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Building a memory at Legionville

Ask John Torma what one of the most memorable aspects for students at Legionville is and his answer just may surprise you; It’s not necessarily the safety skills that get immediately taken away.

“There are about 50,000 alumni that will tell you about the barn,” said Torma, founding chairman for the renowned safety patrol education program. “If you talk Legionville, they will bring up the barn right away.”

A camp long located along the shores of North Long Lake in Brainerd, the land was first purchased to be the home site of the camp in the early 1950s. Equipped with a barn, Torma said the building was quickly fixed up to be made into sleeping quarters for campers complete with a dining hall, classrooms, office and a wide open theater for evening entertainment at the top.

But as time wore on, so did the barn.

Torma said soon the wood was deteriorated and the foundation was beginning to crack. Following an inspection in 2009 it was condemned and forced to be torn down in 2010 — looking out for the safety of its nearly 900 safety patrol campers that come each summer.

“We put a committee together from the (American) Legion and started looking at putting a new building back together,” said Torma, building committee chairman. “With all the background on what had been there in the past and with feedback from the older generation (of people who attended camp at Legionville) they said they wanted the barn back because that’s what Brainerd’s Legionville is known for, the barn.

“So we went back to the barn look with some revisions.”

Torma and the building committee for Legionville are asking for community help to raise $650,000 toward building the new facility, meant to replicate the former Legionville landmark. In addition to a similar look, the newly built building will include two classrooms, large meeting area that will double as a gymnasium and theater space and heat and air conditioning to make it fully operational 12 months out of the year — something that wasn’t previously an option.

With the safety patrol camp only using the building during specific weeks, Torma said the goal with the now year-round ability is to open the barn up to boy scouts, DNR camps and any other uses that people can think of.

But the most important thing with this new building said Torma, is to create that lasting memory that past campers had the chance to experience.

“Right now we have the kids staying and getting their education in trailers,” said Torma, “We want to have a barn up for future kids coming to camp. For them to take home that memory.”

To make a donation, mail a check made out to Legionville New Building Fund to Legionville New Building Fund c/o Minnesota Department of the American Legion 20 W. 12th St. Room 300A, St. Paul, MN 55155. Torma can be contacted with further questions at

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).