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Minnesota National Guard
National Guard supports Native American youth at lacrosse camp

FOND DU LAC RESERVATION, Minn " The Minnesota National Guard, in partnership with the National Lacrosse League's Minnesota Swarm and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa participated in the third-annual Lax-4-Life Camp, a five-day, four-night lacrosse camp for Native American boys and girls, July 23-27 on the Fond du Lac Reservation Lax-4-Life is a nationally praised camp that has received recognition from the Obama Administration for its efforts in promoting healthy lifestyle choices for Native American youth


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Soldiers from the neighboring armory in Cloquet and the Recruiting and Retention Battalion staffed the event, providing a climbing wall, an inflatable obstacle course as well as leading classes on setting goals, tobacco use, and suicide prevention Of course, the Soldiers jumped in at every opportunity to play lacrosse and dodge ball with the campers

Campers received lacrosse instruction from Swarm team captain Andrew Suitor, Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines and Meg Herlofsky, head coach of Hamline's Women's Lacrosse Club

The camp helped players develop their stick skills and learn offensive and defensive strategies from Minnesota Swarm players, coaches and staff while preserving the heritage of the game of Lacrosse Founded in 2010, Lax-4-Life's mission is to preserve the heritage of the Native's ancestral game and help restore the tradition of lacrosse to tribal communities The camp offers a healthy alternative to problems that currently affect native communities such as gangs, drugs, suicide, violence, and diabetes "Its not just lacrosse camp,"said Caines "It's life camp"

This program is based around the kids and we're at the point where we're bringing kids back as counselors and bringing these kids out to colleges and bettering their lives,"said Caines, who finished his third year as the lead instructor of the camp "It's 100-percent the kids that keeps me coming back"

"The National Guard has a dual mission, we have a mission to [support] our country, but we also have a mission to [support] Minnesota and our communities,"said Sgt 1st Class Richard Kargel, a recruiter from Cloquet, talks about the Guard's involvement in the LAX-4-Life camp "We have armories set up in many communities throughout Minnesota and we like to be involved with the community by doing community service This gives us a great opportunity to work with the Native Americans and just show our support for the community and for the tribe"

In addition to offering the campers empowering life skills the recruiting command is also focused on introducing native Americans to the National Guard One of our adjutant general's objectives, said Karger, is to "diversify the Minnesota National Guard force in order to promote an environment that truly represents the demographics of the communities in which we serve and better reflects those Soldiers whom we lead"

"This morning when we were doing the obstacle course, even National Guard people were going through the obstacle course, seeing adults just throwing their adulthood away and having fun and being around the kids, that really makes a difference too,"said Jo Lynn Shopteese, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, a third-year volunteer for the camp Jo Lynn is also a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi of Kansas

"The Minnesota Army National Guard is a strong supporter of diversity and we believe that capitalizing on the best each person has to offer starts with empowering today's youth with opportunity, tools and support necessary for personal development and growth We are very excited about our Native American Lax-4-Life partnership," said Lt Col Stephen Burggraff, Commander of Minnesota Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion

Supporting partners of the camp also include Lax-4-Life co-founder and Minneapolis Police Officer Clint Letch, the Minneapolis Police Department and Dave's Sport Shop in Fridley

July 27, 2012
Story and photos by Master Sgt Daniel Ewer
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs


Video by Sgt John Angelo
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
B-ROLL

Photos by camp photographer Alec Schimke
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