Camp Mulberry, already unique in itself, was especially remarkable this year because it was the very first year we used the name: Camp Mulberry! For 4 years, this camp was known as “Camp Laurel Session 2” while we searched for a name that captured the essence of this very special camp. Camp Mulberry was named after the mulberry tree, which is unique in that it is gender fluid. The new Camp Mulberry name reflects the love, spirit, and PRIDE of who this camp represents.
This summer, we traveled to a new camp site, Pathfinder Ranch, with all new activities for them to explore. Upon arrival, campers could see the horses, chickens, and alpacas waiting to greet them along with all our volunteers! After COVID tests and check-in, cabin groups got to unpack, unwind, and meet their cabin mates. With social distancing in mind, our first evening program brought all the cabins together for LGBTQIA+ & Disney Trivia! Campers loved testing their own knowledge and found that maybe when they didn’t have the answer, a teammate did! It was the perfect way to develop a sense of unity among the cabins.
Another special factor about this particular camp: this was the first time we welcomed campers ages 6-9 years old which was a huge step into independence for these campers! For its first 4 years, Camp Mulberry was reserved for transgender/gender diverse youth ages 10-17, and this year, our older campers got to model the pride and culture of our camp for the new youngsters!
Creating and keeping alive camp traditions was a huge part of what really brought us all together this year. Thanks to Lovebug, one of our Head Counselors, we were able to do our traditional flag ceremony where we raise a pride flag to signal the start of camp and mark us as a community united in pride. Lovebug made it even more incredible this year by revealing a custom flag that had bright, beautiful rainbow pride colors AND our new Camp Mulberry logo! It was truly powerful moment where we really let campers know they were safe and accepted.
Our volunteers did an amazing job creating a space where campers felt empowered and safe to get out of their comfort zones. Connecting and meeting new friends needed more support this year (since we had spent a year in isolation during the pandemic) and volunteers did a great job helping campers navigate a new “normal”. Additionally, the new campsite was home to creatures and animals not seen at camp before, which made it a space where campers could explore and share new experiences with their cabin mates. Campers got to safely hold and learn about turtles and snakes and hang with goats, alpacas, chickens, pigs, and horses! Luckily, Pathfinder Ranch staff were well trained and knew how to help put everyone at ease as they interacted with the animals. Our campers are so awesome for being open to new experiences!
This summer, we introduced our beloved C.I.T. (Counselors in Training) program (at Camp Laurel) to campers at Camp Mulberry so that they could dive deeper into leadership, advocacy, and communication within camp and in their lives outside of camp. Our campers had great discussions and even got some preparation for interviews and applications. Despite never seeing this program in the past, our seniors stepped up to the plate and even lead our final campfire and talent show.
Campers also enjoyed traditional camp activities such as arts & crafts, archery, high ropes, and pool time. Arts & crafts proved to be a favorite this year as many friendships were solidified with friendship bracelets! These bracelets were proof that our campers were able to develop meaningful connections that will last them a lifetime.
Below are just a few of the wonderful emails we have received from camper parents.
“She reported that she found her people – she has an increased confidence and pride – over all a great experience she hasn’t stopped talking about it and would like to connect with friends she met at camp.” Camper Parent
“My camper shines after camp. It really gives them such a boost of happiness and confidence.” Camper Parent
“My child had the opportunity to be independent, make new friends due to an environment conducive to getting to know their cabin mates well, chance to try participate in activities they would normally avoid (eg, horseback riding, swimming in lakes), increased confidence and increased interest in crafting and drawing.” Camper Parent