Youth Program Manager Jenna Howerton described the camp as a “crash course in some of the really fun activities you can do in Colorado.”
When Out Boulder County created the camp in 2019, she said, there were few LGBTQ friendly summer camps available either locally or nationally. Removing barriers to accessing the outdoors and experiencing a summer camp was the main goal, she said.
Along with not charging a fee to attend, Out Boulder County provides transportation, food and any needed equipment.
“We know that LGBTQ youth face additional barriers,” she said. “A financial barrier was one we wanted to remove all together. If they needed a sleeping bag or a backpack or hiking boots, we would be able to provide those as well.”
Especially for trans and non-binary young people, the setup of a traditional sleep away summer camp program can be problematic, she said.
“Most summer camps are pretty gendered,” she said. “There’s a boys cabin and a girls cabin. It can be really uncomfortable. That is not something they have to worry about at this camp. And they don’t have to worry about being bullied or hearing comments about their identities.”
Instead, she said, the camp is led by camp counselors who identify as LGBTQ and will talk about identity and mental health, including the positive benefits of spending time in nature and staying active.
“By creating these safer spaces, we hope they see the impact of being outdoors,” she said. “It will hopefully plant the seeds so they become interested in connecting with the outdoors.”
This year’s camp is slated from Aug. 6 to 10. While camp participants in the past slip in tents on a backpacking trip, this year’s campers will sleep in cabins at the YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park.
Howerton said the switch to the YMCA will create a more beginner friendly experience, while also allowing Out Boulder County to increase its enrollment cap. Most of last summer’s participants had never been camping before, she said.
This year’s camp is open to those age 13 to 17. The application deadline is April 15, with applicants and their parents or guardians invited to an interview with the youth program staff members the last two weeks of April. Decisions will be made by mid-May.
Those who are chosen are asked to attend two mandatory pre-camp hikes in Boulder County, one on June 3 and the other on July 22.
Last summer, camp participants spent five days camping in the backcountry at Eleven Mile State Park, where they went tubing, kayaking and fishing, along with making crafts and cooking over a campfire.
Rowan Furumo, one of last summer’s participants, said they signed up for the camp in middle school because “it looked like a great opportunity to make friends and see a beautiful place.”
The camp also was an opportunity to try new activities, including tubing and canoeing, they said.
“It was really fun to have the experience of setting up our tents and hiking back and forth from the campsite to the cabin for lunch and dinner every day,” they said. “I would definitely recommend this camp for other queer kids. It’s a great way to meet new people, try new things and stay active.”
For more information, contact Howerton at [email protected]