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Camp Ten Trees
Camp Ten Trees
by Fred Ketterman - Special to the SGN

All Around the Campfire fundraising dinner and auction
May 23, 6 PM
South Lake Union Armory (Naval Reserve Building, Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N.)


Coming of age in baby-boomer Ohio before the Stonewall Riots, the following would have been difficult for me to comprehend: that a camp would one day exist at which it would be okay for me to accept the fact that I was a Queer 12-year-old; that I could actually attend such a camp, act out, be comfortable with "others" like me and never fear a beating by bullies. Such a camp sounds almost as miraculous as my dreaming of one day singing on stage with Debbie Reynolds. Oh wait - I've done that! The camp - not so much!

Well, kids, it's 2009, and such a camp exists, namely, Camp Ten Trees.

Camp Ten Trees is a non-profit summer camp in the Pacific Northwest featuring a week for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies, and a week for children of LGBTQ families. Since Camp Ten Trees first opened in 2001, we have been committed to developing a camp community that honors creativity, individual choice, and community living. Our programs are for youth connected to the LGBTQ community and provide opportunities for each camper to strengthen inner courage, make new friends, and develop leadership skills through traditional camp programming.

According to Kristen Cameron, Camp Ten Trees Advisory Committee Chair, there are two unique aspects of the camp: The type of open, dynamic, supportive and loving community that Camp Ten Trees creates; and how long Camp Ten Trees has been able to function as an almost entirely all-volunteer organization.

"Those are two things that keep me putting in the long volunteer hours. And after much research, it appears that we are the only overnight camp that specifically serves LGBTQ-indentified youth and allies in the country and the only one to offer such a unique and inclusive program for Transgender/gender-Queer/Questioning youth called Genderlandia," Cameron said.

Camp Ten Trees is a place for diverse youth who share common experiences to come together and form a community that is truly their own. In addition to typical camp activities, campers engage in age-appropriate workshops centered on diversity, homophobia, identity and youth coalition building.

CTT is an overnight summer camp located in Washington State. It features one week for LGBTQ youth and their allies and one week for the children of LGBTQ and/or non-traditional families.

Zane Cimino, a seven-year veteran of CTT both as a camper and more recently as a cabin counselor, provides some insight.

"I can honestly say Camp Ten Trees saved my life," Cimino said. "Going in, I was a 13-year-old confused Queer kid who dreaded the idea of a sleep-away-from-home camp because of the potential mocking one usually experiences at camp. But from the moment I got on the bus, I instantly felt at ease. I remember that I had forgotten my lunch for the ride up there and a boy I had never met offered me some of his lunch and said, 'My moms are Gay ... want a cookie?" -- like it was no big deal. At Camp Ten Trees, it's not uncommon to see little boys in drag singing along with Leona Lewis or girls wearing fake moustaches. All the rules of the real world are removed and these kids are given two weeks of a world they wish they could live in.

"At the end of each week, there is campfire ritual where we dedicate a stick to a person or an experience, and there are no feelings to describe what it's like to listen to a 13-year-old cry, saying they wish they never had to leave camp because Camp Ten Trees is their only home because in real life their parents don't accept them or their classmates tease them.

"Camp is the only place in the world most of these kids (including me) feel like they can truly be themselves. And to watch these kids and young adults grow within the short time that we are at camp is just absolutely astonishing. Going in, I was a 13-year-old confused Queer kid, and now I stand as a proud 19-year-old Gay man with much to offer the world. I know that I can attribute a lot of my sense of sense of self, leadership and dignity to my years at Camp Ten Trees. It's a sacred place -- an adventure -- but mostly, it's a home."

All Around the Campfire Camp Ten Trees 2009 dinner and auction will be held on May 23 at the South Lake Union Armory. Admission price is $65, with a prepay discount of $55 if paid by April 24. This important fundraising auction provides funds to send kids to CTT. Or consider an outright gift: for example, $410 will sponsor one youth to attend Camp Ten Trees.

For more information on this groundbreaking camp, visit their website at www.camp10trees.org.
 

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