Community and acceptance - Ten Oaks Project

create this intentional space


29 years old
Camp staff since 2013

When I came out, I was living in a group home, and later on when I moved in with a foster family, my sexual orientation was no big deal. Not every child is so lucky.

When a friend encouraged me to apply to work at Camp Ten Oaks this past summer, I jumped at the opportunity. I have a background as a social service worker, and in theatre, and I’ve always wanted to work with kids from 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

My very first volunteer experience as an IAC Counselor, working with kids ages 12 and 13, was incredible!

At Camp Ten Oaks there is the most intense feeling of community and acceptance that you may ever feel in your life. As staff, we create an intentional space for our campers where for one week they don’t have to be afraid or ashamed of anything about themselves. We gave our campers an opportunity to feel accepted no matter how they, or their family, presents.

Camp Ten Oaks thrives on empowerment through play. As staff, we work with each individual camper to build skills and knowledge through various programs and activities – like Camp Ten Oaks: The Musical.

This year, for the first time, our campers created a whole dramatic production based upon their own personal experiences. There was an act about life outside camp, about going to other camps, and why it was so important for them to come to Camp Ten Oaks.  It was brilliant because it came from the kids.

Every staff member hopes to have a positive impact on the children parents place in our care. We’re confidantes, leaders and role models. You’re never entirely sure what impact you may have had, but sometimes you’re fortunate enough to get a glimpse.

On the last day of camp as we were packing up and getting ready to say goodbye to our campers, a younger camper marched right up to me and informed me that he was going to be an IAC next year.  Then he asked, “Johnno, you’re going to be my counselor, right?” It was less a question, and more of an assertion. This was one of many heartwarming moments when I realized how much I could touch a single camper in such a short time.

Camp changed my world in some really, really good ways. I’m already counting down the days until next summer. There is no place in the world like Camp Ten Oaks.