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For Tom Laskowski, the call of the wild never stopped calling. Although he worked for 18 years as an electrical engineer at Cleveland Electric Illuminating, the desire to survive on his own in the wilderness - like Daniel Boone - intrigued him.
In 1997, he decided to take a leap into that wilderness, forming the Midwest Native Skills Institute, a survival school that offers classes, trips, and camps for people to learn how to survive on their own. Some of these classes are also offered in Hudson, through Hudson Community Education and Recreation.
"Self-reliance fascinated me, I wanted to go out into the wilderness with the least number of supplies, and see if I could survive," he said.
He said he learned his survival skills by finding Native Americans who were experts in their fields and asked them to teach him. He read books and guides, and mostly, learned from personal experience.
Laskowski became a highly sought-after survival expert in this country, making guest appearances on popular TV shows, like "The Big Wild," appearing on ESPN, WGAR and WRUW, and as a consultant on the third season of the CBS' series, "Survivor." Gemini Television contracted Laskowski to host the 2015 television series "Apocalyptic Survival."
And, just about all of what Laskowski has learned in the wild, he teaches in his survival school.
Today, Laskowski can be found leading as many as 15 people on six-night treks into the woods of Maine, in the dead of winter; or taking a group of city dwellers to live with the Cree Indians in Northern Quebec, to learn to do things as these Native Americans do. His Survival 101 class teaches participants the skills of building shelters, making fire, collecting water and making food, to prepare them to survive anywhere in North America, anytime of the year with little or even no equipment. By the time, participants reach Survival 401, they are prepared to take a six-day trip into the wilderness with only a knife and a blanket. More information is available at www.survivalschool.com.
The call of the wild is not for everyone, but many people are interested in making things on their own. Laskowski said what keeps him teaching is the "look of satisfaction on the face of his students when they have made something with their own two hands."
Laskowski has put together a series of homesteading classes which teach the art of self-reliance at home. In these classes, participants learn to can meat, fruit and vegetables, make soap the "old fashioned way," make fruit, dandelion and mead wines at home, as well as learn the art of candle making and sausage making. In addition, Laskowski offers a popular edible and medicinal wild plants class in which participants learn to recognize wild plants and use them for health and nutrition. Laskowski is even a Reiki (traditional art of healing) master.
Laskowski has headed up HCER's popular Survivor Camp for grades 5-8 for the past nine years. This year's camp, set for July 28 - Aug. 1, will include teaching skills in fire making, plant identification and shelter building. The campers then spend an overnight in Hudson Springs Park, using their newly minted "survivor skills" to make dinner, a campfire and an overnight shelter. Registration is at the website www.hudson.edu/hcer.
Laskowski has also recently completed teaching a soap making class and bee keeping class for HCER, with a second Bee Keeping class on May 31.
"Anyone that takes my classes comes out a more self-reliant person," he said. "That I guarantee."