Silver Lake Camp and Retreat Center Adds All-Gender Cabins
March 15, 2022
By Drew Page
Silver Lake Camp and Retreat Center (SLCRC) is offering all-gender cabin options for the 2022 Summer Camp Season. The new all-gender cabins will feature a private changing area to provide comfort for all campers in the cabin.
Silver Lake has a long history of working to offer campers the experience of being loved for who they are, affirming and celebrating all gender identities and expressions. Through staff and volunteer training and honoring cabin assignment requests, the retreat center has been intentional in widening their welcome.
But some families have expressed that they did not feel fully welcomed by the practice of separating campers by genders in sleeping accommodations.
"We ended up creating an environment that is not fully welcoming of campers who aren't either male or female," said Jennifer Kronholm Clark, Program Director for Silver Lake. "The all-gender cabin option is intended to include ALL genders -- male, female, nonbinary, trans -- and gives every camper a space where they can fully belong."
The specific details of what the all-gender cabins will look like are still being planned, but Kronholm Clark says the camp is considering both prefabricated pop-up changing tents, custom built privacy stalls, or a combination of the two. The plan is to offer at least one all-gender cabin in each conference during the summer. With two changing areas per cabin group, the camp will be creating at least 8 new changing spaces.
Some of the cost of the new changing spaces has been covered by a generous donation from the Rocky Hill Congregational Church in Rocky Hill, CT. The church donated $1500 to be used for the changing stalls. In addition, the church has promised another $1500 to support a Pride Family Day to be held at Silver Lake at a future date. These gifts were part of an ongoing discussion at Rocky Hill on ways they can share God's love to make a difference in the world.
Rev. Nada Sellers is the pastor of the Rocky Hill church. She says this partnership sends an important message.
"For Rocky Hill, in partnership, to seize this opportunity and make a commitment to on-going, dedicated resource development for rainbow community at Silver Lake means we are hoping to send a strong message about how God’s extravagant love is poured out on all people, for every sort of person, and most especially all our children and youth. Our denomination as well as our camp ministry shares this message, and we feel an urgent desire to help Silver Lake develop programs which further this holy work," she said.
Amber Dawn Novotney recently attended the Silver Lake Dean's Retreat where the summer deans learned about the new cabin options.
"In a world where growing up is already so difficult, the feeling of not fitting in or finding a safe space causes distress," said Novotney. "This shift in cabin offerings provides a needed respite to our youth, and fully embraces our UCC values and Open & Affirming covenants. Kids should not have to hide who they are, especially not while exploring who they are. This is the first step into making a safer world for all gender identities: campers, staff and volunteers."
On March 11-12, a group of Counselors in Training were able to experience the first all-gender cabin arrangement as a trial run of the concept during their training retreat at Silver Lake. According to some of the feedback received from the CITs, the experience was a good one.
"I really enjoyed having an all-gender cabin, and hope Silver Lake continues it," wrote Sydney Young.
Another camper, who remained anonymous, said the experience was better than they expected because it "wasn't uncomfortable because of the fact that we didn't change in the cabin."
Kronholm Clark stated the camp is still offering the traditional single-gender cabin options for those who want that experience.
"It can also be an empowering experience to be able to opt-in to a single-gendered space that matches your gender identity. As we approach the summer, I encourage any families with questions or concerns to reach out to me. We really do want every camper to feel fully welcomed at Silver Lake."
She has planned two online parent information session for those who wish to learn more about the new all-gender cabin option: