by Sharon Gittleman
Roasting marshmallows, swimming in a sun-warmed lake and performing silly skits with the help of your new best friends.
Thanks to the Triangle Foundation, lesbian and gay kids don’t have to miss out on these time-honored traditions.
In the past, LGBT youngsters’ fears might compel some youths to avoid summer camps and the all the fun the experience promises. The Camping.OUT program makes those worries disappear.
“A number of kids are concerned about what their experience will be. The bullying they experience at school sometimes carries over to camps,” said Greg Varnum, Triangle’s director of youth initiatives.
This year, dozens of 13-17 year olds will head up north from Aug. 14-19, for a stay in cabins set near lakes and woods in the wilderness. Eight youths and two adults will stay in each rustic home.
Hiking, kayaking and arts and crafts projects are just a few of the fun activities planned for the kids’ adventure.
Ultimate Frisbee is also part of the plan.
“It’s a recognized sport,” said Varnum. “It’s like a cross between Frisbee and football.”
Camping.OUT isn’t only devoted to summer fun in the sunshine.
“Our program is half traditional activities and half activities designed to help campers build their community skills,” she said.
Group discussions and workshops help kids learn how they can become leaders and activists in their communities.
Popular lecture topics have included everything from how to work with the media to starting a non-profit organization, he said.
“It’s a lot of fun, even with the serious discussions,” he said.
Last year a group of campers carried on one of those meetings – dressed in evening gowns, a clown outfit and a giant carrot get-up.
“They raided the costume closet,” he said.
“Goofy songs” performed at meals, campfires and on hikes are commonly heard from staff and youngsters, alike, he said.
Varnum is an old pro when it comes to wilderness holidays.
“I worked as a camp director and counselor,” he said. “I’ve been at camp every summer since I was 4. I can’t imagine a summer without one or two days at camp.”
Adults can volunteer to be counselors.
They can also donate to the camp’s scholarship fund.
Camp fees are $525, and help is available to pay for all or part of this cost for youths.
“We will take registration until the first week of August,” he said.
For more information, check out http://www.campingOUT.org on the web.