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September 23, 2014

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Q+A with Dawn Prendes of Henry’s Place:

Metro officer’s widow keeps dream of camp for at-risk Las Vegas youths alive

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Dawn Prendes is seen in her home Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.

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Henry Prendes

The day after Dawn Prendes found out her husband, Metro Sgt. Henry Prendes, died in the line of duty, her first call was to a landowner in Montana.

She and her husband had purchased a 17-acre tract of land with plans of hosting summer camps there for at-risk youths. It was their postretirement dream. But that all changed on Feb. 1, 2006, when Henry responded to a domestic violence call.

Dawn called the landowner to hold the transaction so she could think. Could she go through with the camp without Henry?

Dawn got her answer during Henry’s funeral service. More than 1,000 people showed and after they heard about their dream, they flooded Dawn’s inbox with offers to help. She knew then it was time to move forward with the camp in Henry’s name.

Today, Dawn has moved the camp location to Cedar City, Utah, so it could be closer to the at-risk youths in Las Vegas whom Henry wanted to help. The campground is still under construction, but when it is finished, children will be able to explore creeks, grass fields and mountains.

It is expected to open in 2016. Until then, Dawn has been busy hosting fundraising events to make the camp a reality.

The Sun caught up with Dawn a couple days ahead of a fundraising concert at 6 p.m. today at the Las Vegas Country Saloon. Here’s what she had to say about Henry’s Place and the nonprofit organization’s progress:

How did this become your and Henry’s calling?

One day Henry had seen land up in Montana because he would go there every year and hunt, and he wanted to buy it. Then we were listening to some Christian music on the radio and we were like, “What are we going to do with 17 acres of land?” I said, “What about building a camp for kids?” And that was all I had to say. We felt it was our purpose, and I still felt that way after Henry was gone.

How did you end up on that property in Cedar City?

Well it’s only a three-hour bus ride. We feel it’s nice to be out of the state, so kids feel like they’re going somewhere. A lot of the kids we’ll be affecting wouldn’t ever even get out of Las Vegas. It was just something that was close enough to Las Vegas.

How will you determine which kids are at-risk and belong at the camp?

We want to get the kids who would never have an opportunity to go to camp. Kids at a poverty level. Right now we’re trying to identify who we’re going to work with, but it’ll be through Metro, through churches and through other organizations that assist kids.

How will the camp help these children?

We’re hoping that through different activities that we’ll do, they’ll find something they’re passionate in. We’ll have a greenhouse; we’ll have guitar lessons; they’re going to work with animals. The other thing we plan to do is mentor them after camp. We want to work with the kids and have a program where we teach them things like how to write a resume and interview for a job.

What do you envision for the camp?

In 10 years, I hope the kids that are starting now will be leaders in the camp. We want to keep a relationship with them going. We’ll have a full summer camp, and during the offseason we’ll have retreats. All that money we raise in the offseason will go back into bringing kids up to camp.

With the concert approaching, how did you end up turning your birthday into a fundraiser?

I just threw this out there for my birthday because I have a lot of friends who haven’t donated to Henry’s place yet. It being my birthday, I’m picking up the expense and all the money raised at the door will go to the camp. The party starts at 6 p.m. and the bands will be going until midnight.

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