Bowl-a-thon

Huffington Post: LGBTQ kids living their truths at camp

Meet Rose. I recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post about Rose and how her involvement in the Ten Oaks Project changed her life.

Rose always knew she wanted to be a girl. She wanted to dress like a girl, play with dolls and wear pink clothes.

Secretly, she could be a girl at home. But outside of her house, she lived a lie and her life as a boy. Rose wasn't safe enough to live her truths and authentic story.

"I was unhappy and sad before I transitioned," explains Rose in a beautiful letter. "I wasn't who I thought I was to be."

Her life drastically changed when she went to Camp Ten Oaks, a one-week, sleep-away camp for children and youth from LGBTQ identities, families and communities. Camp Ten Oaks is part of the Ten Oaks Project, a Canadian-based organization that engages and supports young people from LGBTQ communities through camp.

Something changed in Rose at camp. She was in a supportive environment and surrounded by others like her, which gave her the courage she needed to live as a girl.

"In that moment, I could see a different future for myself," Rose says. "If it weren't for camp, I think I'd still be a boy. And unhappy about my life."

When I think about the young people who go to Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn (Ten Oaks' other camp for youth), my heart is filled with so much joy. These young people can experience community, belonging and live their truths.

That time I hated dresses and only wanted to play baseball.

I think of the Jenna of my past and how my life would've been so different if I had a place like Camp Ten Oaks or Project Acorn to call home. Perhaps I would've seen a different future for myself at a younger age, which would've helped me accept all the pieces of my story sooner.

The sooner these young people can experience this freedom, acceptance and belonging, the sooner they can blossom into the beautiful roses they are meant to be.

Ten Oaks’ bowl-a-thon fundraiser is also coming up on March 21. The group is hoping to raise $40,000 to help send kids to camp. This year's bowl-a-thon will help subsidize camper registration fees (80 per cent of participants access the sliding scale) and send 10 extra participants to camp.

Please support my bowling team, the Team Players here, so we can help send children and youth like Rose to camp. I’ll write you a personalized haiku or poem based on how much you donate!

On another awesome note, I know I know I know you want to hear this news. Tegan and Sara have also donated several prizes to our bowl-a-thon, including an autographed poster, varsity jacket and a rare vinyl box set collection. You can check out the awesome awesome swag here!

Be a team player and help send LGBTQ children and youth to camp

Dear little Jenna, It has been a while since I last wrote to you. I think the last time was that letter on coming out and supporting LGBTQ youth through the Ten Oaks Project. You should read it again when you need some encouragement and a reminder of your awesomeness.

So guess what? Ten Oaks is having another bowl-a-thon fundraiser at the end of March and you’re putting together a team again. You had so much fun last year and it's such a great time of team spirit, dressing up, cheering and supporting an amazing cause.

You got pretty creative with your team, the Crayolas, last year.

This year, you and your friends came up with the name, Team Players!

Just to refresh your memory, the Ten Oaks Project is a volunteer-driven organization that supports children and youth from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) identities, families and communities. They run two camps, Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn.

That’s right, there are actually camps for people like you and you’re not the only gay person out there. Hooray! There will also be other campers who have two dads or two moms, which is pretty awesome. People won’t have to hide or feel shame there, including this participant:

“While camp may only last a week, the sense of belonging that I get from Ten Oaks is something that I feel year-round.”

You won’t go to the camp as a participant, but you’ll get to be part of this special experience. You’ll volunteer and do spoken word workshops at Project Acorn, and see how important this space if for many marginalized youth. One participant in your workshop will even recognize the power of their voice:

“I love and miss writing. I should make more time for it. My voice may help someone else.”

Yes, you can still wear dresses. (Caro Ibrahim)

Ten Oaks is celebrating its 10th anniversary and hoping to raise $45,000 this year. Last year, the bowl-a-thon raised $40,000 and helped send 114 children and youth to camp. Isn’t that amazing?

This organization will be pretty dear to your heart because you know how difficult it is to accept your sexuality. You’ll want to do all that you can, so other young people won’t feel marginalized because they have same-sex parents or they're struggling with their sexuality.

No one should be made to feel guilt, shame or self-hatred based on who they love.

You hope other people will connect with this group because they probably have a brother, friend, daughter or co-worker who is LGBTQ. Most people these days know someone who is LGBTQ. It won't be something they can ignore or pretend doesn’t exist – even in those Christian communities you grew up in.

There has been a lot of progress, but there's still a lot of work to be done. 

Don't worry about helping everyone and changing the world right now. You're not ready quite yet. Just work on loving yourself and seeing how awesome you are. You have so much to offer those around you by simply being you.

Your older, wiser and still awesome self, Jenna

**

Please consider supporting the Ten Oaks Project and help send children and youth from LGBTQ communities to camp. The camps are heavily subsidized through generous support from people like you. Eighty per cent of campers access the sliding scale, so we want to continue creating an accessible place for young people.

You can support my team, the Team Players, by clicking here and donating. Every dollar counts and we really appreciate all your support! Check out this awesome video of some cute children bowling, which was made by Jeff Fennell, a talented filmmaker and Ten Oaks volunteer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VIyghysZiA