September 2021

Camp Mulberry – Summer 2021

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

Margot AndersonCamp Mulberry – Summer 2021
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Camp Laurel – Summer 2021

Camp Laurel was a huge success this summer even during a pandemic. We knew how important it would be to have this camp for the kids so that they could reconnect and make new friends. After spending over a year at home in isolation, we knew leaving home and their families would be difficult, but our campers took that leap of faith knowing camp is a second home and a safe space.

This year’s theme is P.R.E.S.S. Play, which was all about unpausing our lives, learning from the past year and finding ways to get back to our ‘normal’ lives. Our goal was for campers to learn how to PERSIST and reach any goal they set, RISE above any hardship, EXPRESS their true and authentic selves, gain the STRENGTH to speak up for themselves and out about the things they care for, and the SPIRIT to make a difference in the world.

The first day, campers were dropped off in a very organized and safe manner. Each one was given a COVID test before joining their cabin AKA their “safety bubble” for the week to ensure everyone would leave camp healthy and would not put anyone at home at-risk. Once with their cabins, campers got to unpack, meet their cabin mates and create a cabin name. Although it was important to keep masks on and stay in our bubbles, all cabins were still able to be together (socially distanced) during meals and evening programs which was so valuable for the sense of community. A big shout-out to our counselors for keeping campers safe and reminding them the importance of the masks and bubbles!

The first evening program was our fabulous Runway Show where cabins worked as a unit to create an outfit for their counselors out of recycled materials. Campers were able to get so creative with the supplies, EXPRESS themselves and even wrote stories to share with other cabins that brought their designs to life! This was a great ice breaker program that encouraged campers to speak in front of the group and EXPRESS themselves through their costume!

The next morning, cabins were off to enjoy activities like archery, low ropes, arts & crafts, sports, water fun, and more! These programs invited campers to step out of their comfort zones, RISE to try new things, step up as leaders, and get creative. Water fun was especially fun since we were up in the mountains and had the sun beating down on us. One of our counselors, Shout Out, re-created her incredible dunk tank for campers and counselors to give trivia a SPLASH! This allowed campers to have fun in a safe space with their cabin. Another great activity was gaga ball which was also made possible by Shout Out and her cabin, THANK YOU EXPLORERS! Each program encouraged campers to explore a new aspect of themselves to build onto. Low ropes was all about trusting oneself, trusting another person, and encouraging others. Arts & crafts was where campers could EXPRESS themselves, be that through a self-portrait, tie- dye shirt, or friendship bracelets. Archery, reminded campers how important practice is and PERSISTING through challenges in order to reach a goal.

If you ask our younger campers what they want to be when they get older, many will say: a C.I.T. (Counselor In Training) which is a long-standing tradition for senior campers of classes focused on enhancing valuable life, leadership, and other skills. The program looked different this year, but we wanted to ensure our seniors got a glimpse into it so that they do not miss out on the experience. Spicy, a former camper and C.I.T. herself, lead the classes this year and really gave our seniors an unforgettable experience! One of the classes helped prep our campers for various interviews and applications which they can take with them when they want to get jobs or apply for schools. The whole week prepared them to step up as leaders for our Final Campfire and be our MCs which was great for our younger campers to see the older ones stepping out of their comfort zones!

We are so proud of our summer camp this year. With the help of our volunteers, staff, donors Board of Directors and our entire Camp family, we were able to provide an emotionally and physically safe space, 100% COVID free for each everyone! Campers went home with a sense of community, independence, and feeling more confident in their abilities. Camp Laurel built back the community that so desperately needed to connect, we are truly grateful for all the support in making summer Camp happen this year. THANK YOU!

Here are just a few of the wonderful letters we have received from camper parents.

“Both girls love the experience and enjoy knowing new people. As well as being exposed to new and wild adventures.” Camper Parent

“Both my campers love all what camp had to offer, they both made new friends and got to experience a new environment.” Camper Parent

“My camper has been able to find activities they did at camp to entertain themselves around the house. She also has not talked about a traumatic event that took place about a month before camp.” Camper Parent

Margot AndersonCamp Laurel – Summer 2021
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