Summer Fun Away From Home

Siena Yeh, a second grader at Cole Elementary, wrote a beautiful article (below) regarding her first summer at Ranch Camp. This article was then published in her school’s newspaper! Hmm…do we have a budding journalist in our midst?

Thank you so much for your sweet words, Siena. We’re so happy that you have enjoyed (and are looking forward to) your summers at the Ranch.

“It all started when I packed everything I could to get ready for an awesome sleepaway camp called “Ranch camp.” I packed t-shirts, shorts, pants, long-sleeves, and so on. I felt nervous about camp because it was my first time being away from home at sleepaway camp. Some kids, like me, had “mini camp”. Mini camp is that you get to stay at camp for two (2) weeks.The full session is when you stay at camp for three weeks (3). I was very nervous but excited to go. One of the things that made it easier to go was that my cousins were there, too.

At Ranch Camp, we stayed in cabins with about ten kids, and we slept in bunk beds. There were counselors for each cabin, and SITs (Staff in Training).  I got to have free time, and sat in my cabin and read my letters that I got. I did a swimming test so that the counselors that were testing me to see if I could swim freely, or if I needed a little help. I did the test good! And we got to do horseback riding, and paint on their backs with chalk, then give them a bath and brush their fur. It was fun. Last but not least: THE ROPES COURSE! It looks like a bunch of ropes. They were hanging and I could climb on them. There was a rockwall, a zipline, and something called a ‘moonwalk’ (a bunch of ropes secured on sturdy poles and you walk on them with your hands holding one rope, and your feet walking on a tightrope.) It was so much fun! Another fun thing at camp was Ranch Camp Idol. Each cabin got to compete by dancing to a song that their cabin selected. Ranch Camp Idol was held in a place called “The Mo” where we also had art and music. My favorite part of sleepaway camp was all of the friends there! It was so much easier to make friends than I imagined!

I’m very excited to go back to Ranch Camp this summer, and will stay for the full session. I want to go back again because it was so much fun, and I want to see my friends again.”

Notes from Noah: A Home For Everyone

In January, we received an email from a parent asking us to consider adding an additional choice for gender on our application. I responded by saying that there should be an additional choice, and that, for three years now, I have been requesting this from the company that makes the program we use (CampMinder).

I took the opportunity to share with this family more about the approach we take towards gender inclusion at Ranch Camp, including several of the programmatic shifts we have implemented over the past three summers. As I was writing, it occurred to me that these are things I want everyone in the Ranch Camp Community to know.

I am proud of the efforts we have made towards non-binary gender inclusion. Until 2016, age units at Ranch Camp were divided into boys’ units and girls’ units. Campers of different genders rarely attended programs together, with the exception of all-camp events and evening programs.

Now, what was once “boys’ village” and “girls’ village” are now “North Village” and “South Village.” Units are grouped by grade. Except for cabin programs, activities are gender-inclusive.

Since 2016, our staff members have completed a training in gender inclusion, for which we brought in the best people we could find. Last Summer, that training was designed and implemented by our Program Director, a trans man who has delivered a similar program to a national audience of camp professionals.

Last summer, a camper came out to his bunk as transgender. It was an ongoing conversation with the child’s parents since he started attending Ranch Camp. After three summers in girls’ bunks, he will now be in a boys’ bunk for 2019. I’m so very proud that Ranch has become a place for people to find themselves in this way.

We have just received the go-ahead to move forward with a capital improvement project for which the first item on the agenda is to have bath and shower rooms in each village that are divided into boys, girls, and a third for family and gender nonconforming campers, staff, and guests. Villages will then be split by age.

Camp Tawonga in CA is offering a gender-neutral bunk option this summer. When they made the announcement, I was proud to be among a community of Jewish camps that are applauding their initiative.

This was a long way of saying that it is not OK that, among the first questions in our application, is one that immediately compromises our vision for an uncompromisingly inclusive community.

CampMinder is working on the issue, which is more complicated than it might seem, because the coding is based significantly on a binary gender system. In a discussion thread on this topic, one camp professional put it this way: it takes a longtime to undo all of the binary-ness in the system. Which is a pretty perfect metaphor for society at large, I suppose…

Shalom u’vracha,