No one is ever turned away
Past President and volunteer since 2007
I have been involved in a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn a possibility each summer. When the opportunity to be the bus chaperone for Project Acorn came up one July, I jumped at the chance, as it was a way for me to connect directly with our youth.
List in hand, I checked off names as the participants got onto the bus. But as departure time drew near, there was still one youth who hadn’t shown up. It was a young man who had been recently kicked out of his family home after coming out. He had been living at a local shelter.
I called his cell phone number and he immediately picked up. I introduced myself and asked if he was still planning on coming to Project Acorn.
There was a note of hesitation in his voice when he confessed that he would no longer be able to come. He didn’t have any money. He couldn’t pay the $10 fee that he had set for himself.
While the Project Acorn experience costs around $1,000 per youth, the camper fee is one that a youth determines for themself using a sliding scale.
I asked him if he was packed. He said yes. And I asked him if he still wanted to come. Again his answer was yes. I told him to not worry about the $10 and to get going because the bus was leaving soon!
He made it onto the bus and I didn’t think about that $10 again.
Over the course of the three days at Project Acorn I saw this young gay man make friends and actively participate in in all of the workshops and activities. He laughed. He performed at the variety show. He looked comfortable in his own skin. He grew into himself and it was so wonderful to see.
Fast forward to the end of the year. I was anxiously awaiting a grant cheque from a funder. That week before New Year’s Eve I popped into the office every single day in hopes that it would be in our mailbox. Finally, on December 30, the cheque had arrived. It was accompanied by a second envelope, only this one didn’t have a return address.
It was the second envelope that blew me away.
This unexpected envelope contained a hand-written note that simply said, “Thanks.” And tucked into the note was a $10 bill. It was signed by the young man who almost didn’t get on the Project Acorn bus on that sunny morning back in July.
In that moment, and to this day, that $10 bill is one of the most profound reminders of why we do what we do at the Ten Oaks Project. It speaks to the impact and importance of a program like Project Acorn for LGBTQ+ youth. That $10 pays testament to the gratitude this one gay youth felt for the life-changing experience that our donors make possible.