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St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jake Long was exposed to children facing serious challenges during hospital visits at Michigan.
As Long and his wife await the birth of a child this summer, the timing was right for him to join a capital campaign committee to help create a summer camp for children with serious and life-threatening illnesses.
Long said North Star Reach in Pinckney, Michigan, will get kids out of hospital beds and onto horses, canoes and zip-lines.
“They’ve been hearing, ‘No you can’t do this or no, you can’t do that,‘ their whole lives,” he said. “Now, they’re going to hear, ‘Yes, you can.‘”
Long and his wife, Jackie, are hosting a sold-out fundraising event for about 350 people on Saturday night. Former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, Oakland Raiders and former Wolverines defensive back Charles Woodson, ex-Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr are expected to attend along with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and linebacker James Laurinaitis.
North Star Reach CEO Doug Armstrong said the nonprofit organization has raised $20 million of the $26 million-plus needed to open the camp next year, giving referred children a free week of camp. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for July.
Armstrong said a group of 12 hospitals in Michigan and one in Chicago have committed to referring children from the region and sending volunteers to provide medical care at the camp. North Star Reach is a provisional member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, which was founded by actor Paul Newman. His daughter, Clea Newman, is scheduled to be among the speakers at Saturday night’s fundraising event.
“We’ll have the ninth camp of this kind in the United States and the 16th in the world,” he said. “There will be no financial barriers for the children because they will attend for free. There will be no medical barriers because their health care needs will be met on site. And the social barriers will be removed because they’ll be surrounded by kids just like them. “If anyone needs to experience the benefits of summer camp, it is the kids who have been cheated out of their childhood because of their medical condition.”
The University of Michigan has reached an agreement with North Star Reach to lease the land for $1 a year instead of selling the decaying summer camp.