Thessalon, Ontario — Harry Stewart and Chris Southin, co-founders of Rainbow Camp, have been chosen to receive the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Award for their dedication in providing support to 2SLGBTQ+ youth. Located just east of Sault Ste. Marie, Rainbow Camp was established in 2012 as a one week-camp for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and has grown to hosting four-weeks of camp that offer a variety of activities to over 200 youth between 12-17 years old. The camp develops unique, interactive programming focused on arts, outdoor activities, education and activism.
“Our intention for starting Rainbow Camp was to provide a supportive and safe environment for youth to be themselves, to forge long-lasting connections and to allow youth to be who they are and who they want to be,” said Stewart. “The camp continues to evolve, and we are excited to see what the future of Welcome Friends Association and Rainbow Camp holds.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rainbow Camp has moved to a virtual setting to continue to provide programming and support to this vulnerable community. The online programming benefits 2SLGBTQ+ youth by giving them a safe community to meet new friends, be themselves, and share their experiences. Moving the Camp online has allowed youth from across the world to register for the virtual experience, providing supports and education to a number of youth who may not have been able to access these supports and community otherwise.
The Governor General’s Meritorious Service Award is awarded to Canadians in recognition of their contributions in a variety of different areas from advocacy initiatives and health services to research and humanitarian efforts. Both Stewart and Southin will receive a lapel pin and insignia from the Governor General and will attend a celebration ceremony when COVID-19 allows.
“We were in initial shock when we received the call. It truly made our year,” said Stewart. “We are honoured to receive this award, and the camp would not be where it is today without the help and support from our staff, donors, campers and allies. We are blessed to have built such an amazing, supportive community.”
Rainbow Camp is able to provide supports and programming with the help of donations from generous sponsors and allies. An upcoming virtual fundraising event will take place on Friday, April 2nd at 1:00 p.m. through the Rainbow Camp YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/rainbowcamp.