A new chapter is unfolding for The Pony Barnes Foundation—one that is steeped in passion, a determination to carry on the legacy of Dr. Virginia "Pony" Barnes, and the desire to have profound and lasting impact on the lives of others. We are excited to unveil our new mission today.
Our team understands the enduring influence a camp experience can have on an individual’s ability to grow, build community, and connect to greater purpose. We believe in ensuring these transformational programs are available to everyone, especially those who can benefit most from supportive environments like these. A vast majority of LGBTQ+ individuals fight upstream throughout their lives for safety, equity, and acceptance in a world that too often sends the message: it is not okay to be who you are. This is particularly true for transgender and nonbinary people of color, who face additional experiences of discrimination due to multiple and intersecting marginalized identities. While significant progress has been made to change our prevailing norms, laws, and policies around LGBTQ+ identity, affirming spaces are too few and far between, especially those intentionally positioned to support LGBTQ+ youth and their families in connecting, learning, and growing together.
Research consistently demonstrates that supportive environments can dramatically reduce anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in LGBTQ+ individuals. Furthermore, these spaces can foster well-being, personal growth, and the critical ability to thrive through exploring the nuances and intersections around LGBTQ+ identity, developing lasting community connections, and learning the value and strength in authenticity. Throughout the country, there are a variety of experiential learning camps and programs intentionally designed to cultivate these outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. At The Pony Barnes Foundation, we are committed to carrying on the legacy of Dr. Virginia “Pony” Barnes by supporting these key programs, ensuring they reflect and embrace the incredible diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, and creating greater accessibility so that all LGBTQ+ youth and families are able to experience environments in which they can truly belong and thrive. We are so excited about our next chapter and hope you join us in what will be a beautiful journey ahead. We are also thrilled to announce that we have hired an Executive Director, Madelyn Gelpi—a Montecito alum and experienced expert in the world of LGBTQ inclusion—to spearhead these efforts for the foundation.
As we embark on this path, we need your support. It is through the generosity of our PBF community that we continue to carry on Pony’s legacy in this new critical direction. This month, we aim to raise $10,000 which will go directly to our mission of supporting LGBTQ+ camps across California.
Stay tuned as we continue to build on this vision together. We truly can’t wait for what is in store and wish you well in this exciting year to come. THE PONY BARNES FOUNDATION TEAM