For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is just around the corner, and part of your summer plans might involve sending your children to camp. It can be overwhelming and difficult to find a good camp for your children, but we have researched a few camps that welcome children from LGBT-headed families. We hope that this information will be helpful to you.
Camp Ten Trees
Camp Ten Trees’ mission is to create a loving and engaging youth camp environment for LGBTQ communities and their allies. The camp has been in operation since 2000 and was started by a group of four lesbians who understood that the camp experience is an invaluable developmental step in the lives of youth and saw a need for a safe and accepting camp community for LGBTQ youth and the children of LGBTQ families. Camp Ten Trees’ primary purpose is to provide LGBTQ youth and youth from LGBTQ families with a place to feel safe, to thrive, and to connect with other youth and affirming adults with similar life experiences or backgrounds.
The camp provides an atmosphere of acceptance and support in which youth feel valued, loved, and deeply connected to a community. In this space, youth can confront aspects of childhood or teenage life that are compounded by being LGBTQ or having LGBTQ parents, guardians, and family members. They are also provided opportunities to examine the societal and cultural norms that support structures of oppression, to confront internal and external prejudices, and to develop the skills to be leaders in their communities. This summer camp program is guided by a commitment to social justice.
During the camp’s week-long sessions, youth live in the open-air cabins of a campground in western Washington State. One week is for children (ages 8–17) of LGBTQ and/or nontraditional families in August. The other week is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth and their allies (ages 13–17) in August.
Campers can participate in activities such as arts and crafts, campfires, boating, swimming and swimming lessons, creative writing, cartooning, dancing, hikes and nature walks, discussions, music, sports, youth organizing, talent shows, and social justice workshops.
Camp Ten Trees also provides year-round programming as a way for campers to connect throughout the year.
Learn more at www.camptentrees.org
Farm & Wilderness
Various locations in Vermont
Farm & Wilderness is a nonprofit group of six summer camps, ranging in size from about 40 to 110 campers. Offerings include day camps, overnight camps (single-sex and coed), and family camp. The camp was founded by Quakers seventy years ago, and while F&W is not officially affiliated with the religion, they are a Quaker-based community.
According to registrar Sam Arfer, “The philosophy that there’s good in everyone is part of what we do… We want to get kids out into the natural world. We live in a very simple, rustic environment. There’s no electricity in the kids’ cabins. We’re as close to nature as possible while keeping campers safe and happy. We’re about getting kids to appreciate the differences between them [and] bringing in as diverse a community as possible: different races, economic classes, parent situations. We want to bring them all together, not so they’re all the same, but to understand and connect with each other.”
This is a somewhat traditional summer camp program, minus competitive sports. Games at F&W are more cooperative and are about running around, having a great time, and becoming exhausted.
Each of the F&W camps has a garden and a small farm. There is an organic dairy, and much of the camps’ milk comes from their own cows. Campers and staff also eat as many vegetables as they can grow!
Learn more at www.farmandwilderness.org
Moultonborough, New Hampshire
Camp Hawkeye’s mission is to bring a diverse group of kids together. Roughly 65 campers and 28 staff members live in six cabins, with about 8 to 12 kids in each. One third of Camp Hawkeye’s campers come from outside the United States (past campers have hailed from England, Spain, and Russia), and another third come from low-income backgrounds on full or part scholarship. Offerings include eight-week, four-week, and two-week camp sessions.
Camp Hawkeye has been described as an accepting community and a place for campers to learn new skills and build confidence.
Camp activities include sailing, swimming, canoeing, archery, arts and crafts, drama, woodworking, athletics, and a nature program. Each camper goes hiking at least once a week; the camp is located just outside of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Every camper has a swimming lesson at least once a week.
The camp divides campers and staff into “tribes” (similar to the “houses” found in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts), which are a great way for campers to find their niche—artistic, athletic—and pursue their interests.
Learn more at www.camphawkeye.com
Camp Common Ground
Now in its 17th year, Camp Common Ground is a family camp that welcomes and honors diversity and provides unique programming while building and strengthening families.
Cristalee, a camper at CCG last summer, says, “Camp is a place where my same-sex family has been welcomed and celebrated—a place that has warmed our hearts and that feeds our soul.”
CCG creates a family camping experience that encompasses family fun, education, relaxation, and rejuvenation. CCG is dedicated to bringing families together by intentionally supporting and celebrating diversity.
“Plenty of spaces simply claim to be open to gay and lesbian families,” says Anya, a long-time CCG camper and staff person, “but Camp Common Ground truly achieves the integrated, open and affirming community so many of us hope to create. As a lesbian, I truly appreciate the warm and open environment at camp.”
Learn more at http://cgcvt.org/content/camp-common-ground
Former Staff writer Hilary Brueck began her career as a journalist when at age five she presented “The Hilary Show” from a front porch in the mystical Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Moving on from the porch, she’s worked on honing her reporting skills at the Minnesota Daily in Minneapolis, Radio France International in Paris, and the Star Tribune.
Teacher resource developer Cari Tan lives in Minneapolis. She graduated from Beloit College with a bachelor’s degree in science for elementary education and completed her student teaching in New Zealand. Since then, Cari has held a variety of educational positions, including two stints as a farm educator in California and Minnesota.