photo of teens jumping off of a dock at summer camp
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July 4, 2022

2 mins read


Rainbow Camp looking to equip 2SLGBTQ+ youth with lifesaving skills

Every summer, Welcome Friend Association, an Energizing Life recipient, hosts Rainbow Camp – a safe space that honours creativity, individual choice, social justice and teaches lifesaving skills like water safety.

Mallory and Cal want campers attending Rainbow Camp to make a splash.

With camp season right around the corner, they’re excited to offer swimming lessons and water safety programs to 2SLGBTQ+ youth in Ontario. As part of Rainbow Camp’s Active Outdoors programming, camp goers will also learn other outdoor safety elements, like fire building and survival skills, canoeing and compass navigation.

“Trans and non-binary youth typically stop learning how to swim when they’re coming out or transitioning,” says Mallory, program co-director at Welcome Friend Association. “Body dysphoria is a major factor, and they end up missing out on learning a vital life skill.”

The goal at Rainbow Camp is to teach 2SLGBTQ+ youth in a safe and inclusive environment and build confident swimmers.

“The inclusivity aspect allows trans youth to learn so they feel comfortable having the skills to not only save themselves but others, too,” Cal, the program co-director at Welcome Friend Association adds. “Hopefully, they’ll eventually want to come back to Rainbow Camp and work as lifeguards.”

Drowning happens silently and quickly

According to the Lifesaving Society, approximately 160 people drown in Ontario every year. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under five years old, and children under 12, boaters, young men, and seniors 65+ are at the greatest risk.

As the warmer weather rolls in, and Ontarians head to the beach or neighbourhood pools, now is a great time to brush up on water safety. Drowning can happen quickly and silently. The good news is drowning death is preventable with proper water safety knowledge. It is important that young children are always supervised in and around any body of water.

photo of a child wearing a life jacket sitting on a dock

Water safety tips to keep you and your family safe:

  1. Learn how to swim. Find swimming and water safety lessons that are available in your city.
  2. Never swim alone.
  3. Do not leave children or non-swimmers unattended.
  4. Mixing water and alcohol is a dangerous combination. Avoid drinking alcohol while swimming or operating boats, sea-doos, etc.
  5. Learn Swim to Survive — these are the minimum skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. The three basic survival skills are Roll into deep water: Tread water for one minute, and Swim for 50 metres.

Giving campers a lifetime experience

Rainbow Camp is all about building custom experiences for all participants and allowing them to select sessions and activities from the Educational and Activism or Artistic Endeavours streams.

The Energizing Life Community Fund is making it possible for Welcome Friend Association to provide 250 2SLGBTQ+ youth the opportunity to attend camp — an increase of 87% since the last time in-person camp was held in 2019.

“The entire team at Rainbow Camp is feeling an overwhelming sense of joy,” Cal adds. “They’re all trained and ready to go. We’re ready to finally connect in person with our campers without the barrier of a screen.”

Welcome Friend Association |