By Julie Robinson
I want tell you about ‘Camp it Up’. It’s a week long, summer camp for lesbian and gay families and their friends and family.
This year they celebrated their 20th year camp at the 85-year-old Oakland Feather River camp on Spanish Creek in the Plumas forest, close to the town of Quincy in Northern California.
Jill Rose, an incredible lady founded it and still heads it up. Jill loved the family summer camp she spent her childhood summers at, and felt that lesbian and gay families should have that same experience available to them too. A place where kids and adults can feel safe, be themselves, make friends, be out in nature, sing, dance, laugh, play and have fun, try new activities, and be creative.
‘Camp it up’ is that and more. For me it has a totally wonderful feeling of coming home. Of hanging with like-minded people who you’ve just met but you feel like you go way back with. I get to relax and read my book. Enjoy the trees and swimming in the creek. Learning new skills like doing ‘the carpentry project’. And this year I took a small role in the Camp show – a camper written play.
The kids are grouped by age and are kept way busy adventuring with awesome, dynamic twenty-something councilors and a teen CIT (counselor in training) for a few hours every day. They make great friends, play games, hike and do crafts. They also realize they are not the only ones with 2 Mom’s or 2 Dad’s. It’s wonderful to watch them belt out ‘if your family is different let that difference make you strong’ (‘The Family song’ written by Jill and sung every year since the first ‘Camp it Up’.)
Being a family camp you still get to reconnect and spend some quality time with your kids. Although it seems with the teens that’s just an occasional sighting with a vigorous wave and smile.
One of the coolest things too is seeing how great other lesbian and gay families children have turned out. This year ‘Camp it Up’ had a staff of 55; most of these young adults are children of the original campers. And OMG what impressive people they are! Smart, funny, articulate, successful, deep, empathetic and talented. Ben the program director having attending every ‘Camp it Up’ since he was 4!
Feather River Camp is a naturally beautiful venue. The tent and wooded cabins house 300+ campers. They are basic but comfortable with beds. The bathrooms have hot showers and flushing toilets. The ‘chow palace’ staff, cook great family food and our job is only too bus our plates. There is a large patio to gather and chat or play Ping-Pong with your kids. The Verandah is where we dance to the live music. The outdoor amphitheater hosted the talent show and such.
‘Camp it up’ is rooted in tradition and routine such as the same skits being re-enacted every year. Camp usually has a theme and Jill writes a new song for it every year, camp T-shirts and kids activities are loosely based on that.
Another fabulous part of ‘Camp it Up’ is the feeling of community. All campers have a ‘co-op duty’ where they give small piece of time for the good of everyone like dining room duty where you sweep the floor. This year I helped at the Spa afternoon. I had the pleasure of massaging fellow camper’s feet. It feels great to be part of the whole. There is this feeling of this is how life is meant to be – co-operative, safe and fun – kind of nirvana-like.