Ontario’s Rainbow Camp is laughing all the way to the bank this week after receiving a $100,000 windfall thanks to comedian Colin Mochrie, who recently won the cash in a comedy game show.
Welcome Friend Association Rainbow Camp is a summer camp in Thessalon, Ontario. specifically for LGBTQ2S+ teens. They provide a safe space for teens to be themselves and have a great summer at camp. After two years without an in-person camp due to the pandemic, the financial boost came at the right time.
Rainbow Camp was founded by Chris Southin and Harry Stewart in 2012, when they hosted 14 campers at United Church Camp McDougall for a week. With their return to in-person camping this year, they will host six weeks of camp, plus a trip. “There are definitely enough kids to keep us growing for a long time,” Stewart said. “It’s just a matter of reaching them.” Camp staff focus on creating a welcoming and holistic atmosphere, and say it’s different even from “regular” camps that welcome all types of people. “Coming to a place where everyone is in this together makes a huge difference,” Stewart said. Staff have received letters from parents saying their children have come like caterpillars and gone like butterflies, with huge changes in their confidence after only a week away.
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Colin Mochrie and his wife Debra McGrath have supported the camp since the mid-2010s and act as national spokespersons. Their daughter Kinley is transgender. “It’s such a good camp for these kids to go there with confidence that they won’t be intimidated, they can totally be who they are,” Mochrie said.
Mochrie recently appeared as a contestant on a new Amazon Prime game show “Last One Laughing.” The show challenges a group of comedians not to laugh in the face of all kinds of surprises. “Staying focused for six hours without laughing was tough,” recalls Mochrie. “They were funny people, and when comedians get together, there’s a lot of laughs.”
Each comedian performed for a chosen charity, Mochrie for Rainbow Camp. He kept a straight face the longest and was crowned the winner at the end of the six-episode series. The final episode aired on March 4, and Rainbow Camp staff scheduled an online watch party, but the kudos started rolling in before they started playing. “It was pretty amazing,” Stewart said. “Like a firework going off.”
The camp welcomes children from all over the country and abroad (including one from Saudi Arabia this year). Southin has a motto: no child is ever turned away due to financial hardship. Subsidies are therefore common, with more than half of campers receiving financial assistance. With that and the expansion of programming this year, the prize money puts a welcome dent in the camp’s $400,000 fundraising goal.
And how to immortalize the comedian who got them the money? “I’m thinking maybe a statue of me in front,” Mochrie said.
Kate Spencer is a writer in Halifax.
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