“We don’t want any camper to feel afraid to be who they are.”

Primary Media
Canoe pulled up on shore of lake at sunset.
Credit: Dynamic Graphics Group/Canva
Published On: May 10, 2024

UPDATE (May 29, 2024): Thank you for your ongoing support for queer youth. We have just learned that Rainbow Camp, which is operated by a third-party organization, has been paused until the 2025 camping season. 

Rainbow Camp® in northern Ontario has welcomed young people of all sexual identities since 2012. From the beginning, Mission and Service has supported Welcome Friend Association, which runs the camp.

“Initially, we wanted to bridge the local LGBTQ community with area churches. We started the association, and then we launched the camp. We had no idea what we were doing at the time. Only one person on the board had camp experience, but we knew that young people would benefit,” says Chris Southin, one of the camp’s co-founders.

Rainbow Camp® now serves up to 50 youth each week for four weeks, with expansion plans in the works.

Above all, Rainbow Camp® provides campers with a safe space to be who they are without judgment. “I’ll never forget our first year of camp,” says Harry Stewart, also a co-founder. “It was the second full day. A camper told us his mom had found a dress in his closet. He lied to her and said that it belonged to his girlfriend. He had brought the dress to camp and said he would like to wear it. High heels and sand don’t mix!” he explains, laughing, “But the warmth, love, and compassion that the camper received from everyone at camp was amazing.”

Southin and Stewart want the camp experience to be memorable, fun, soul-searching, and supportive. “We don’t want any camper to feel afraid to be who they are. I think that’s why so many now call it their home.” This important work was recognized with a Governor General’s award in 2021.

Your generosity through Mission and Service supports safe, welcoming spaces like Rainbow Camp®. Thank you!