North Central News

LGBTQ youth enjoy safe, inclusive summer camp in AZ

CampersA Phoenix-based nonprofit dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth by providing tools to improve their self-esteem and acceptance, recently got a financial boost thanks to a generous gift from PetSmart.

PetSmart gifted $50,000 to kick off a long-term partnership with one•n•ten, which includes underwriting one•n•ten’s summer program in Northern Arizona called OUTdoors! Camp.

“PetSmart is dedicated to supporting organizations that make our communities vibrant and strong and enhance quality of life for both people and pets,” said Erick Goldberg, senior vice president of Human Resources for PetSmart. “By partnering with one•n•ten, we hope to empower these youth with the tools to improve their self-esteem and be proud of who they are. We believe this is truly a life-changing program.”

The mission of OUTdoors! Camp is to help LGBTQ youth develop leadership skills, work in collaborative ways, and develop a strong sense of self and community.  Now in its sixth year, the camp has changed hundreds of young lives through its anti-bullying, suicide prevention, youth empowerment, and positive body image workshops.

The most recent group of campers traveled from around the country, including approximately 40 young men and women from the Phoenix area, on Aug. 30. The local youths departed from the one•n•ten headquarters at 3660 N. 3rd St.

“At OUTdoors! Camp we create a safe space, for youth to express their feelings and overcome their challenges,” said Kado Stewart, camp director and founder, and program manager with one•n•ten.

“We equip youth with the tools they need to feel empowered and overcome the segregation and discrimination that they face due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Camp is four days, but those four days prepare them and get them through the rest of the year.”

Erin Mahoney, a second-year OUTscout! from Phoenix, commented, “To know there is a place like OUTdoors! Camp for youth to be who they are and be able to express that openly brings a sense of hope that all those youth out in the world struggling to be heard will be able to someday take part in the OUTdoors experience.”

Sydney Harrison, a first-year camper from Phoenix, explained, “It was an opportunity for me to be in a place where I could be accepted by everyone for who I am. This camp helped change my outlook on myself. I found that I inspired people and they felt like I was a mentor to them. I would have never thought that I would ever make that kind of impact on people. Camp empowered me to challenge myself to be better and to think about myself in a more positive light.”

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