September 2022

Camp Mulberry Summer 2022


Camp Mulberry 2022 is one for the books! As campers arrived at Pathfinder Ranch, their pre-camp jitters started to give way to excitement as they began to see familiar faces of their camp friends and meet their counselors. This year Camp Mulberry was busy with 40 campers aged 9-17. Our counselors were ready to welcome them, and from the very beginning there was bonding and it was clear to see the sparks of life-changing connections beginning to form.

While the week was busy with the classic camp fun: archery, hiking, ropes course, and canoeing, there were also one-of-a-kind offerings, like workshops on Healthy Relationships and Gender Euphoria. These were led by our “help team”, camp volunteers who support the community with mental health expertise. Opportunities to participate in the tried-and-true camp favorites and experience special workshops and moments created just for our population of transgender and gender-diverse campers is what makes Camp Mulberry a truly special place. 

Both of our camps this year were challenged by late summer weather, and just like Camp Laurel, Camp Mulberry was not thwarted by the afternoon downpours of August monsoons. Our campers and counselors adjusted to the changes and challenges of each day and made the most of their time together in cabins and activities. One of the highlights of any camp experience is watching a community grow and figure out how to face each day working together and learning about one another, this year was no exception.

All of our counselors brought their own skills and talents which were put on display through lively and creative evening activities that they designed and led. Campers grasped those opportunities to let their style and humor shine through in everything they did. From a superhero fashion show, complete with superheroes that end transphobia, to an air band competition that got everyone on their feet with hits from Weezer and Guns and Roses performed by cabin groups, to a night of dreaming of a whole new world and what that would look like that at our Dream Vision Gallery night, our campers gave it their all and brought the house down with heart and humor.

Every year, camp ends with a very special campfire that includes skits and sharing, both silly and sincere. This year was especially unique, as it was hosted by one of our Senior campers, who totally rocked it. While the evening always starts out with very, very, very silly skits and songs from each cabin, it’s also a time when we celebrate accomplishments and have a chance to share wishes for the future. This year, for the first time, the Camp Mulberry Legacy award was given out to a former camper who returned as a counselor. As “Bronco” was handed his award, you could hear murmurs from campers as they realized this is something they can work towards, too. 

Closing campfire is also a time to see how our campers have grown during the week, and sometimes over the years. One thing that is consistent, is that as the campers share their hopes and wishes, we are reminded that the camp experience is more needed than ever. Camp Mulberry is a life-changing place for these incredible young people to play and learn and grow, in a place where they are unconditionally accepted for who they are. Being part of this camp is an honor, and it can’t be done without all the different parts of our community playing their role.

None of this would be possible without brave campers who say yes to trying something new, parents who believe in what camp can do, loving counselors and volunteers who understand how to connect and have fun, and the support of medical and mental health professionals to step away from their own busy lives to step into the world of camp, staff members, board members, and donors. Thank you to each person who made this week possible, you were part of something that will stay with campers for the rest of their lives!

Margot AndersonCamp Mulberry Summer 2022
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Camp Laurel Summer 2022 Report

On July 31, 2022, The Laurel Foundation once again hosted its summer camp session for ​children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS. With excitement in the air, 24 counselors and volunteers waited for the bus full of happy campers to arrive. Instead, our first day of camp was greeted by a mountain monsoon, changing plans and forcing both kids and counselors to work together as a team to overcome all the obstacles Mother Nature shared.

But if you’ve been to camp, you know, teams can survive anything! And that we did! The storm came and went but did not wash away our spirits. In fact, the storm brought us all closer together and made this summer’s Camp Laurel even more powerful. We learned that there are times when we need to rely on one another, be open to others’ thoughts and opinions and that communication is key to problem-solving. 

Camp Laurel Summer Camp 2022

The great thing about Camp is that we learn all these life skills and take them back to the “real world”, helping us in our daily lives. The resourcefulness and quick thinking of counselors helped get camp started even as we rearranged in the wild weather, and the patience and resilience of our campers was a reminder to all of us about why we take time out of busy lives to spend a week at camp.

Our goal at The Laurel Foundation is to empower the youth so that they have the tools to build productive, successful lives. We strive to build independence, self-esteem, community, self-advocacy, and communication skills. We do our best to accomplish this by providing an emotionally and physically safe environment, where the kids participate in classic camp activities such as swimming, hiking, mountain biking, archery, high and low ropes, arts and crafts, and more. Thanks to the wonderful partnership we have with Hollywood Heart, we also added activities such as mindfulness, and puppet making! We also had Chef Katie join us again this year!

Through all of these activities, campers set personal challenges, used their creativity, and tried things they wouldn’t usually get to do at home. With the support of their peers, all strived to achieve their goals. We saw campers climb up the high ropes and complete the entire challenge course, learn to ride a bike for the first time, manage to ride over rocks and sticks on the mountain trails, make their first tie-dye shirt, sleep under the open sky and watch shooting stars, roast marshmallows on the campfire and eat s’mores, participate in the hula hoop contest at our Carnival Night, shoot a bulls-eye at archery, or learn how to make a charcuterie board with cheeses and spreads.

By camp’s end, the growth in our campers was evident. Campers who came to camp wanting to learn a new skill and were ready to push their perceived limits, climbed the high ropes, lead an evening program, mastered a new craft, or learned how to cook. For many, learning how to calm one’s self through mindfulness was an unexpected tool they could take home with them to help them through tough times. The things that are gained at camp have a life-long impact.

For some, the impact of camp is more subtle and has an impact on the heart. Youth that started out hesitant about camp and reluctant to trust their peers, learned that they were accepted for who they are, and as a result, were able to truly enjoy camp as their authentic selves for the week. At the end of the week, teenagers who arrived aloof and uninterested in camp truly did not want to leave. Even after 29 years, it’s clear that what Camp Laurel offers is still relevant and deeply needed for all ages.

So many people make this life-changing experience possible. Thank you to all our community who helped to make Camp Laurel happen this summer. We thank everyone, from our donors, mental help team volunteers, medical volunteers, counselors, and staff. It takes a village, and we are grateful to you all. You gave each camper a week that will live in their hearts for the rest of their lives!

Margot AndersonCamp Laurel Summer 2022 Report
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