By Frank Golden

It’s official: I love camp. Last year, Adam and I took our family to CampOut Family Camp, a camp for LGBTQ Families. We had the time of our lives, and decided to do it all over again this year. It was the same amazing experience: the activities, the counselors, the campfires, the joy. This time, however, we were amongst familiar faces, faces we saw last year, faces we have gotten to know. Attending an LGBTQ camp is enough to make you feel like part of a community, but this year, we were part of the CampOut community, and we were honored to be included.

CampOut Family Camp is a summer camp experience for LGBTQ Families. This year, CampOut took place from August 17th- August 20th. During the rest of the summer, the camp grounds are used to accommodate hundreds of children in an overnight camp program lasting two, four, or eight weeks. My husband, Adam attended the camp for eight years when he was child. For Adam, attending CampOut was a mix of new experiences and nostalgia. He remembered the camp grounds and the fun he had, and now as an adult and as a gay man, he got the opportunity to experience the same fun with his family.

Last year, our first year at CampOut, the entire experience was a whirlwind. I was overwhelmed with the idea of being surrounded by other LGBTQ Families. I was enthralled with the idea of attending camp for the very first time – as a child, I never went to camp. I was excited, overjoyed, and anxious to get familiar with the camp experience. This year, I returned to camp as an experience camper; I was prepared for the entire camp experience, and as a result, I was able to savor every activity, every moment. I am not an outdoorsy person. You won’t find me “roughing it” in the woods. You won’t find me hunting, fishing, or hiking on a regular basis. However, for one weekend a year, I transform into a person who loves it all. I love the water activities, the crafts, the campfires. I love the dirt, the sweat, and the smell of nature.

CampOut offers a plethora of activities ranging from water skiing to horseback riding. Each activity is supervised by an experienced counselor. I must say, that aside from having the counselors there for our safety, they made the entire experience more fun. They were energetic, enthusiastic, everything camp counselors should be. Our daughter, Sophia was particularly excited about the counselors. They offered her encouragement, engaged in conversations with her, and helped her overcome any fears associated with the activities.

Sophia preferred activities like archery and arts & crafts. Silas was more into the water activities. It’s one of the cooler things about being a parent – watching your children grow and develop into their own unique people. Right now, Silas is two years old, and his personality develops more and more each day. We’re already looking forward to seeing how Silas will react to camp next year when he is a little older. We are most excited to see how Silas takes in the LGBTQ component of the camp. Last year, we couldn’t wait to see Sophia’s reaction to other LGBTQ families. We wondered if she would have questions or comments about the unique family structures. She didn’t. She was completely unfazed. We pointed out families with two moms or two dads, and she just smiled and carried on with her day. Sophia had the same reaction this year, and that makes us proud. As gay parents, we have raised Sophia to be aware of differences, but to also embrace them all. At this point in her life, Sophia is used to all sorts of family structures and she doesn’t question any of them. We are raising Silas the same way we are raising Sophia, to see differences as the norm. However, Silas might have a completely different reaction to other LGBTQ families than Sophia did. We are looking forward to helping him process that experience in the future.

CampOut Family Camp was an amazing experience for the second year in a row. This summer was the camp’s third year in operation. As a relatively new camp, I am unbelievably impressed with the camp’s success. Last year there were probably about 30-40 families. This year, the attendance nearly doubled. This is partly due to the growing number of LGBTQ families, but can also be attributed to the amazing experience CampOut provides. Last year, and again this year, I left CampOut excited to share my experiences with anyone who would listen. As a member of the gay community, we have to share experiences that embrace our community. We all share the common goal of normalizing LGBTQ families, and sharing the CampOut experience supports that goal.

As an LGBTQ parent, I cannot offer CampOut Family Camp enough praise. They created a fun, safe, inclusive environment for all gay parents to bring their children. At CampOut, our family is just like every other family. We are just another set of parents in search of fun family activities. We are just two dads with two kids, two very normal parents with two very normal kids. We will continue to attend CampOut until the kids are grown, and if they allow it, Adam and I will continue to attend beyond that. I recommend that all LGBTQ families consider attending the camp next year. Every parent in the community owes it to themselves to experience the fun, inclusiveness, and progress that CampOut embodies.

For more information on CampOut Family Camp, please visit their website at www.campoutcamp.com or email them at campout@lwcgwc.com. You’ll be able to find information about next year’s camp, pricing, activities, and other pertinent information.