Guest Post: Camping with Other LGBT-Parented Families An ‘Irreplaceable’ Experience

Editor’s note: During my five years on the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center staff, I loved learning and writing about the Center’s extensive programs for the LGBT community. One program you might not have heard about is Family Services, which offers support–including social events–for LGBT parents and their children. When I realized that Rainbow Family Camp, an annual camping trip in the San Bernardino Mountains, was approaching (camp will be March 22-24), I reached out to the Center to ask if someone who had taken part in the camp would be interested in writing a guest post about why it was important to her. Thanks to Christopher Jones, who succeeded me as Communications Manager, for connecting me with Shelly. And of course, a big thank you to Shelly for sharing her family’s story!   – Stevie St. John 

By Shelly Siegel

Every night, since January 1, my oldest daughter’s nightly prayers have included thanking G-D that it’s almost time for Rainbow Family Camp. She prays for the opportunity to meet new people and see some of the familiar faces. Danielle is the most excited, but the whole family is looking forward to our annual weekend with other LGBT families.

My other half, Lynn, and I will be together 20 years on March 28.  We have two beautifully unique daughters, 10-year-old Danielle and 7-year-old  Reecie. The past several years, we have been lucky enough to celebrate our family and other LGBT families at Rainbow Family Camp, which takes place at Camp de Benneville Pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.

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Photos provided by Shelly Siegal

Rainbow Family Camp is a weekend camping trip for LGBT parents and their children. 

We found Family Camp when Dani was in first grade. We wanted our daughter to see the diversity in the world and know that there were many other families like ours. Dani was created by the love of two moms, one black, the other white, and we are Jewish—it doesn’t get more diverse than that!

We live in Orange County, but didn’t seem to connect with the LGBT center in our area. Lynn thought about starting a LGBT family group in Orange County, but it didn’t work out.

Luckily, we found the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Family Services program, which organizes Family Camp, and learned about the annual trip. Lynn had been wanting to take Dani camping. Since my idea of camping is running water, electricity, and a bed—all available at De Benneville—this was a winning situation for us all.

Our first camp was in 2008, and the beginning of our new annual tradition. What an awesome experience!  The best way to describe our first camp experience is Love, Friendship and Adventure. Through community meals and camp activities—hiking, sack races, playing in the snow—we got to know other families and formed lasting memories.

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 Family Camp includes activities such as tug-of-war, hiking, and arts and crafts. 

Our youngest daughter, Reecie, became part of our family in 2009, just two months after our second Rainbow Family Camp. Dani  told her little sister all about Rainbow Family Camp and what she had to look forward to. We knew that Rainbow Family camp was important to Dani, but until hearing her tell Reecie about the adventures, we didn’t know the full extent of the impact it made on her life. Since then, our family of four has taken part in the camp every year!

 

image007Soon after this photo was taken at Rainbow Family Camp, Reecie became part of the family.  

image008Reecie and big sister Danielle with a member of the Center’s Family Services staff. 

The families we’ve met there mean a lot to us, even those we only see once a year. We have seen the children grow from babies, to toddlers and now some, like ours, are double digits.

If you are part of the LGBT community, Rainbow Family Camp is an adventure your family will love and cherish.  The opportunity Rainbow Family Camp gives to our children, the chance to see other families like their own, is irreplaceable!

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