Mission & History
Our mission is to provide a safe, welcoming space for transgender and gender diverse youth to be themselves in a positive, supportive, youth-focused environment.
In the summer of 2016, Ann’s grandson and JodiLyn’s daughter each came home from an overnight camp wishing there was a camp for trans teens in Ohio. Not long after, Ann stood up at a support meeting and asked if anyone else was interested in making this dream happen alongside her. JodiLyn raised her hand immediately, excited to find a collaborator in the gender-affirming summer camp she had already been thinking about. They both saw the need for trans and gender diverse teens to have space to be themselves and connect with an affirming community of their own. Ann and JodiLyn were soon joined by JodiLyn's child AJ, papers were filed, and under our parent organization, Gendersphere, a camp was born!
They searched for the perfect place to rent for the first year, and found a home for camp in Northeast Ohio. A youth advisory board was formed to help determine what trans teens wanted from an overnight camp, and even though it was small, Camp Lilac 2017 was a huge success. That first year, camp ran for two weeks and held 16 campers. Even though many schools started in the second week of camp, campers called home and many parents allowed their campers to stay at camp, finding it more important for them to be with the community than at the first few days of school!
The second year there were 26 campers, and we returned to the same location. Camp Lilac drew campers that year not only from Ohio, but from some of the surrounding states. One camper came on a bus from Michigan! We were excited to see the word spreading to more teens who could benefit from the supportive environment camp offers.
The pandemic hit in 2020, and Camp Lilac pivoted to a virtual program. Faced with a whole new host of challenges, our team got to work figuring out how to bring connection and community when we couldn’t be together in person. Many hours were spent by volunteers making sure each of our 36 campers were shipped a box of camp goodies. Ready with their snacks, art supplies, yarn, decoratable t-shirts, and more, our community adapted great to our 2020 and 2021 online sessions. It was special to be together in a time when it wasn’t possible to gather safely in person.
Everyone was quite pleased to be back in person (with great care, planning, vaccinating, and testing) in 2022. Camp Lilac expanded to two weeks, and while the first week was in our original home in Northeast Ohio, the second week was held in West Central Ohio. Both weeks were amazing and everyone had a wonderful time. There were 123 total camper participants as well as more than 50 staff - that is around 10 times the size from our beginning!
Due to this tremendous growth, we no longer fit in our original space, and in 2023, we spent two weeks in West Central Ohio, joined by over 150 campers. We look forward to hosting two weeks in West Central Ohio once again in 2024.
From Ann’s question at a support group over six years ago, a unique community of support and joy has grown and is thriving! Our dream is to run camp all summer and programming all year for trans and gender diverse teens in a space of our own! Welcome to Camp Lilac!