Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services

Elise Hessel

Grade 11 student and Camp fYrefly participant 
William Aberhart High School

Elise and her parents first heard about Camp fYrefly through a cousin that worked at iSMSS. After doing some research, she looked forward to connecting with other young people going through the same thing she was, never imagining that these people would become some of her closest friends.

“After enduring everyday bullying and harassment as an LGBT teen, camp taught me not only how to cope, but to become resilient. It was comforting to know that I wasn't alone. I have family and friends who love me for who I am, but it's just not the same as being around people who can truly empathize with coming out and dealing with those consequences,” Elise shares.

Through letters, phone calls, Facebook chats, and visits she still keeps connected with the support system she has found. Camp fYrefly participants, aged 14-25, attend up to three workshops a day, talking about LGBTQ topics, using art as expression, and learning how to deal with bullying. It empowers youth, like Elise, to stand up for themselves and be proud of who they are.