The First Summer: Taproots Campers Attend Mini Session

The First Summer: Taproots Campers Attend Mini Session

By Liz Stevens, Camp Walden director and Taproots board member

They stepped off the camp bus on June 26 as veteran Walden campers. The eight returning Taproots Campers had already participated in a Taproots Mini-Week the previous summer. They’d sung with Peggy around a campfire in the Pit and played tether ball at the B7 pole. Everyone was a little anxious about how the children from Flint would adapt to “regular” camp: Would they feel welcomed and embraced? Or would economic and racial differences be insurmountable? Twelve days later we had our answer: It worked. Walden, Taproots, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Flint had begun the process of creating a more inclusive, equitable, and safe neighborhood for children of color at our camp. The kids’ stories, their families’ feedback, and our own eye-witness accounts proved it.

All but two of the campers who returned for the Mini Session in 2023 were in the same camper cabin. They all developed new friendships, explored new activities, and created memories that enriched everyone at camp. And many of them will be back in 2024.

There have been – and will be – challenges on this journey to a diverse camp community. This year’s scholarship campers (11 in total!) succeeded in part because of the childrens’ own resilience and desire. But the burden was on Walden to create the space to allow that to happen.

Before camp started—for more than a year, in fact—we talked. A lot. There were long-overdue pre-camp trainings on microaggressions, seminars about institutional racism and its impact on overnight camping, and a lot of listening to people of color describing their camp and life experiences. These investments of time, expense, and (especially!) emotional vulnerability were key. Assuring that Walden staff understand the stakes of partnering with Taproots, and put in the pre-work, will be vital to moving forward.

Today, however, what matters most is how camp changed these Taproots campers and how they changed camp. The ripple effect is strong! We hope you’ll be part of growing Taproots’ reach and the beautiful results of its success for years to come.