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DULUTH - Duluth's old Nopeming site has been vacant now for a solid decade. It's most notably remembered as a sanatorium in the 1900s for tuberculosis patients. As successful treatment for TB was discovered, the 110,000 square foot facility was turned into a nursing home before being shut down in 2002. But now, there's a new vision for the facility from a father and daughter who dream of an all-inclusive campus that will one day serve children and families of all needs.
The dream for the future of the old Nopeming site is a big one for Tanya Graysmark who has a master's degree in special education.
"There's so much we can do here. And anything is possible. That's what's great about it," Graysmark said.
Graysmark is also the head of Orison Inc., which is a non-profit that's working to turn this facility into a one-of-a-kind, hands-on campus geared toward children and their families -- especially those with special needs.
"Outdoor gardening, indoor gardening, container gardening, a green house, an equestrian area so kids could have animals -- and we can do hippo therapy where we work the kids with horses," Graysmark explained.
A free K-8 charter school is a big part of the plan, along with services like speech and language therapy, counseling, before and after school programs and other supportive family services.
Graysmark's father, Win Erickson, is a former law enforcement officer who has seen first-hand what can happen to a child who grows up without the support they need.
"If I could quote a country western song: I turn 21 in prison doing life without parole. What a wasted life. Mamma tried," Erickson said.Erickson says the future Orison Center would help break the downward cycle and instead build healthier futures for youth.
"It's a wonderful thing to see a young person flourish under the circumstances when they know someone cares," Erickson said.
But before this can all become real life, the facility needs about $9 million worth of work before state and federal funding for the project can begin.
Orison Inc. is looking for an initial $1 million to get going.For more information, check out www.OrisonCenter.org.