Camp Tawonga is a premier residential Jewish summer camp located on the stunning Tuolumne River, just outside of Yosemite National Park. For 98 years, Tawonga has served as a leader in Jewish camping, fostering in children and families a deep connection to nature, community and Judaism. In the Bay Area, Tawonga’s year-round programming for families, teens and adults of all ages builds on the essence of the Tawonga mission: positive self-esteem, cooperative community and unconditional acceptance.
Tawonga is known for its pioneering affinity programs. Twenty-five years ago, we responded to LGBTQ+ families with the first Keshet Family Camp in the U.S. Our more recent Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) initiative includes all-gender cabin options and a Jewish Families of Color Weekend.
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The Brave Space Award
The PBF grant will enable Tawonga to better serve LGBTQ+ youth in fundamental ways. It will make the Tawonga summer camp experience accessible to all LGBTQ+ youth by providing financial assistance to families in need. It will help fund curated programming that supports LGBTQ+ campers and expert-led trainings for summer staff that focus on creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. It will optimize our staffing with more counselors who identify as queer, non-binary or trans and a therapist who has specific expertise in gender dysphoria and other LGBTQ+ issues. It will help supplement the cost of marketing activities for recruiting additional LGBTQ+ counselors and for bringing greater awareness to our all-gender cabin options during summer camp and LGBTQ+ Family Camp Weekend. It will also help pay for private changing curtains in every cabin and gender-neutral restroom signage.
In short, the Pony Barnes Foundation is positioning Tawonga to play a pivotal role in helping more LGBTQ+ campers celebrate their identities, build community and enhance their personal growth.
How does your program support belonging and connections for LGBTQ+ youth and their families?
As a longstanding champion of LGBTQ+ rights, Tawonga has created a cherished affinity space for LGBTQ+ campers and families. We’ve built all-gender bathrooms, we’ve changed our “boys side” and “girls side” designations of Camp to gender-neutral names, we offer all-gender cabin options for campers who prefer this type of housing for any reason, lead a “Beyond the Binary” campfire during summer camp and run a robust LGBTQ+ Family Camp Weekend, but there is room to do so much more. That’s where the generosity of the Pony Barnes Foundation comes in. Thanks to the PBF grant, we will have the resources to make Tawonga a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ campers. They will have deeper opportunities to fully embrace their authentic identities, cultivate a stronger sense of belonging and find a lifelong home at Tawonga.