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Camp Noah helps kids

Lyle Haraldson as "Noah" speaks to day camp children at an ark-themed room set up in WDC Elementary School.1 / 2
First- and second-graders at Camp Noah pose with T-Bear the therapy dog. Back row l-r: Allie Astrup, Rylie Scoplitte, Nicholas Schwenter, Jacob Lepper, Taylor Simon, Alex Moe, Mackenna Stine, Jane Feimeyer and Ben Keppers. Middle row: Daniel Zeise, Mikayla St. Marie, Karl Anderson, Elliot Doyle, Zach Shaw, Luke Ayers, Bryce Kaufman, Josh Kine and Ashlyn Tucotte. Front row: Blu Lutze, Ashley Kern, T-Bear, Paige Decker and Ella Stroeing.2 / 2

In some ways, the June 17 tornado forced kids to grow up fast. Wadena area adults have held town halls and meetings about changes in town since the destructive storm, but over this last week, local children at Camp Noah had a chance to meet and discuss how the disaster was affecting their own lives.

On Wednesday early afternoon, elementary-aged children asked school principal Louis Rutten about the community center, the playground, classroom locations, tornado shelters and tornado watchers. Earlier, they had Minnesota Senator Dan Skogen as a speaker.

But this was a kids' day camp, so unlike adults' committee meetings and town halls, this one had puppet shows, games, crafts and T-Bear the therapy dog.

Perhaps the most exciting guest was Noah himself -- or at least Lyle Haraldson dressed up in a long beard and robe. "Noah" sat down by a makeshift ark and educated the kids about tornado safety in between animal puns.

The children were asked to share what they were thankful for. One of them mentioned being grateful that everyone was OK.

Christie Meier of Immanuel Lutheran Church said almost 70 kids were in attendance at the Monday through Friday camp, and around 30 or so volunteers helped to make it happen. She expressed appreciation for the volunteers along with the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School for the use of their facilities.

Lyle "Noah" Haraldson encouraged the kids to be brave and to have a positive outlook.

"Worry and fear get out of the way," he said. "I'm looking forward to a brighter day!"