HOVEN, S.D. — After Curtis LeMair unexpectedly passed away during his freshman year at Northern State University, his family decided to dedicate their land near Hoven to a cause that would have made Curtis proud.
LeMair passed away in his dorm room on the university’s campus from sudden cardiac arrest Oct. 7, 2018. He was just eight weeks into his career as a wrestler at Northern State.
LeMair’s family is from Prior Lake, but they have 70 acres of land west of Hoven, South Dakota, that they use to hunt and farm. The remote and peaceful area near Swan Lake was one of LeMair’s favorite places to be.
“Curtis loved the water, the mud, the grass, the wildlife. He loved being on his four-wheeler,” said Chad LeMair, Curtis’ father.
That’s why after his passing, the LeMair family opened Camp Curty on the land in 2019. At the camp, young wrestlers get to eat, sleep and train together for five days.
Chad LeMair said the idea to make a camp actually came from his son. After attending a camp in Nebraska with the NSU wrestling team, his son thought the LeMair property would be a perfect spot to train young athletes in a rural setting that would test their grit.
“To memorialize Curtis is to make a difference in other young men’s life, let them experience what Curtis experienced here. Many of them have never experienced this type of life. Our motto for Curtis’ foundation is ‘to go do good things,’” Chad said.
Many of the coaches at Camp Curty include LeMair’s former teammates, including Teagan Block, who wrestled with him at Prior Lake High School and now competes for NSU as a junior.
“Curtis, to me, was the definition of dedication, passion, and hard work. So, I want to give back to what he loved, and Hoven is what he loved,” Block said.
Camp Curty is also a family affair. On top of wrestling, the young athletes also get to train in mixed martial arts with South Dakota Hall of Fame boxer Jeffrey LeMair, who is also LeMair’s uncle.
“It offers you an opportunity to just focus on what you’re here to do,” Jeffrey said. “It creates more fellowship than you can ever imagine. It gives athletes an opportunity to find avenues they didn’t know were there. It’s a wonderful effort and Curtis’s spirit is here with us all.”
The LeMairs said that Camp Curty has grown in popularity since it began. This summer, two sessions of Camp Curty were held for the first time, and female wrestlers also could attend.
The lessons taught at Camp Curty go beyond athletics. The family said their mission is to give the young wrestlers lessons on life as well.
“It is really fun to see all of them bond and become friends and make connections here,” said Rachel LeMair, Curtis’ sister. “That’s exactly what Curtis would want to do and that’s what he would do at other wrestling camps that he went to. So, I think it’s really important.”
For campers like Aberdeen Central senior Rayden Zens, the bonding is his favorite part.
“When you come here, you’re getting good wrestling, but you’re also getting that MMA experience in,” Zens said. “You’re getting team bonding. That’s probably one of my favorite parts is it’s not just a wrestling camp, it’s more.”
Mona LeMair, Curtis’ mother, said Camp Curty allows for her late son to continue touching the lives of other young wrestlers.
“I mostly just want him to be remembered,” she said. “This camp helps us do that. All these campers, if they’ve met him in the past or not, they’re able to get to know Curtis’ heart and his passions. When they come out here, a little piece of him gets to live on through that.”
For more on the Curtis LeMair Legacy Foundation and Camp Curty, go to curtislemairlegacyfoundation.com.
Editor’s note: To view the broadcast story by Dakota News Now, visit: www.dakotanewsnow.com/2023/07/26/camp-curty-keeps-memory-nsu-wrestler-alive.