Discovering a Safe Haven at Girl Scout Camp Robbinswold

Two photos of Zeke growing up through Girl Scout camp.
Girl Scout Camper Zeke growing up through his Girl Scout camp journey.

Girl Scout camp is finally back this year! We’re so excited to see you there for outdoor adventures. As a special pre-camp treat, we spoke with Girl Scout Zeke and his mother, Kara, about their troop camping, resident camp, and LGBTQ+ camp experiences. Their stories provide an especially great perspective for first-time campers, LGBTQ+ campers, single-parent families, campers seeking financial assistance, and campers interested in Camp Robbinswold.

Girl Scouts of Western Washington: How did you get involved in Girl Scouts?

Zeke: I basically joined because my mom was friends with our troop leader, Anita. And it’s fun to meet people!

Kara: My sister did Girl Scouts growing up, and I envied her. I begged my mom to let me join as well, but she told me when I was older, she’d consider it. Unfortunately, things being what they were at the time, I wasn’t able to join.

It was really important to me that Zeke has all the opportunities that Girl Scouts provide, including skill and confidence building, fostering a sense of community and belonging, all while forging relationships with his peers—particularly because he is an only child, and I am a single parent of limited means who wants to give him the fullest life possible.

–GIRL SCOUT PARENT KARA, ON GIVING YOUR KIDS OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW

When Zeke started kindergarten, I realized he was at the age he could join a troop, so I reached out to Girl Scouts of Western Washington (GSWW) to find the nearest one. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one. They put me in touch with another parent, Anita, at our school who had expressed interest in getting her kids involved in Girl Scouts. We were fortunate in that she agreed to help start the troop and be the troop leader. We’re still close friends with Anita and her kids. Our families get together for birthdays and camp experiences. They even joined the troop we transferred to when the kids got older. We are all grateful to GSWW for bringing us together and helping make us lifelong friends.

GSWW: How did you start going to Girl Scout camp?

Zeke: I went to Camp River Ranch first. My troop and service unit went camping and did activities there, and that’s where I decided to go for my first year of summer camp because it’s what I knew.

An illustration of Girl Scout Camp Robbinswold's marine touch tank.
From exploring the world around us to stewarding our environment, explore and learn at Girl Scout Camp! You just might get anime sparkle eyes like camper Zeke!

I eventually went to Camp Robbinswold because it’s on the ocean! Well, the Hood Canal, but close enough! It’s so amazing, with different activities, different themed weeks, and supportive counselors. I love being at the water’s edge, being on the dock, or just looking out at the water. It gives me anime sparkle eyes.

I’ve done programs like Ocean Explorers, Night Owls, and LGBTQ+ Camp. Night Owls was great because, after dark, we got to go to the boathouse and try phosphorus swishing! Everyone else at camp was asleep, and it was pitch black. We took canoe paddles and swished them around in the water. There are these little bioluminescent plankton that lit up when our paddles touched them—it’s so cool!

The touch tank is one of my other favorite parts of camp. It’s on the pier right by the water. I get to feed little bits of meat to different animals, like crabs. When I drop it into the water, they grab it with their claws, and I love watching them eat. I also like showing younger kids the touch tank and getting all excited about it.

ON MAGICAL CAMP MOMENTS WITH CAMPER ZEKE
Three photos of Zeke at Girl Scout Camp.
Zeke at Girl Scout camp making new friends and keeping the old, one is silver, and the other is gold.

Kara: Zeke is like a mini-camp counselor! After going to Robbinswold, he told our troop all about camp. In part because of his excitement and knowledge, the troop decided to make Robbinswold the location of our Mom and Me Camp, which our troop ran as a fundraiser. It was super successful! Zeke really enjoyed showing people around, teaching and giving advice, and telling stories at the campfire that he learned from summer camp.

I wasn’t able to go to summer camp growing up, but the Girl Scouts of Western Washington financial assistance program has made it possible for Zeke. As a single parent, I’m especially grateful for the support. Camp helps our dynamic at home, too. Especially with online school and work, we’re together all the time, and we need some time apart. But more importantly, it gives Zeke a chance to explore his independence, try new things, get to know new people, strengthen existing relationships, learn, and build confidence. Most important, he just gets to be a kid. Zeke and I are both thrilled that he gets to go back to camp again this year, after not being able to during the past two years of the pandemic.

GSWW: How was your experience with LGBTQ+ Camp?

Zeke: I came out as trans in seventh grade. I’ve dealt with some pretty transphobic teachers and policies at school. Outside of camp, I sit in the corner and doodle in the margins. At LGBTQ+ camp, our counselors had us all share our pronouns when we first met. It was amazing! They normalized asking about gender instead of assuming. I knew they’d respect and accept who I am. They wouldn’t think I was faking it, seeking attention, or wrong about my own identity.

At Girl Scout camp, I talk to people. I get to meet people from lots of different backgrounds. We learn about each other and get along with almost everybody. It’s a chance to get away from the pressures of society and meet people who are like-minded. And Robbinswold has things I’m interested in, like marine biology, and nature. We even got to play Dungeons and Dragons one year when my mom sent a kit in my care package. Because of those experiences, I also get to teach and connect with others over things I know or am interested in. One year at camp, I’d exchanged phone numbers with my whole cabin by the end of the week.

Kara: I talked to Haley Peel, the Robbinswold Camp Director, the summer before the very first LGBTQ+ camp. Especially being trans, I worried about Zeke’s safety, both emotional and physical, because the general world doesn’t provide a lot of accepting spaces. I also didn’t know if he/we would still be welcomed in Girl Scouts, and it was a very emotional parting. Haley reassured me that we were not alone, we were still welcome, that LGBTQ+ camp would be a reality the following year, and it would be an intentional safe space for Zeke. While he was at camp, I got updates through the e-mail camp newsletter and a postcard from Zeke talking about how much fun he was having, so I knew without a doubt, he was okay and enjoying himself. I cried with relief and joy.

LGBTQ+ Camp provides a space for kids like Zeke to be safe and belong. It teaches other kids to be good allies. Their counselors and peers model acceptance, welcoming, and appreciation for one another. And it helps parents understand the importance of building an LGBTQ+ safe community for their kids.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF ALLYSHIP AND BELONGING FROM GIRL SCOUT PARENT KARA

I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the space and opportunities this program provides for all the kids that need it. I’m particularly grateful to Haley for their hard work and advocacy as camp director; for making Robbinswold such an accepting and enriching experience, and especially for making LGBTQ+ week happen in the first place; for letting us know camp would always be home for us; for their empathy, professionalism, passion; and for taking the time to invite us back. It is a comfort, a respite, and a privilege to be able to be a part of Camp Robbinswold.

GSWW: What else would you like to share about your camp experiences?

Zeke: I love getting to know the counselors at camp each year. Everyone’s super kind. And now that I’ve been going for a while, I’m a person who gets to help other campers acclimate and show them the way around. It really boosts my confidence and gives me energy.

At camp, I’m so engaged that I can often ignore my chronic pain—and when I can’t, the counselors make accommodations so I can still participate in activities.

ON ACCESSIBLE EXPERIENCES AT CAMP FROM GIRL SCOUT CAMPER ZEKE

During the swim check one year, I initially got no band, meaning I didn’t pass the swim check. The water was really cold, so I didn’t participate. But I decided to push my comfort level and jumped back in to get my blue band, the highest swimmer level. The water was still cold, but the counselors taught us how to stay warm, take care of ourselves, and make it easier. The health house is also very supportive and patient. I made friends with the nurse pretty quickly.

I have so many favorite camp moments. One year, there was a bird’s nest in our cabin rafters, and the baby birds chirping became an enjoyable part of our morning routine. I also vanquished my fear of spiders at camp after having been terrified of them my whole life. One morning I woke with a daddy-long-legs on my arm, and I just flicked it off and went back to sleep. I wasn’t scared at all. And one year, when we went on a mini kayak trip to Primitive Point, a seal followed me most of the way. We called it “Frederick the Seal.” I really enjoy being immersed in nature and learning more about things like marine biology, astronomy, and fire-building.

Kara: Camp is life-altering. It’s been a great antidote for Zeke’s anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and helps him in building positive relationships with adults, peers, and even himself. Zeke normally avoids cameras at all costs, but not at camp. When we drive home after camp, we always stop for ice cream, and Zeke tells me all about what he did, who he met, the adventures along the way. He always comes home happier, excited, and with more energy. In that moment, the harder parts of life just melt away, and we have Girl Scout Camp to thank for it.


Thank you, Zeke and Kara, for talking about camp with us! We hope their stories gave you more insight into the camp experience—and we hope you’ll join us at camp this summer!

Ready for camp? Browse our camp guide to choose your camp program, explore financial assistance options, and register online.

Help make camp possible! Girl Scout Camp relies on donor and volunteer support to provide meaningful programming for campers and families like Zeke and Kara. Find out ways you can help, no matter your resources.

Come to Glamp! At our annual camp fundraiser, hear powerful camp stories, experience camp activities, and win big in our auction—all to make camp experiences accessible for all. For the first time since 2019, Glamp will return to Camp River Ranch with overnight experiences available on September 16-18, 2022. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind event!

Have a question about camp? Please reach out to Customer Care at 1(800) 542-9852 or customercare@girlscoutsww.org.

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