Nex Benedict, Rest In Power.
Hate will never win. Together, we will rise with and alongside you.
We are moving closer to securing a permanent home for Camp Outright, our residential summer camp with a queer twist, designed for LGBTQ+ and allied youth, ages 13-17 years old.
Our goal is to acquire Camp Sunrise, a 146-acre parcel of lakefront property in Addison and Rutland counties. The purchase will not only ensure a permanent place for Camp Outright, it will allow us to expand our programming to support more LGBTQ+ and allied youth.
Thanks to a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), we have accomplished a significant milestone and we’re getting closer to our goal. However, purchasing property of this size requires continued due diligence, and we’re not there yet. We hope to close by Spring.
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Responding to what LGBTQ+ youth want and need.
As the escalation of coordinated anti-LGBTQ+ hate campaigns persists, the need for support among LGBTQ+ youth has intensified. As a result, we have seen a significant increase in demand across all our programs, including Camp Outright, our overnight summer camp. Based on the Vermont Department of Health’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Assessment (YRBS), LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk of self-harm, school absenteeism, and harassment compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
Too often LGBTQ+ youth are left out or sidelined.
Although we expanded Camp Outright in 2021 to double the number of campers from an annual average of 60 to 120, we still decline well over a hundred youth annually, all without widespread advertising. Also, there’s a significant need for outdoor programming for families with children under 13 years old.
Sparse landscape of LGBTQ+ friendly camps, despite large population.
Camp Outright is Vermont’s sole camp tailored to LGBTQ+ and allied youth. According to the American Camp Association, only 36 of the nation’s roughly 16,000 day and overnight summer camps are considered LGBTQ+ friendly, making Camp Outright a unicorn and a national leader in camping for LGBTQ+ youth. As per the 2021 YRBS data, 29% of the 17,412 high school and 32% of 12,210 middle school respondents identified as LGBTQ+, showing a significant LGBTQ+ youth population in Vermont.
It’s a unique chance to acquire an ideal campsite in Vermont.
The expansion of Camp Outright is an absolute necessity to support LGBTQ+ and allied youth. The ability to purchase land in Vermont that borders two lakes and already has key camp structures in place is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’ve planned for this moment and are poised for the next steps.
Expanding Camp Outright brings to life the principle and power that radical hope offers, just as it did over 30 years ago when Outright founders defiantly clung to radical hope and envisioned a future where LGBTQ+ youth would experience a sense of belonging where their identities were celebrated and embraced.
Safe access to the outdoors is still new ground for LGBTQ+ youth who have historically and currently are excluded from, denied access to, and harmed by outdoor youth programming that is steeped in traditional gender norms.
Creating more opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to safely experience the outdoors where there’s an intentional community that is all about celebrating them for who they are, finding their people, building connections, living into queer joy, and discovering their power is a historic shift toward a more just society.
Check out The Gay Outdoors: Rethinking how we do Camp to learn more about supporting LGBTQ+ youth at camp by Outright’s Executive Director, Dana Kaplan.
Camp Outright is a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ youth and offers them a place where they can rest, safe from a world that doesn’t accept or understand them. Here, they can thrive in an environment that prioritizes their needs and comfort. They get the chance to participate in an intentional community that is designed for them and where they are understood, seen, and celebrated. The transformative power of discovering their power and reveling in queer joy is profound and can last a lifetime!
And, we know that generally positive camp experiences can help youth thrive. Key findings from the American Camp Association's 2022 study highlights the health benefits of high-quality camp experiences for youth.
The ability to expand Camp Outright will enable more LGBTQ+ youth to safety and connection in an outdoor setting, and will increase accessibility to Outright programs in the region. This acquisition enables us to, and further amplify the impact of Outright’s mission.
Create opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to connect with the healing power of nature.
Expand the number of weeks we offer camp while maintaining a high-quality experience.
Develop needed outdoor programs for families with children under 13 years old.
Provide a fantastic experience with nature where campers can reflect, heal, adventure, and find peace.
The following is based on actual questions from community members. We will update Q&As as we move forward.
We're incredibly thankful for your enthusiasm and support! Here are four ways you can support LGBTQ+ youth and Outright:
Stay informed. Sign up for our email list to receive regular updates and engagement opportunities. Additionally, following us on social media.
Write a letter-to-the editor. Being a visible and vocal supporter is a powerful way to educate our neighbors about the importance of Outright mission and programs.
Make a donation today. The needs for supporting LGBTQ+ youth have increased across the board and we have expanded many of our programs as a result. With your donation today, you will help the LGBTQ+ youth we work alongside and our ability to reach more youth.
Volunteer. When you volunteer with Outright, your impact is life-changing! Plus, you will join a community of passionate supporters who believe in the power of love, joy, and glitter! Volunteer today!
It’s central to our mission to make our programs accessible and affordable for everyone. For Camp Outright, we do not charge tuition rates that equal the full cost to provide the camp experience, charging a ? of the actual cost. If that tuition rate is not within reach for families, thanks to our big-hearted donors, we have an equity fund to ensure no camper is turned away based on their ability to pay.
We're all about rolling out the rainbow carpet for every camper! While we are still assessing needs, improving both the physical environment is a priority. Our aim is to have every camper participate fully and have a memorable, gay ole time!
We have comprehensive policies and procedures aligned with our dedication to top-quality programming to create a harmonious camp vibe and keep things running smoothly. These policies are designed to address conflicts effectively and constructively, ensuring a safe and enjoyable camp experience for all.
Before we kick off the campfire songs, we ensure all campers, parents, and caregivers are well-informed about these policies. This includes clear communication on handling disagreements, misunderstandings, or any issues between campers and parents. It's all about open conversation, a hefty scoop of empathy, and valuing everyone’s perspectives. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone in the Camp Outright community feels heard and respected and that every camper leaves with a truckload of happy memories.
Camp Outright stands as a sanctuary that provides LGBTQ+ youth a break from a world where they don’t feel understood or seen. It’s a place where they can rest and experience what it’s like to be centered and celebrated in all ways, existing in an environment where their needs and comfort are not only met, but are priorities. For many, it’s the safest place on earth.
Also, we implement best practices established by the American Camp Association, a national association and leader on empowering camps to create quality experiences.
We implement comprehensive measures to maintain a safe and secure environment. This includes, but is not limited to:
Ensuring optimal adult-to-camper ratios for close supervision
Administering comprehensive and frequent background checks of all staff and volunteers
Providing thorough training of all staff and volunteers
Maintaining clear rules and structured schedules
Implementing policies and procedures that are constantly updated to reflect the current best practices in youth camp management
Communicating frequently with campers and their families about camp rules, policies, and procedures
Additionally, we partner with the University of Vermont Medical Center to staff our onsite Wellness Team at Camp and there are licensed mental health providers available to support campers throughout the week. Together, these strategies create a safe and secure environment that’s all about fun and the magic of camp!
Camp Sunrise has a range of established facilities, providing a solid foundation for our Camp Outright program.
The camp currently features a variety of facilities - some need more love than others - including a:
welcome center that's the first hello and last goodbye of the camp
dining hall where the campers get grub and it doubles as a social hub (see what we did there)
health lodge for…well…health things
indoor bathhouse where campers can freshen up
amazing lakefront campfire amphitheater
boathouse that’s a launchpad for aquatic adventures
storage area to stash all our cool camp gear
But hold your marshmallows; we got work to do! We're putting on our hard hats to make modest but impactful changes and upgrades to further enhance accessibility and alignment with our program's needs.
Nestled in a picturesque Vermont, Camp Sunrise sits in a spot so stunning that you'll think you've stepped into a postcard! It spans a 146-acre parcel of lakefront property straddling Addison and Rutland counties.
Besides the awesome facilities and comforts we listed above, Camp Sunrise is also a natural wonderland with outdoorsy features that take the camping experience from great to 'wow, this is epic!
Lake Fun Awaits: The camp has direct access to a beautiful lake, ideal for swimming, canoeing, or just chilling by the water, soaking in the peaceful vibes.
Trails and Hiking: Whether campers are hiking, bird-watching, or just strolling, there's a lot to discover and adventures to be had.
Wild Wonders: Being surrounded by such a vast expanse of natural beauty, campers can engage in wildlife observation, star-gazing, and many other activities.
It's not just buying land; it's like unwrapping a dream! So, we’re fully engaged in a meticulous process, ensuring that every detail sparkles with our high standards. If everything proceeds as anticipated, we are hopeful and excited to become the new owners in 2024.
Also, our collaboration with the Green Mountain Club (GMC) and the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) is instrumental in evaluating the feasibility of this venture. This includes assessing environmental impacts, financial sustainability, and alignment with our long-term goals. Fortifying our efforts, we are thrilled to announce that we have received a grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB), specifically dedicated to the purchase of Camp Sunrise. This financial support is a crucial step in making this vision a concrete reality. Heck Yeah!
We'll dedicate time for youth, volunteers, and the broader Outright community to envision and shape the space together, ensuring our campaign is guided by a plan that's fully informed by youth - after all, they know what they want and need! This process of dreaming and strategizing will extend throughout 2024, laying a strong foundation for an amazing future!
Creating a permanent home for a camp specifically tailored to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ youth while providing an accessible outdoor experience loaded with lots of queer joy, is downright historic!
While joined by a small but mighty group of LGBTQ-focused camps in the country, the fact that Camp Outright is only one of 36 LGBTQ+ friendly camps of the 16,000 in the nation and the only LGBTQ+ tailored camp in Vermont makes Camp Outright a unicorn!
Traditionally, most camps reinforced strict gender norms, often sidelining or erasing queerness. We also know that these environments can perpetuate harmful behaviors and values that lead to bullying, harassment, and even violence. These experiences don't just stay within the campgrounds; they shape young minds with values of fear and intolerance that can persist into adulthood.
But now, we're sashaying a new course. We're giving this legacy a makeover, flipping it on its glittering heels, and transforming it into a source of empowerment, inclusivity, and queer joy. We're building a new kind of space that nurtures connections with nature and builds an intentional community where LGBTQ+ youth are celebrated and thrive. It’s about opening up a world of possibilities!
Needless to say, we’re really excited about this opportunity and look forward to sharing the fabulousness of Camp Sunrise with LGBTQ+ and allied youth, families, supporters, and partners.
If you want to know more about what drives our work to create safe, joyous, inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ youth can truly sparkle and shine, check out our mission, vision, and Queer Ethic and Guiding Principles.
Like a lot of Vermonters, we’re eco-conscious superheroes! And, we're all about nurturing our campers into environmentally aware individuals. Adhering to leave no trace principles, we aim to ensure that our presence is as gentle on the environment as possible. Whether that’s being mindful of the number of people coming to make sure our paddle, water crafts are lake-friendly, diving deep with experts to ensure the dam remains shipshape and safe, or joining forces with local and state conservationists to ensure the quality of the water and health of the lake's wildlife remain robust - we’re here for it!
Volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization, and their contributions are invaluable in achieving our mission. While we can't provide specific details at this moment, creating opportunities for our supporters to volunteer is always a priority. Whether it's through programmatic assistance, operational support, or adding their touch to make our space look fabulous, we cherish the diverse skills and enthusiasm our volunteers bring. Keep an eye out for future opportunities to be part of this exciting journey! Or if you want to get involved in volunteering with other Outright programs, sign up here.
Our primary goal is to expand Camp Outright, our summer camp with a queer twist. Central to that expansion is ensuring that it's affordable, high-quality, and - as always - fabulous! Any possible expansion of outdoor programming will serve Outright’s mission and vision and LGBTQ+ youth will play a central role in programmatic design to ensure our offerings meet their needs.
Fundamental to how we move as an organization, we are open to exploring various opportunities, but currently we are not focused on income generation with this property. Any partnerships or income-generating activities proposed would be critically assessed to ensure they not only contribute financially but also uphold and advance our commitment to LGBTQ+ youth.
It's a bit early in the process to make definitive predictions. At this stage, we prefer not to speculate on specific future staffing needs. However, we encourage interested job seekers to check out our Jobs & Internships and sign up for our email list to stay in the loop on potential employment openings in the future.
Just like the previous owners of Camp Sunrise, we're part of the 501(c)(3) non-profit family, focusing on doing good in our neck of the woods. This legal, IRS status obligates us to adhere to specific tax regulations for non-profits, and although we are exempt from certain taxes, it's important to note that this exemption isn't all-encompassing. While we do benefit from federal income tax exemption due to our non-profit status, we still fulfill other tax obligations. These can include employment taxes for our staff, potential unrelated business income tax, and in some cases, state and local taxes such as property or sales tax. Our financial responsibilities are in line with our mission to positively impact and support the community, much like the ethos upheld by the former stewards of Camp Sunrise.