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Camp Benson counselors set out on 1,000-mile trek

Fundraising walk began Tuesday in Mount Carroll

MOUNT CARROLL – Two Camp Benson counselors are wrapping up a summer session, but they won’t be home any time soon.

Two local 21-year-olds, Anthony Cornilsen of Rock Falls and Tanner Thompson of Sterling, set out on the Men in Red 1,000-mile journey Tuesday to raise money for a charity important to their camp.

They left from Camp Benson, which is owned and operated by the Sterling-Rock Falls Family YMCA. The camp is attended by boys and girls, ages 5 to 17, from YMCAs all over northwest Illinois and the Chicago area. The camp started in Sterling in 1928, and was moved to Mount Carroll in 1957.

The path Anthony and Tanner will take ultimately takes them to Columbus, Ohio, before turning around and heading back to Camp Benson. Both have been counselors at the camp for 4 years.

Counselors go to Chicago Fire games as a peer-building exercise, so the money raised on their walk will be given to the Major League Soccer team’s foundation. The foundation supports programs for disadvantaged youth.

“The foundation does a lot for local kids,” Anthony said. “They help with youth soccer and other programs that teach leadership.”

Tanner said the Columbus stop was chosen because of the Fire’s soccer rivalry with the Crew.

“We thought it would be fitting to make a stop there,” he said. “We’re big fans of the Fire and what they give back, so we just wanted to give back to the team we enjoyed so much through camp.”

The duo won’t be keeping with a tight schedule, planning to walk between 50 and 75 days on backroads.

Tanner said a special prize will be given to their biggest donor.

“Whether it’s an individual or group, the biggest donor will get a soccer ball autographed by the entire Chicago Fire team,” he said.

Anthony, a Rock Falls High School graduate, is the son of Laura Cornilsen of Rock Falls, and Bryan Cornilsen of Sterling. Tanner, a Newman alumnus, is the son of Brenda Van Horn of Sterling, and Dave Thompson of Sterling.

Laura Cornilsen said this is just the latest project in giving back for the walkers.

“Anthony has done charity things for many years,” she said. “He’s planning to do Locks of Love for the fifth time, and he was involved in the sleep-out for the homeless and other projects through the Key Club in high school.”

Anthony and Tanner have relied largely on word-of-mouth advertising for their fundraiser, but they still hope to raise a minimum of between $3,000 and $4,000.

To contribute

Donations can be made through the Men in Red 1,000-Mile Walk at A link on their Facebook page, Men In Red: 1,000 Mile Walk, takes donors directly to the Crowdrise page. As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Men in Red had pledges of $561.

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