BIG BEAR, Calif. (KABC) -- The Laurel Foundation is an organization that has been empowering transgender and gender diverse youth of Southern California for the past 29 years.
Non-binary teen Marty Triplett has struggled to find and express their true self
"I went through a really dark time where you know I felt like giving up," said Triplett. "I always just felt so alone, 'cause I never really like knew what I was and I didn't have the vocabulary for it, and I'm very grateful for Camp Laurel for like, helping me understand and truly like, find myself."
Marty attends camp with the Laurel Foundation in Big Bear. It has served the Southern California community by empowering transgender and gender diverse youth and also youth and families affected by HIV and aids through educational camp experiences. The camp allows the members, who are often discriminated against by the peers in a typical classroom setting, an opportunity to be themselves. It is viewed as a safe place where everyone can be their authentic selves.
Right now the Laurel Foundation serves more than 700 children and their families in Southern California. One of those campers was Lisa Hardiman, who went to Camp Laurel starting at age 7. Hardiman grew up affected by AIDS. Someone in her home growing up had AIDS. She now gives back to the foundation as a volunteer administrator.
"Just because other people who are uneducated or unaware of what being affected or infected by the disease means, you know that no longer had control over my life," said Hardiman.
Marty's mom, Erin, believes it's important for all parents to support their children as they find their identity early on in life, saying "Just constantly whispering in their ear 'I love you no matter; what we're gonna all do this together. We're gonna all get through this together.' I think that's the most important thing. Letting them know that you love them no matter what."