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YMCA of San Diego

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YMCA Adventure Guides is a monthly campout program for parents with their children ages 5-12 years old. Adventure Guides programs launch parents and their children on a journey of discovery, with the child as the explorer and the parent as the guide. The program is unique in that one-on-one time for parent and child is central but it is done so in a fun, social, special environment that builds important bonds through shared experiences like games, crafts, songs, skits, ceremonies and outdoor pursuits like camping, hiking and swimming.

The Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA’s Adventure Guides program serves approximately 4,000 adults and children annually, grouped into 13 clubs who camp together on a monthly basis around San Diego and surrounding counties. The Sea Turtles Club of the Adventure Guides program expands the positive purpose and camping experiences to LGBTQ+ youth and their parents.  Parents and children participating in Adventure Guides develop strong bonds that support self-esteem and communications skills, setting the foundation for positive, lifelong relationships, while exposing families to the enjoyment of the outdoors.

Click here to learn more about the YMCA of San Diego.

The Rainbow Family Camp Award

Traditionally, clubs of the Adventure Guides program are organized by mother or father with sons or daughters ages 5-12, until the addition of the newest club: The Sea Turtles.

The Sea Turtles Club has been spearheaded by families that wanted to expand the positive purpose of the YMCA's Adventure Clubs camping experiences to LGBTQ+ youth and their parents, a direct alignment with The Rainbow Family Camp Fund’s mission “to experience the magic of family camp.” The Sea Turtles camp together as a club, monthly from September - June, at camping locations around San Diego County."

The Dr. Barnes Learning & Leadership Award 

Funding from PBF also supports two overnight youth leadership camp experiences (Camp Trailblazers) in 2024 for 60 total LGBTQ+ youth (ages 18-24), including registration, materials, transportation, and program supplies, as well as LGBTQ+ competency training and diversity, inclusion, and belonging trainings for 15 camp staff. 

Camp Trailblazers was launched in August 2018 as the first-ever camp dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth and young adults in San Diego County. The two-day experience is built on the structure of our renowned overnight camps by building leadership skills and peer support networks among a population of youth that have historically faced social isolation, bullying, and disconnection for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The residential camp experience is a formative one that can afford youth, especially those who feel marginalized for their identity, a chance to escape everyday stressors and develop connections not easily cultivated nor replicated in traditional education or social settings.

This program is a continuation of their program with PBF last year, in which they served 41 LGBTQ+ youth across one overnight leadership camp experience. This year, they expanded their program by now supporting 60 LGBTQ+ youth with two leadership camp experiences.

Program outcomes from last year’s program include:

  • 94% of campers expressed feeling empowered after attending camp

  • 97% of campers increased self-confidence and knowledge of de-stressing techniques

  • 88% of campers made LGBTQ+ friends at Camp Trailblazers


How does your program support belonging and connections for LGBTQ+ youth and their families? 

The YMCA seeks to offer services for underserved youth, families and stigmatized populations. We want all participants to feel a sense of belonging and freedom to be their true self while camping and beyond. This program demonstrates our dedication to promoting a sense of belonging and connections as it is the first-ever Adventure Camping Club for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. The programming that takes place at these campouts, highlighted with the Saturday evening Club Fire and the Sunday morning group gathering, are centered around inclusion, acceptance, self-confidence, community and the Four Core Values of the YMCA: honesty, caring, respect and responsibility.

Campers are recognized with patches and celebrated for exemplifying these values throughout the weekend campout. Furthermore, thanks to our supportive funders, the YMCA is able to offer affordable program prices and a scholarship assistance program for including families that have any economic barriers for participation.


Tim Stong

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