Inclusion at Summer Camp
At Camp Fire Minnesota, inclusion is one of our core values, and we strive to live that value every day. We believe that each young person should have the opportunity to engage in the outdoors and in our programs freely and safely. To do that, it is our responsibility to create a space where everyone can be their full, authentic selves and be accepted for who they are.
Creating a welcoming and affirming environment requires intentionality and continuous learning, and un-learning. We will not always get it right, but we are committed to showing up with courage, engaging in thoughtful discussions, and taking action to create equitable and welcoming outdoor experiences.
You can see our inclusion commitment in action in a variety of ways when you engage in Camp Fire programs. We break this down into five categories: Financial Access; Racial Diversity; Gender & Sexuality; Ability, Mental Health & Neurodiversity; Dietary Restrictions & Medical Needs.
Learn what inclusion looks like at summer camp below and view our main inclusion page here.
We believe every young person should have access to the outdoors without financial barriers. Thanks to the support of generous community partners, camp families, and other donors, our programs are accessible through scholarships and free or reduced-price programs (Learn more about making a donation here).
- Full and partial scholarships are available for camp through a short application process.
- Afterschool programs are provided at no cost to our partner schools and include options for participants to attend school-break camps, partner overnights, and summer camp for free.
- PreK-12 environmental education field trips offer financial aid (based on free and reduced lunch rates) to partner schools.
We recognize that outdoor spaces, including camps, are not always safe and welcoming places to Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC). You can read more about that history here. We believe and know that Black Lives Matter, and we work to create outdoor spaces where BIPOC communities feel safe and affirmed. Here are some ways we’re working towards racial diversity, inclusion, and equity:
- Staff attend diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings that address race and ethnicity and are expected to create a safe and welcoming environment for all participants, particularly BIPOC participants.
- We aim to hire a diverse staff, both locally and internationally. We also know we have space to grow in this area and are working with a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant to make improvements to our hiring, outreach, and retention process.
- We acknowledge that we have a history of cultural appropriation. We are working alongside the national Camp Fire office to acknowledge our history and begin repairing the harm caused to Indigenous communities. Find out more about this work here.
- We actively seek to partner with local BIPOC-led organizations to provide opportunities for BIPOC youth to access the outdoors and outdoor programming.
- We celebrate Juneteenth in our programs and with our staff team.
- Our programs focus on centering the individual experiences of each young person. Program materials and participation waivers are offered in multiple languages. During on-site programs, we strive to accommodate the needs of all students by offering a space for meditation or prayer. All our bathrooms are equipped with Lotas and we provide alternatives to pork and pork-by products whenever serving snacks to students.
- We are committed to ongoing reflection, evaluation, and improvement of our policies and practices related to racial equity, and we will provide regular updates to stakeholders about progress made in this area.
Gender and Sexuality
We welcome and affirm Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2S+) participants and staff. While our program is focused on young people finding their spark in the outdoors, our staff are trained to navigate age-appropriate conversations and questions as they arise. Here are some of the practical ways we support LGBTQIA2S+ campers:
- During summer overnight camps, caregivers may select cabin options for their child which includes boy, girl, and all-gender cabin options. Campers will always be assigned a cabin based on caregiver selection. Find out more here.
- Trans and non-binary campers may select housing in accordance with their gender identity and preferred cabin option.
- We fly the Pride Flag in celebration of Pride Month in June and our LGBTQIA2S community and recognize Pride Day in our programs.
- Participants, staff and volunteers have the opportunity to share their pronouns during group introductions. Pronouns are how we refer to each other when we do not use a name – examples include: she/her, they/them, he/him, etc.
- Participants, staff and volunteers have the right to use the name and pronouns that are consistent with their gender identity. While mistakes happen, it is important for others to make every effort to use preferred names and pronouns and correct mistakes when they happen.
- Participants have the option to disclose their gender identity and sexual orientation on a confidential basis, and this information will be used only for the purpose of ensuring their comfort and safety at camp.
- Staff wear nametags with their pronouns displayed, and we encourage others to respect those pronouns.
- Our Excelsior property has both single and all-gender restrooms. All Gender restrooms can be used by anyone and have private, fully enclosed, locking stalls.
- Discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected characteristic will not be tolerated, and any incidents should be reported to staff immediately.
- Staff receive training on LGBTQIA2S+ inclusion and allyship and are expected to create a safe and welcoming environment for all participants.
- Staff will not disclose a participant’s or another staff member’s gender identity or sexual orientation to others without their consent.
Ability, Mental Health, and Neurodiversity
We aim to provide support and eliminate barriers that may impact a camper’s ability to fully participate. We do require that campers are able to consistently stay with their group, follow our behavior guidelines, and use the restroom, shower (summer camp), and dress themselves without help from our staff. If you have questions about accommodations, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are some things we do to support campers of varying abilities and neurotypes:
- Camp programs employ two Mental, Emotional, Social Health and Inclusion (MESHI) Coordinators. These staff receive additional training in Youth Mental Health First Aid and have a background in supporting campers with MESH challenges, campers with ADHD, and autistic campers. Learn more here.
- Our health team will reach out to families before camp to create support plans, as well as support any camper who encounters challenges during camp.
- Campers & participants are welcome to come with a Personal Care Assistant. Our staff cannot offer all-day 1:1 support to campers or participants.
- Our Community & Dining Center has acoustic paneling to dampen noise and a porch that offers sensory-safe seating during meals.
- We offer campers the occasional opportunity to take a break from their group and rest in a quiet environment, supervised by staff.
Dietary Restrictions and Medical Needs
Our trained health and kitchen staff aim to support each camper’s medical and dietary needs. Here are some things we offer:
- We can accommodate meals for campers with the following dietary restrictions: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, pork-free, and dairy/lactose-free. Camp is nut-free. We cannot guarantee cross-contamination for severe allergies such as lactose and celiac disease. Please reach out prior to camp to discuss options.
- If we cannot accommodate your camper’s specific dietary needs during overnight camp, we can accommodate campers who bring their own meals to camp. We can send families a meal schedule ahead of time so that they can send meals that are close to the planned menu, if desired.
- Our trained health staff distribute medication to campers throughout their time at camp. Please consult our camp resources page for more information about how to bring medication to camp. We welcome campers with diabetes and are trained to safely administer injection medication. Our health office has a refrigerator specifically for refrigerated medications.
- Camp staff are trained in administering emergency medication, including Epi-Pens, Auvi-Qs, and inhalers.
- Caregivers are responsible for communicating and updating important dietary restrictions and medical needs to staff.