Archived Outdoors

Nonprofit forms to teach survival skills during summer camp

out frThe wilderness is where one can find peace and clarity while also finding inner strength and determination. 

That is the basis for Radical Inclusion, a new nonprofit formed by Waynesville couple Nicole Taylor and Jess Dunlap to provide an affordable summer camp experience for youth while teaching them survival skills.

“If you know how to walk into the woods and survive, that is empowering,” Dunlap said. “And then later when you’re faced with any other tough situation, you’re able to tell yourself, ‘If I can survive in the woods, I can definitely get through this.’ Having that kind of knowledge is comforting.”

That self-reliance and confidence can especially be comforting for kids who are typically ostracized in school — and those are the kids Taylor and Dunlap want to reach. The weeklong camp is geared toward school-age children 10-17 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. 

There are more LGBTQ youth in Western North Carolina than most care to acknowledge, and many of those students may not feel comfortable attending the typical summer camp with hundreds of other kids. Taylor said summer camps are quick to split activities into gender stereotypical activities — girls gets to participate in drama classes and arts and crafts while the boys partake in more adventurous outdoor activities.  

“I know I didn’t feel right at camp — there was so much heteronormal activity,” Dunlap said. 

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Radical Inclusion’s mission is to break away from those stereotypes and teach kids how to start a fire, use a compass, set up a tent and more. 

“It seems like kids are just staying inside playing video games all the time,” Taylor said. “We feel like we need to bring them back into nature.”

While Radial Inclusion is not a Christian-based nonprofit, Dunlap said it was her Christian faith that helped her come up with the name. She and Taylor want to be inclusive of everyone, especially those who are normally excluded from society. 

“This is a very Christian concept — Jesus was radically inclusive of everyone,” Dunlap said. “Christian conservatives — many of which I’m friends with — have done a lot to push queers away from the church, but I want to create some atonement.”

As a member of the LGBTQ community, Dunlap is somewhat of an anomaly. She could be described as socially liberal but she’s also a Christian who is a strong Second Amendment advocate and is the leader of the local Haywood County Libertarian Party. She encounters a lot of anti-gay rhetoric from the conservative circles she runs in but said she probably gets more pushback about her personal beliefs from the LBGTQ community. But she thinks her connections on both sides of the issue will allow her to build some bridges. 

“People who think queer people are so weird or different — I feel like I can change their perception,” Dunlap said. 

Dunlap and Taylor both have plenty of experience needed to run a weeklong summer camp for kids. Taylor was an active Girl Scout for 13 years and has worked as a counselor at summer camps for many years. She also has a degree in social work from Western Carolina University. 

Dunlap has been a children’s court advocate with the Guardian ad Litem program for three years and is a certified mediator. She also has plenty of outdoor experience that will prove helpful out in the woods. 

“My mom has been taking us hiking since we could walk. I went on a week-long backpacking trip when I was 12 — that was my first camp experience and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” Dunlap said. “I’ve been enamored with the outdoors since — that’s my church, it’s where I find God.”

The first Radical Inclusion camp will be held in August, and since Taylor and Dunlap are trying to cover the entire cost for campers, only three campers will be participating in the first program. The cost of lunches, backpacks, water bottles and activities will all be provided. Activities will include a day tubing on the French Broad River after learning about water conservation from Haywood Waterways Association, a day in Cherokee learning about Cherokee culture and visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Village and seeing a production of “Unto These Hills,’ and a day in the woods after learning about Leave No Trace. 


Fundraising for the cause

Liability insurance is the single biggest expense for Radical Inclusion. Dunlap and Taylor need to come up with more than $1,000 for the insurance policy, but they’re holding a unique fundraiser to make it happen. 

While traveling overseas for two months this past winter, Taylor and Dunlap were discussing ways to raise money for their summer camp. They decided to buy a hundred pair of beautiful, handmade pants in India to ship back home. At $20 apiece, they only need to sell 53 pairs to pay for the insurance. If they can sell more, the additional money can go toward the other camp costs. 

But 10 percent of proceeds raised will be going back to India to help Animal Aid Unlimited — a credible nonprofit that rescues street animals, which is a huge problem in India with stray dogs, cats, monkeys and even cows wandering the streets. 

So far, Radical Inclusion has raised $500 toward its goal. If you would like to purchase a pair of pants or just make a donation, contact Dunlap at 828.476.1465 or visit the Radical Inclusion Facebook page.



Mission statement: 

Instilling an appreciation for Nature through theoretical education and hands-on learning.

Empowering students by teaching them how to survive and thrive in a wilderness setting.

Educating students about the history of Western North Carolina.

Prompting students to use their new knowledge for improving the environment, their communities, and themselves.


Radical Inclusion Day Camp Agenda:

• Day 1 — Education on Leave No Trace (LNT) before a hike into the woods. 

• Day 2 — Learning how to use a compass and trekking out to Cataloochee to use the new skill. 

• Day 3 — Eric Romaniszyn from Haywood Waterways Association will come talk about the importance of water conservation followed by a tubing adventure.

• Day 4 — Learn how to build a shelter and take a hike for the purpose of building a shelter in the woods. Identify native plants and birds and afterward, learning how to tie useful knots.

• Day 5 — Recap the week and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Discuss the impact of volunteering and how being a volunteer makes one an invaluable asset to the community. The group will then do volunteer work in the community before heading to Cherokee to learn about the native people of Western North Carolina.

For more information, call Jess Dunlap at 828.476.1465.

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