DEI Update: What We’ve Accomplished at Experience Camps and Where We’re Headed 

Understanding. Awareness. Acceptance. Inclusion. Openness. Sharing. Support.

These are core elements of who we are and what we believe at Experience Camps. The common bond of loss transcends race, identity, politics, wealth, and religion. However, we also know that it is a great deal more complex than that. We are committed to immersing ourselves in the dialogue and introspection of our individual and collective roles in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). This requires respectful and intentional engagement with our campers, staff, and camper families. 

Last June, we committed to several key actions we would take in order to create a more inclusive culture, and we want to share some of our strides (knowing full well there is still much work to be done):

The Commitment made: Engage our Diversity & Inclusion Committee to influence program decisions, make deliberate space for reflection and dialogue, and continually challenge the status quo.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee consulted with over 60 agencies and organizations in our service regions that are working with underserved populations and committed to inclusion work. They shared questions and learnings regarding recruitment, and formed partnerships in which we exchange resources with our mutual audiences. 

The Commitment made: Make camp more inclusive and safe for all campers and staff. 

We developed trainings for before and at camp that bring awareness and tactical suggestions to support the diverse identities of our campers and staff:

  • Racial-identity training: At our Directors Retreat in April, we invited Drs. Chanika R. Perry and Lance W. Ozier of Conversation Forward to facilitate a diversity training workshop for our program and clinical directors. They focused on beginning or continuing one’s own healthy racial identity development and educated on healthy engagement in conversations about race with their peers and campers. 
  • LGBTQIA+ and identity training: We also invited our Clinical Director from Experience Camps, Allison Crooks, and Sr. Marketing Manager, Jesse Moss, to provide a workshop session at the Directors Retreat on LGBTQIA+ and Identity. In this workshop, directors gained a general understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community and the mental health impacts of exclusionary social practices on our LGBTQIA+ youth; they were provided with concrete strategies for creating an actively inclusive space for all of our campers and staff. 

Both of these workshops will also be included in our training for staff and volunteers this summer. 

We continue to eliminate financial barriers to camp by ensuring that it remains free and that every single camper has access to all of the items needed for camp (such as clothing, toiletries, swimsuits, etc.). We educate staff in best practices to make sure the kids who need these resources are able to receive them without fear of judgment.  

The Commitment made: Educate the public on how to support BIPOC grieving children.

We have been educating our community and the greater public about how to better support the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ population around grief, and have written and published several original blog posts, including:

The Commitment made: Grow diversity of identities, perspectives, and voices within our board, staff, and volunteers to reflect the demographic make-up of our campers. 

Last year, we developed a Youth Advisory Board made up of pre-teen and teen campers of various races and ethnic backgrounds. Each month, they share insights with us on camp, new program initiatives, and their personal reflections on grieving. This allows us to make sure we are hearing from the wide variety of young voices we serve, allowing us to continue learning how to best support them.

Our program design and communications reflect our culture, values, and learnings in creating safe, inclusive spaces for all members of our community. We are dedicated to being a part of the solution by listening, learning, asking questions, and engaging in difficult conversations for as long as it takes.