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Bulging waiting lists & wallets at Ten Oaks Project

Camp plans to hire first staffer

It might be a case of Mrs and Mrs Claus for those who run Canada’s only sleepover week for the children of queer families and queer youth.

Fastidious planning and a generous donor base have put the founders of the Ten Oaks Project, Holly Wagg and Julia Alarie, into a position few queer organizations in Ottawa are in: they may be able to do some Christmas shopping.

“A lot of people in the queer community give because they want to make a difference. Can you imagine if you had been given this opportunity as a child; that engagement; that chance to feel safe? People have a chance to invest in a program that provide a safe space for kids,” says Wagg.

This is looking to be a banner year for the camp. In the first nine months of 2007, they brought in $18,000 more than in 2006, an increase of about 40 percent.

With bulging waiting lists, planners have their sights set on moving to a bigger site, two sites, or expanding the number of weeks of camp, says Alarie, the camp director. But not yet, says Alarie. In the next few months, they’re likely to be looking for a part-time employee — a Ten Oaks first, Wagg points out.

“We have a reserve that we’ve been building. We’ve been building it strategically over the last three years so that we can hire a staff member,” says Wagg.

In 2006, the camp hosted 40 youth and conducted activities that dealt with topics ranging from social justice to globalization. Other playful endeavors included kayaking, drama and a drag workshop, along with practical skill like how to build a shelter and lessons in sign language.

The news was announced at the Ten Oaks Project AGM on Nov 22, which also included the induction of new directors. They include Patty Barrera, Lenore Newman, Angus Rennie and Elpis Law, who returns after a two-year hiatus.

About 40 percent of Ten Oaks campers come from the Ottawa area, with the other 60 equally divided between the Toronto area and rural Ontario. As well, two-thirds of the youth are from low-income families or families that have experienced recent family shock such as divorce.

Only seven percent of kids identified as queer — understandable since the youngest camper is just eight years old — while 80 per cent have queer parents.