service. While air transportation is available, it has grown steadily more expensive, and the leg of a camper's flight from Minneapolis to Bemidji, near camp, costs more than the longer flight from most major cities across North America to Minneapolis. Making the trip north was thus either hard to schedule by bus or would more than double the cost of travel by air. Even worse, AMTRAK service is not even available.

While Courage North is really a beautiful spot and really just the right size camp for us, you have to be able to get your campers there. We feel that the time has finally come when this is no longer feasible. The number one complaint we hear about Radio Camp is the cost of getting there. Sometimes (actually pretty often) campers will plead with me to give them the camp week for free because airfare costs so much. While I could sometimes find money in our budget for that in the past, you know as well as I do that the economic recession has really squeezed our budget, and we have to bring in more revenue in camp fees as well as in donations. The camp fees do not cover the true cost of camp, but our donors are understanding and generous, and continue to help us, though not as much as they could before the recession.

Cutting the travel costs for campers is the obvious thing to do, but we have to move the location of our camp session to do so. Fortunately, Courage Center's Camping Department, headed up by Camp Director Tom Fogarty, KB0FWQ, owns another camp property, Camp Courage, which is where we will be in 2010.

Camp Courage was established in 1955, and was Courage Center's first camp. Roughly three times larger than Courage North, it offers excellent infrastructure, lakeside activities, and new camper cabins with wonderful common areas for classroom space. Camp Courage is really two camps: Lakeside and Woodland. We will be on the Woodland side of camp, which is nestled in a forest of tall hardwood trees, but still with a view of the lake. Camp Courage offers pontoon boat access, so we will continue our maritime mobile HF operation. There is high speed internet access, a permanent computer lab, a tower with a tri-band beam antenna, and a radio cabinet exactly like the one we left behind at Courage North.

Yes, we know that there will be challenges as we tackle a move to a different camp, but remember that we are also moving the Handiham headquarters to its official new offices, which will also be at Camp Courage. The Handiham program is part of Courage Center Camping, so this makes sense. It also allows us to serve campers better than ever during the actual Radio Camp session. We have already started the move, with George, N0SBU, and I transporting the equipment from Courage North to Camp Courage on our way back to the Twin Cities. During the coming month, we will be moving the main Handiham office out of Courage Center's Golden Valley location. I will give you more updates here on, but I can tell you in advance that we will likely have to close for a period of days while things get sorted out. In due course we will have further information about how to contact us by phone, how to get to Camp Courage, and all of the information you will need to access Handiham services. The website, with its audio lectures and news, will continue to work as it always does. We will have no changes in our email addresses. Email will be the most reliable way to stay in touch during our moving process. I answer email day and night, including weekends, so don't be shy about contacting us. Please be patient, though, as the volume of email can get pretty large. We are temporarily suspending the equipment loan program during the Fall quarter, as staff will not be available to run it during our move.

Final camp dates for 2010 will be announced shortly. The approximate dates put the Radio Camp session around the week before Memorial Day. This is around the last week in May, 2010. We are moving the Radio Camp back to its original location, Camp Courage, and its original time on the calendar, May. If you have been following our Handiham History Project, you know that the "May Convocation" at Camp Courage was the original Radio Camp.

These are some big changes, but they will be good ones for our campers. AMTRAK service is nearby, as is the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Twin Cities have excellent bus connections. The cost to travel to camp, as well as the proximity to a major city, make Camp Courage, which is only about 40 miles west of the metro, much more attractive.

We thank our good friends up north for all they have done over the decades to make Courage North a welcoming place for us; the Courage North staff, the ARRL VE team, the Paul Bunyan ARC, the volunteers and campers, our friends living nearby, and everyone else who made the Minnesota Radio Camps so much fun. We look forward to seeing some of the same volunteers and camp staff at Camp Courage next May, along with even more campers!

Thank you, everyone.

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager