The Ten Oaks Project has been bringing together youth from the LGBT community since 2004. Project Acorn, for young people ages 16 to 24, is a four-day learning experience. Youth aged eight to 17 have the chance to attend Camp Ten Oaks, a one-week sleep-away camp in the woods and the organization’s biggest initiative. “It really is a magical week in the woods for these kids to not only just have a sort of traditional camping experience, but also a real add-on of having a safer space in which they can talk about their families, they can talk about their own identities . . . without the kinds of judgment and feeling abnormal that they encounter in their daily lives,” says Dawn Moore, board president of Ten Oaks. “We run on the premise of creating social justice through magic and play at camp.”
Of course, making these programs available takes resources, which is why Ten Oaks runs a yearly Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser at which teams are encouraged to seek sponsorship and then spend the day at the lanes. This year, Camp Ten Oaks has moved to a new location near Kingston in an effort to be more accessible, and the funds raised will help cover the costs of the move and ensure that no camper is left behind. It costs about $1,000 for each camper to attend, but families typically pay $700. A sliding scale for all Ten Oaks’ services, including Project Acorn, also exists. “That’s where a huge chunk of the money that we raise goes, is to subsidize our camper experience,” Moore says.
“It was important to us to have a high-profile fundraising event that was fun,” she says of the Bowl-a-Thon. This year’s goal is $45,000; teams can register online and use a web-based fundraising platform to gather funds. Teams are also encouraged to come in costume. “Pride is several months away still, so this is one more chance to get dressed up if you’re queer,” Moore says with a laugh. “I don’t know any self-respecting queer that would say no to that, quite frankly.”