Today’s blog post comes from Josiah Benedict, the Program Coordinator for Total Inclusion: 

Total Inclusion was launched in 2020 after some lead up work by the ELCA and Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM). An ELCA program with a deep partnership with LOM, Total Inclusion is completely funded by a grant from the Margaret A Cargill Philanthropy (MACP) organization. The goal of Total Inclusion is to enrich the lives of youth from traditionally marginalized groups by creating a welcoming and safe experience for them at ELCA affiliated camps.

Total Inclusion identified three main groups to focus on: People who identify as LGBTQIA+, People of Color, and People with Disabilities. Total Inclusion has furthered these goals by creating materials to educate and prepare camp staff, hosting symposiums aimed at camp leadership to affect camp programming and culture from the top down, and giving out over a half million dollars in sub grants to camps so that they have the resources to move forward with their goals. To make sure that this program is properly guided, we have included representation from all of our target groups in our advisory committee, speakers/presenters, and in the future will include a diverse team looking over our grant awards.

Total Inclusion has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Disability Ministry advisory team, using members and recommendations from the team as speakers and committee members throughout the life of the program. Our symposiums for camp leadership and board presidents included a workshop lead by members of, or people recommended by, the Disability Ministry team, and brought a voice and perspective to the table that can sometimes be missed. Topics and grant ideas included many suggestions and changes to the physical space of camps, as well as adaptive equipment, sensory aids, and a broader look at the attitude and approach that camps have when including people with diverse abilities and needs.

Even despite the pandemic, many camps have moved forward with Total Inclusion related changes. Around a dozen camps in the LOM system have made adaptations or changes to their camps to make them more accessible for people with mobility challenges. This has included more accessible ramps, bathrooms, and updates to medical centers. Total Inclusion has been thrilled to hear about projects such as Camp Lutherlyn’s Universal Access Trail, a boardwalk style trail that allows more people to experience a larger part of the camp.

As Total Inclusion moves forward with its program we will continue to work on making camp accessible and welcoming for all people, with a key focus on programming and accessibility that allows all campers to be included, rather than separated out.