Tag Archives: Project Acorn

Huffington Post: LGBTQ kids living their truths at camp

11 Mar
Meet Rose.

Meet Rose.

I recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post about Rose and how her involvement in the Ten Oaks Project changed her life.

Rose always knew she wanted to be a girl. She wanted to dress like a girl, play with dolls and wear pink clothes.

Secretly, she could be a girl at home. But outside of her house, she lived a lie and her life as a boy. Rose wasn’t safe enough to live her truths and authentic story.

“I was unhappy and sad before I transitioned,” explains Rose in a beautiful letter. “I wasn’t who I thought I was to be.”

Her life drastically changed when she went to Camp Ten Oaks, a one-week, sleep-away camp for children and youth from LGBTQ identities, families and communities. Camp Ten Oaks is part of the Ten Oaks Project, a Canadian-based organization that engages and supports young people from LGBTQ communities through camp.

Something changed in Rose at camp. She was in a supportive environment and surrounded by others like her, which gave her the courage she needed to live as a girl.

“In that moment, I could see a different future for myself,” Rose says. “If it weren’t for camp, I think I’d still be a boy. And unhappy about my life.”

When I think about the young people who go to Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn (Ten Oaks’ other camp for youth), my heart is filled with so much joy. These young people can experience community, belonging and live their truths.

That time I hated dresses and only wanted to play baseball.

That time I hated dresses and only wanted to play baseball.

I think of the Jenna of my past and how my life would’ve been so different if I had a place like Camp Ten Oaks or Project Acorn to call home. Perhaps I would’ve seen a different future for myself at a younger age, which would’ve helped me accept all the pieces of my story sooner.

The sooner these young people can experience this freedom, acceptance and belonging, the sooner they can blossom into the beautiful roses they are meant to be.

Ten Oaks’ bowl-a-thon fundraiser is also coming up on March 21. The group is hoping to raise $40,000 to help send kids to camp. This year’s bowl-a-thon will help subsidize camper registration fees (80 per cent of participants access the sliding scale) and send 10 extra participants to camp.

Please support my bowling team, the Team Players here, so we can help send children and youth like Rose to camp. I’ll write you a personalized haiku or poem based on how much you donate!

On another awesome note, I know I know I know you want to hear this news. Tegan and Sara have also donated several prizes to our bowl-a-thon, including an autographed poster, varsity jacket and a rare vinyl box set collection. You can check out the awesome awesome swag here!


Be a team player and help send LGBTQ children and youth to camp

4 Mar

Dear little Jenna,

It has been a while since I last wrote to you. I think the last time was that letter on coming out and supporting LGBTQ youth through the Ten Oaks Project. You should read it again when you need some encouragement and a reminder of your awesomeness.

So guess what? Ten Oaks is having another bowl-a-thon fundraiser at the end of March and you’re putting together a team again. You had so much fun last year and it’s such a great time of team spirit, dressing up, cheering and supporting an amazing cause.

You got pretty creative with your team, the Crayolas, last year.

You got pretty creative with your team, the Crayolas, last year.

This year, you and your friends came up with the name, Team Players!

Just to refresh your memory, the Ten Oaks Project is a volunteer-driven organization that supports children and youth from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) identities, families and communities. They run two camps, Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn.

That’s right, there are actually camps for people like you and you’re not the only gay person out there. Hooray! There will also be other campers who have two dads or two moms, which is pretty awesome. People won’t have to hide or feel shame there, including this participant:

“While camp may only last a week, the sense of belonging that I get from Ten Oaks is something that I feel year-round.”

You won’t go to the camp as a participant, but you’ll get to be part of this special experience. You’ll volunteer and do spoken word workshops at Project Acorn, and see how important this space if for many marginalized youth. One participant in your workshop will even recognize the power of their voice:

“I love and miss writing. I should make more time for it. My voice may help someone else.”

Yes, you can still wear dresses. (Caro Ibrahim)

Yes, you can still wear dresses. (Caro Ibrahim)

Ten Oaks is celebrating its 10th anniversary and hoping to raise $45,000 this year. Last year, the bowl-a-thon raised $40,000 and helped send 114 children and youth to camp. Isn’t that amazing?

This organization will be pretty dear to your heart because you know how difficult it is to accept your sexuality. You’ll want to do all that you can, so other young people won’t feel marginalized because they have same-sex parents or they’re struggling with their sexuality.

No one should be made to feel guilt, shame or self-hatred based on who they love.

You hope other people will connect with this group because they probably have a brother, friend, daughter or co-worker who is LGBTQ. Most people these days know someone who is LGBTQ. It won’t be something they can ignore or pretend doesn’t exist – even in those Christian communities you grew up in.

There has been a lot of progress, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

Don’t worry about helping everyone and changing the world right now. You’re not ready quite yet. Just work on loving yourself and seeing how awesome you are. You have so much to offer those around you by simply being you.

Your older, wiser and still awesome self,


Please consider supporting the Ten Oaks Project and help send children and youth from LGBTQ communities to camp. The camps are heavily subsidized through generous support from people like you. Eighty per cent of campers access the sliding scale, so we want to continue creating an accessible place for young people.

You can support my team, the Team Players, by clicking here and donating. Every dollar counts and we really appreciate all your support! Check out this awesome video of some cute children bowling, which was made by Jeff Fennell, a talented filmmaker and Ten Oaks volunteer.

Team spirit and great outfits at the Ten Oaks bowl-a-thon

27 Mar

This past weekend, I participated in the Ten Oaks Project’s bowl-a-thon with my team, the Crayolas. It was an awesome day of team spirit, great outfits, community, prizes and of course, bowling!

The Crayolas came to colour your world.

The Crayolas came to colour your world!

My team was so excited to make shirts, dress up, cheer and go bowling. We even changed the lyrics of Single Ladies by Beyonce to a new song about the Ten Oaks Project and the bowl-a-thon. Ten Oaks asked us to perform the song at the fundraiser and we got an honourable mention for best team spirit.

We also really wanted to support the Ten Oaks Project, a volunteer-driven organization that supports children and youth from LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer) communities, and send them to camp.

Everyone should have the opportunity to go to a camp where they’re respected and accepted for who they are.

As I mentioned in a recent post writing a letter to my younger self, I would’ve really benefitted from a camp like this when I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality. I’m glad there are spaces for others who need an open and safe place to be themselves.


Great shot. (Terri Figueiredo)


Great form. (Terri Figueiredo)

Thank you to everyone for all their encouragement and generous support for the Crayolas. We reached our goal of raising $1,500 in just a week and a half!

Ten Oaks also surpassed its goal of raising more than $40,000 to send children and youth to Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn. That’s amazing! There are definitely going to be some happy campers this summer.

Please check out the Ten Oaks Project to see ways you can support the wonderful work they do. And you should definitely go bowling when you have a chance because it’s a lot of fun, even when you sometimes leave one pin left standing.

Almost a strike. (Terri Figueiredo)

Almost. (Terri Figueiredo)

A letter to my younger self: coming out, supporting LGBTQ youth and a bowl-a-thon

13 Mar

Dear Jenna,

First off, I want to tell you just how awesome you are. That’s right…


True story. (Kathleen Clark)

True story. (Kathleen Clark)

Now that your awesomeness is out of the way, I want you to know there’s nothing wrong with who you are. You’re beautiful and amazing just the way you are, and there’s nothing broken or damaged in you that needs to be fixed. Trust me on this one.

Unfortunately, you’re going to hear some really hurtful, hateful and judgmental comments that are going to make you think otherwise. Please don’t believe those lies.

These words are going to make you cry.
These words are going to make you hate yourself.
These words are going to make you wish you could be someone else.

No matter how much you try to pray away being gay, it won’t go away. 

You won’t be able to say those words now or admit this part of your story, but one day you will. And don’t worry, there’s no pressure to admit these words until you’re ready.

I’m not going to sugar coat your journey or pretend it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be really hard. You’re going to spend many nights crying yourself to sleep. This struggle is going to consume your thoughts and you’re going to wonder if it’s even possible to tell people your secret – let alone your story.

But one day, you’ll muster up the courage to write those three words in your journal. Another day, you’ll gain even more courage to tell the first person. And another day, you’ll share your story online and many people will read about your fears, thoughts and lessons learned.

And you’ll be okay.

In fact, you’re going to be excited to share your story. You’ll also be deeply moved by the encouragement and support you receive.

You’ll be scared to open up like this, but you’ll want other people to know there’s nothing wrong with who they are. You’re going to learn about the importance of telling your story and helping others know they’re not alone in their experiences. You’ll want them to know just how awesome they are.

One day, your passions and gifts will come together in exciting ways. Believe it or not, sports aren’t going to be your life. Your knee injury will prevent you from playing hockey and soccer competitively again, but you’ll find your voice through poetry and music.

The pain and loss will be worth what you’ll find.

You’re even going to share your work with those around you. Not only will it be a healing space for you to find and speak your voice, but you’ll encourage others to do the same as well. This will be a huge passion of yours.

You’ll get connected with an organization called the Ten Oaks Project, a volunteer-driven group that supports children and youth from LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer) communities. You’re going to lead a spoken word workshop at Project Acorn, a camp for LGBTQ youth, and provide a space for young people to speak their voices.

At the camp, you’ll see beautiful spaces of acceptance and young people able to express who they are. You’re going to wish you were involved in an organization like this when you were younger, and maybe you wouldn’t have hated yourself for so long. But you can’t look back and you’ll be happy this space is available for other LGBTQ youth.

You’ll love all the amazing work the Ten Oaks Project does and will want to support them in other ways. You’re going to gather some awesome friends together to get involved in the Ten Oaks Project’s bowl-a-thon fundraiser and call yourselves, The Crayolas. You love bowling, awesome friends, important causes and want to dress up in a fun outfit (and maybe wear a cape).

Costumes aside, many of the masks you used to hide behind will be removed. Once you stop fighting this part of yourself, you can start being, living and tapping into all the beautiful pieces of who you are.

After all those years of guilt, shame and fear, you’ll realize just how awesome you are and will finally be comfortable in your own skin. You’re no longer afraid to share who you are with those around you.

Keep being you and don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Your older, wiser and still awesome self,


I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self just how awesome she is. Since I can’t do that, here’s to all the “Jenna’s” out there who believe they’re damaged and not worth loving. Please don’t believe those lies.

If you’re struggling to come to terms with your sexuality, please check out a three-part post I wrote, 30 lessons I’ve learned from coming out as gay. You’re not alone in your experiences.

There are many LGBTQ youth who suffer so much shame, stigma and marginalization. They need to know there’s a space for them and there’s nothing wrong with who they are.

Please support all the amazing work the Ten Oaks Project does and help my team, The Crayolas, reach our goal of raising $1,500. You can click on the link here and donate. Every dollar counts and we appreciate all your support!

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