The Ten Oaks Project has a new woman running the show, and she says she’s up for the challenge.
Danielle Raymond has now taken over as executive director of the organization, which was founded in 2004. Ten Oaks runs a summer camp for children and youth from gay and trans households, a family program and, most recently, a youth leadership retreat.
Raymond brings with her a diverse range of previous experience, not the least of which is her role as a single, queer, mom to her four-year-old daughter.
“I think I understand the reality. My daughter’s only four, so she’s not asking a lot of questions. She knows that her mom is open to a female relationship, she understands that maybe in the future she will have two moms, or maybe she’ll have a step dad and a mom. I think as she gets older it’s something that I’ll have to face in terms of my personal experience,” says Raymond.
“As she grows, her experience will match many of the youths’ experiences here, so I think as a queer parent I bring that to the table, a beautiful four-year-old girl who’s developing in a queer family with total support from her biological dad and her queer mom. As she grows, I’ll grow and be able to offer the organization more.”
For the past 10 years, Raymond has worked in a variety of strategic planning, fundraising and program development roles and has worked with grassroots as well as national organizations such as the National Aboriginal Health Organization and Planned Parenthood.
One of the biggest challenges Raymond says she faces in her new job is keeping the organization sustainable, something that’s always an issue for non-profit charitable groups like hers. Ten Oaks has seen a great deal of growth over the past four years, and Raymond plans to continue to strengthen community ties to keep momentum going.
Speaking from the Ten Oaks office on her first day of work, Raymond says she is first looking forward to learning the lay of the land.
“It’s a lot of learning. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve got a great teacher [in former executive director Kate Moore] and an amazing, supportive and very involved board and board president. What I most look forward to is learning the ropes and getting grounded in the organization and being able to provide the support the organization needs.”
Raymond, who will commute to her new job from her home in Arnprior, says being a rural queer is a lot like being queer anywhere else.
“I think it’s like any small community: you latch on to the people that share a common lifestyle or a common values system, and you make it work. I hang a flag in my living room window, but I’m not sure how many people in Arnprior would know what that symbol is, so being out in Arnprior is probably not so different than being out anywhere else,” says Raymond.
“There are no services [in Arnprior] for queer youth — or parents. High schools are going in the direction of providing more safe spaces, so Arnprior is really moving toward being more queer-friendly.”