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  • Writer's pictureGail Bowen

Camp fYrefly

During the 1950’s, I was a student at a private girls’ school in Toronto. When we became of dating age, we went out with the boys from one of the boys’ private schools. As I remember it, the arrangements were fairly loose. If there was a dance or a private party, one of the boys would ask one of us and if he didn’t get the girl of his choice, he would keep asking until somebody was available. We all knew who’d asked who and who’d rejected who. I never minded being third or fourth choice as long as I got to go to the dance. (This trait has, incidentally, served me well in my professional life.)

At any rate, at one point or another most of the boys in our circle had dated most of the girls. Jimmy was one of the circle, but he never asked us girls out. He wasn’t shy. In fact, he was a life of the party guy – a redhead who played great trumpet. One day he committed suicide. He was fourteen years old. I asked the boy who I happened to be going out with what had happened, and he said, “Jimmy was a fairy”. Reason enough, it seemed. I don’t remember ever speaking of the matter again.

Many years later I thought of Jimmy when Tony Bidulka, a fine mystery writer and a pretty terrific human being, and I were signing books together at McNally Robinson’s in Saskatoon. Tony and I were talking about the fact that he and his long-time love, Herb, had been married the year before. Tony and Herb had asked guests to donate money to Camp fYrefly instead of bringing a wedding gift, and they’d been amazed and touched at the generosity of their friends.

The website for Camp fYrefly describes it as “a national leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-identified, two spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning and allied youth.” The camp allows youth to develop the leadership skills necessary to live with dignity and to help their family, peers and community understand that when it comes to sexuality, one size does not fit all.

It’s a terrific idea.

For close to twenty years now, I have been auctioning character names in my books to support causes I believe in. I believe in Camp fYrefly. If you’re interested in learning more about Camp fYrefly or in buying a character name in my next Joanne Kilbourn novel (working title “Kaleidoscope”) please go to I promise your character won’t be a bad guy and won’t come to a bad end. There are three other terrific auction options, so it may be time to cash in your pop bottles and have a little fun.

The website for Camp fYrefly says that one of the purposes of the Camp is to help kids replenish their “fYrefly fuel so they can keep their inner light shining bright during dark times.” I wish the Camp had been around for Jimmy.

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