What Vegan Ice Cream Can Teach Us About Changing the World

by Nora Kramer

Once a year, Ben & Jerry’s celebrates Free Cone Day, where they give out free ice cream all day long. The line of people waiting for ice cream is around the block.

For years on that day, when I lived in San Francisco a few blocks from the Ben & Jerry’s on Haight Ashbury, a group of local vegan activists and I wheeled out a TV and VCR (yup) out front of the ice cream shop, showing all those people waiting for ice cream footage of the horrific cruelty happening to cows on dairy farms.



courtesy of FARM

A lot of us took the day off from work each year to do it.
We gave out hundreds of samples of delicious vegan ice cream we bought at the health food store down the street with our own money. (This was before the amazing VegFund came along to fund activists giving out vegan food samples).

We passed out leaflets about the benefits of vegan eating, and we got people to sign a petition (on pieces of paper that I mailed to Ben & Jerry’s corporate (this was years before the Change.org petition that got almost 30,000 people to sign) asking them to add vegan flavors.

Those days were inspiring but frustrating. People waiting in line were appalled by the mistreatment of the cows, loved the vegan samples, and agreed that Ben & Jerry’s should carry non-dairy ice cream, but they weren’t getting out of line for their free dairy ice cream either.

At the end of the day, we, a bunch of activists who called in sick to work to help animals and the environment by using our own money to buy hundreds of strangers vegan ice cream, spent hours on our feet out of our comfort zone talking to hordes of people who were in line for a leisurely ice cream, and we privately wondered if it made a difference.

For years, Ben & Jerry’s ignored activists’ efforts and people’s requests for a vegan option, ignoring all the data about how bad dairy is for the environment while disingenuously marketing itself as eco-friendly and as a wholesome small company, while it is in fact owned by massive multinational soap company Unilever.

Maybe we wasted all that time and effort and heart and money on free vegan ice cream?

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.25.53 AMToday I am reminded how change often happens.


Ben & Jerry’s is launching four incredible-looking flavors of vegan ice cream made from almond milk.

And so the world changes.

There were years of activists trying and trying, dealing with our frustrations about change not happening as fast as we’d like and the injustices and cruelties that continue in the meantime.

There was doubting whether things will ever change, giving ourselves and others pep talks to keep going, trying to stay positive and continue in our activism on this and lots of other causes.

Years of activists making sacrifices, not giving up (and of course there are those who did give up), and continuing to push for change — even in the simple way of getting a leading ice cream company to offer a vegan option that spares cows and has a much smaller ecological footprint — is what causes social change.

Of course, amazing cruelty-free pioneer vegan food companies like Tofutti and So Delicious Dairy Free led the way for the mainstream to follow, introducing all of us, including the people in line for a free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s on Free Cone Day, how delicious vegan ice cream is and how unnecessary it is to involve cows in making our desserts.


And then years later, with no proximate or clearly direct relationship between each activist’s individual efforts and this result today, there’s a win.

“We’ve definitely had a large demand from our consumers to have a non-dairy offering,” Ben & Jerry’s spokesperson Lindsay Bumps said recently.

But she said it years after we spent hours giving out free vegan ice cream and mailing them hundreds of petitions. And then doing it again the next year and the year after that, and all the countless things we all did every day in between and before and since.

That’s because for years Ben & Jerry’s ignored us. And that’s what change sometimes looks like. A social change victory — whether in legalizing gay marriage or the right to vote or raising the minimum wage or a massive ice cream company adding some vegan ice cream flavors — is often like seeing light from a star that was emitted years ago and is no longer there. To mix metaphors, the fruits may come a long time after the labor.

I don’t mean to equate Ben & Jerry’s making vegan ice cream with some type of Berlin Wall coming down. But the massive impact of livestock production on the environment, animals, and human health make this a social justice issue, and expanding the accessibility of vegan items to bring them into the mainstream is critical to reducing our society’s near suicidal dependence on factory farming.

This win is part of a tipping point of related victories on this issue in recent years, even recent days — from dozens of companies implementing major animal welfare reforms in meat and egg production, to Hellman’s following Just Mayo‘s lead by offering a vegan mayo, to Target’s new line of vegan meats, to companies like Wendy’s and Subway incorporating new vegan options.

These wins are all the result of a massive accumulation of years of activists’ efforts. From handing out free vegan ice cream, to donating to nonprofit organizations advocating for corporate reforms, to choosing more vegan meals each day, to handing out leaflets, to giving presentations, to undercover investigations of the cruelties happening on factory farms, to so many other things dedicated people are doing to make a difference, we are cumulatively bringing about change on a massive issue.

It just sometimes takes a while to see the results of it.

As a summer camp for social change, YEA Camp trains young activists to make a difference on social justice issues they care about. We even have a session just for animal advocates. I can tell you these passionate teens want to bring about change NOW.

It can be tough, but we emphasize the need for action amidst the need for patience and faith to keep at it even though change often takes a lot longer than we’d like, and we don’t always see the results of our efforts. It is a tough but important lesson.

To all the activists whose efforts are changing our food system, or any other element of social justice, we hope you’ll acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments by trying out some delicious new vegan ice cream, now available, thanks to so many people’s efforts, at a supermarket near you.

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Teen Activists Across the Country Walk to Save Animals

By Leah Kelly

Every year, thousands of people across North America participate in an incredible mass display of compassion towards farmed animals — some of the most abused on the planet. Farm Sanctuary’s annual Walk for Farm Animals campaign is a hugely successful national fundraiser to support the organization, which works to rescue and rehabilitate mistreated farm animals at its three (soon to be four) farmland sanctuaries in California and New York.

img_4293Anyone who wants to participate can register online and join a “team” with which to walk in one of fourteen different cities across the U.S. and one in Canada.

Because Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp serves vegan food and values animal rights alongside other important social justice issues it trains campers to work on, it’s no surprise that a lot of campers and staff members joined the Walk at locations all over the country.


In a mini reunion, YEA Camp counselor Madeleine Lifsey joined camp director/founder Nora Kramer and former campers (now staff!) Shelby Kim and Jasmine Caruk at the Boston March. They also volunteered to gather signatures for Massachusetts’ ballot initiative for farm animals, which has since qualified to be voted on in November 2016.

A larger YEA Camp reunion took place at the New York Walk for Farm Animals, where campers Ananya Singh, Eva Schenk, Bryn Colodny, Ollie Smith, Lillian Davis-Bosch, Sarah Sciortino, Rachel Gayle, Marcela Cueto and Lori Baccari formed a team that came in third place for amount of money raised, at $1,681.
If that’s not awesome enough, they also got to meet Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur and talk with him about YEA Camp! They leafleted along the way, and even passed out leaflets on the subway after it was over before going out to have vegan lunch.

Ananya recounts, “It was an enjoyable experience, and it helped me learn about the great things Farm Sanctuary is doing, and to meet and educate people about it!” Ananya also won top youth fundraiser for the NYC WFFA.

YEA Campers participated in these walks on the east coast, on the west coast, and in the Midwest.

Claire Tamburello, 18-year-old former camper who this year worked a Counselor In Training at YEA Camp’s New York camp, has been a dedicated animal activist for years, as featured on our YEA Camp blog. She is a regular at Farm Sanctuary walks and raised money and awareness for animals in Grand Rapids, MI.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, former camper Marley Goldman walked in Seattle (joined by her awesome mom Gail) and won first place as the top teen fundraiser at $660! Go Marley!

I myself walked in Hartford and raised hundreds of dollars for farm animals. It was a wonderful experience!

Not only did I get to speak up in the name of animals, but I also got to walk with a group of brilliant animal activists from my own community.

My whole family walked with me, including my dog! By raising over $100, I received a special T-shirt I wore for the walk. Afterwards, we all got to hang out in the park, eat vegan snacks, and listen to a live performance.

What an amazing, heartwarming experience! The compassion shown by these YEA Campers and everyone who marched and fundraised is enormous. Thanks to their dedication and many other kind advocates and donors from across the country, Farm Sanctuary was able to raise nearly $150,000 for farm animals over the course of just a few days.

We can be certain that next fall, YEA Campers will be back on the streets of the largest cities in the country, at it again. For more information on Farm Sanctuary’s life-saving work, visit farmsanctuary.org and check out walkforfarmanimals.org to learn how you can sign up to walk next year!

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 7.26.03 PMThe youth activists mentioned in this article all nurtured and developed their activist passions, skills, and community at Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp, a life-changing summer camp for world-changing teens. If you know of any tween/teen, aged 12-17, who has a passion in activism, whether it be for animal rights, feminism, LGBTQ, racial justice, environmentalism, or any other topic, check out yeacamp.org to find out how to sign up for this week-long camp, held this summer in California, New York and Massachusetts. New York’s session will be a special session just for animal advocates held at the similarly amazing Woodstock Farm Sanctuary! Register by Valentine’s Day 2016 to earn an early-bird discount of $150!

About the author: Leah is a 17-year-old, two-time Youth Empowered Action Camp alum and co-editor of the YEA Blog. She has a special interest in animal rights and has visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, where she made friends with cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and goats!


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Embodying Love: School Club Inspires Positive Body Image and Self Esteem

By Ashley Lytle

12065752_822683717849214_1586552697753881197_nHave you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and seen something you felt was “wrong”? I have, and so have several of my friends. These insecurities can cause depression, eating disorders, anxiety, a lack of self-confidence, and more serious issues. I have friends who starve themselves because they don’t fit this “ideal person” that society has created.

One day I woke up and realized how down I felt. I realized how much I hated who I was and I realized that several people and events had contributed to this mentality that I had developed, a mentality that so many others have developed as well.

12193301_822683697849216_164218977155252171_nI thought about the people in my life, the way they’ve been affected by trying to fit this “ideal” that is unreachable, and the way it has affected my life personally. I started reading about many people who were drawn so deep into depression and who had developed such a low self confidence that they decided life wasn’t worth it anymore.

I realized how easily that person could be my friends or even myself one day if something didn’t change. Then I thought about how our peers and our surroundings help contribute to this negative mindset, and I decided that I wanted to do something about it.

A lot of the people I meet don’t see this to be an issue. I think that’s because of how normal this has become in our society, and that scares me. Something that can cause such harm has become normal. That’s not how it should be.

At YEA Camp, I realized this was the issue of importance I wanted to focus on. I was introduced to an organization called the Embody Love Movement that is dedicated to helping encourage others to love themselves.

embodylove logoOnce I got home, I reached out to the movement, asking to start a club at my school through them. I was put into contact with a woman by the name of Meghan Scanlon, who is a trained facilitator for the Embody Love Movement.

I am now three meetings into this club with 10-12 club members. We are planning on doing a few different campaigns.

12247841_827613367356249_6342753703955435127_oThis year at my school, we will be running a love mirror campaign, working to host a workshop through the Embody Love Movement, and looking into adding a mural at our school promoting loving oneself. The love mirror campaign writes kind phrases such as “you’re beautiful!” or “you’re smart!” on sticky notes. The sticky notes are posted around the edge of the mirror like a border for people to see whenever they see themselves.

12193350_822683784515874_3812565152045714901_nWe’ve only just begun as a club and are still figuring out how to navigate the road ahead of us. If there’s one thing that I’ve figured out through this experience, it’s that loving yourself can be hard when surrounded by a negative environment, even if that environment is made up by those you call your friends.

12088245_822683681182551_5963954805076848507_nMy goal is to help create a safe, nurturing, welcoming environment where everyone can feel free to embrace who they are without the notion of needing to be like the “ideal person.” The truth is, there’s no such thing as the “ideal person.” Everyone is beautiful just the way they are. They’re unique and original; they’re an imperfect perfection. That’s how it should be.

GO ASHLEY! We at YEA Camp are so inspired by your dedication to this important issue! And we LOVE Embody Love Movement! We’re thrilled to have connected you and that you’ve followed through on your action plan from camp!

If you or a teen you know wants to spend the week learning how you can make a bigger difference on the cause you’re most passionate about, while meeting other inspired young people like Ashley, join us at YEA Camp this summer.

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Activism Camp Goes to School

11834743_10153198212076843_4330414582553376277_o (1)

We at YEA Camp think summer is the perfect time for young changemakers to delve deep into learning how to make a big difference on a cause they care about. But with summer still a ways away (though registration for YEA Camp is open!) and way too many issues in the world in need of attention, we are always looking for ways to support more youth in getting active in their communities.

So we were thrilled when an incredible school invited us to teach an intensive 3-day course on effective activism to their 9th and 10th grade students. Um, YES!

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.03.06 PMNueva School, an award-winning and nationally recognized independent school in the Bay Area, “uses a dynamic educational model to enable gifted students to learn how to make choices that will benefit the world.” Each year, Nueva runs an inspiring program called Intersession, where experts are invited to teach mini intensive courses on topics not fully explored in the standard curriculum.

When school administrators asked parents for presenter recommendations, the mom of one of our campers who goes to Nueva recommended us. We are experts on youth activism! 

Turning our 8-day overnight summer camp curriculum into a 6-hour mini course wasn’t easy, but we packed a lot in and of course included some camp favorite games and silliness.

imageEach student chose what we call their Issue of Importance (IOI) and got to think it through and then share with the class what they see as the causes of the problem, some solutions, and some concrete actions people can take on the individual, community, and institutional levels.

While thinking more deeply about an issue they are passionate about, they educated and learned from one another about issues relating to animal rights, poverty, racism, the environment, education, mass incarceration, health care, women’s rights, LGBTQ protections, and more.

photo 2 (2)Students came up with a one-minute elevator pitch with talking points and delivered it over and over and over again to get better at articulating the call to action for a cause they care about.

By the end, they had developed tools to strategically analyze the effectiveness of different actions they could take (weighing estimated difficulty against impact), looked at their own privileges and how that puts people in a unique position to make an impact, and considered what life today would be like if not for the activists who came before us.

Imagine our country today if not for the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, the animal rights movement, and more.

image (2)Our world is so much better off for the countless nameless people who have worked to make our world a better place, and each of us has an opportunity to continue that legacy.

By the end, students created an action plan with a to-do list based on self analysis of the 4 areas of YEA Camp’s curriculum: knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. While the class was just a few days long, we are hopeful that it has an impact for many years down the road.

YEA Camp is so grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with a new batch of young changemakers. We hope some of them join us this summer at YEA Camp to go even deeper in their activism training and to meet other young people who are passionate about making our world a better place. And we’re thrilled to have already been invited back to this remarkable school for next year. Thank you, Nueva!

12346297_1228421993839795_5213586417371298222_nSound like a class you would’ve wanted to take? If you or someone you know are interested in coming to YEA Camp this summer or in inviting us into your school, please register or reach out to us. We’re looking forward to reaching more teens and making a bigger impact in 2016 than ever before.

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Inspired Teens Lead Walk to End Slavery

11059197_988584267849564_111927593829851471_oAll over the country, YEA Campers are doing amazing things. Debunking the stereotype of the apathetic teenager, these young leaders are informed, committed, and taking action to making our world a better place.

When 16-year-old Katy Foley, who attended our Oregon camp this past summer, let us know that she and her Youth Ending Slavery (YES) chapter led a huge crowd of people for a Walk to End Slavery, we asked her to tell us about it, and we’re thrilled to share her story here below. Way to go, Katy!

By Katy Foley


Stereotypically, Portland, Oregon, is known for hipsters, bikers, coffee, and all-around weirdness. However, on one Saturday afternoon, my club members and I took to the city streets, adding another word to this list: activism. With strength in numbers, I helped lead a vocal group, 100 strong, to march in a walk to end modern-day slavery.  The event was convened by Youth Ending Slavery (YES), a student-led organization that I am so honored to work with.

Many people don’t realize that slavery still exists and is a far too prevalent injustice in our world today. This is an atrocity not to be misconstrued as solely an issue of the past or a crime of developing countries. 

There are different forms of slavery today, from workers in the coffee, chocolate, or diamond industries, to young people who are trafficked in the sex trade — something that has become a shocking problem in my area.

11147216_987780344596623_291912515373198843_o (1)Oregon is a state deeply plagued with this injustice. Specifically, Portland is often cited as a city with one of the highest rates of juvenile sex trafficking in the country. This opportunistic crime in the Portland metropolitan area is due to a confluence of issues— this includes Portland’s growing juvenile homeless population, two major highway routes, an international airport, and a high concentration of strip clubs (which is not to say that all strip clubs practice this form of illegal exploitation, but some have been linked to trafficking fronts).

From improving legal and legislative approaches in the decriminalization of trafficking victims (those who have been criminalized and erroneously identified as prostitutes) to a more aggressive strategy that includes prosecuting traffickers, Oregonians have taken action against this injustice in recent years. Citizens, students, and law enforcement are also working to raise awareness and education among both youth and adults by starting organizations like Youth Ending Slavery. I was inspired by efforts like these against a crime that exploits far too many, which inspired me to join YES and to become its outreach director.

12014962_987779471263377_3362998422309339558_o (1)YES is an entirely youth-led nonprofit organization whose mission is to combat modern-day slavery by raising awareness, and, just like YEA Camp, aims to empower and motivate youth to be advocates for change. YES does this through educational speaking engagements, facilitating YES chapters at local high schools, hosting fundraising events for partnered anti-trafficking organizations, and organizing awareness campaigns, such as the Walk to End Slavery.

Championing  the streets, YES and all who walked beside us drew attention of those coffee- drinking, long-bearded Portlanders, voicing their intolerance for the injustice in the words, “Slavery ends with you and me / youth ending slavery!” and demanding “People over profit!”

The walk showcased the importance of awareness, empathy and community in the fight for social change. YES urged its supporters to acknowledge that activism can be a one-person effort, but the contribution of the masses affects greater change– and who better to make this change than young people?

12015007_987777564596901_3626497122848912144_oWhen I had the chance to speak in front of the crowd, I said, “We believe that educating youth about the existence of slavery is crucial because the rising generation has the opportunity and responsibility to create a world in which unjust practices in the name of profit are not tolerated.”

To get involved with YES or learn more about its work,  visit YouthEndingSlavery.org.

Go Katy! 

If you are or someone you know is a teen who is passionate about social justice like Katy is, join us at YEA Camp this summer! You’ll get to be part of an amazing community filled with inspiring people like Katy, find your voice on an issue that’s important to you, and  take your change-making to the next level. And don’t wait. Our early bird discount ends February 1. Find out more or register for YEA Camp here

And follow this blog to read more inspiring stories like this from teens doing amazing things to make our world a better place.

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New Youth Blog Team Showcases Teen Activism

Welcome to the New Year from the YEA Camp Blog Team!

We are very excited to introduce ourselves and the revamped 2016 YEA Camp Blog. Having gained many new campers who bring countless brilliant and unique ideas to the table, YEA Camp is overflowing with passionate voices from young activists.

YEA Camp is a summer camp for social change, and it attracts and trains some of the most inspiring young changemakers on the planet.

This blog is the perfect platform for the stories and accomplishments of these incredible youth to be heard and shared everywhere. We can’t wait for you to read about the amazing things our campers have been doing to change the world!

First, let us introduce ourselves. We three activists are YEA Camp alumni and current YEA Camp Youth Advisory Board Members who were selected by YEA Camp’s Director Nora Kramer to manage and oversee the blog because we love to write and edit. A quick snapshot of each of us:

Leah is 17 years old and lives in West Hartford, CT. She attended the YEA Camp MA 2014 and NY 2015 sessions. Her primary passion is animal rights with an emphasis on vegan lifestyle. She founded and is president of the animal rights club at her school, Coalition for Animal Respect and Equality (CARE). A dedicated vegan, Leah convinced her entire family to go vegan and is working to bring Meatless Mondays to her town. She is a proud PETA supporter and a member of the peta2 Youth Advisory Board. Some of her favorite things to do include writing, filmmaking, playing trumpet, making art and hanging out with her pets.

Danielle is 17 years old and lives outside of Asheville, North Carolina. She attended the YEA Camp California 2015 session. Her primary issues of importance are homelessness and the incorporation of both animal rights recognition and health in a vegan diet. She is an active member in her community, often working with the elderly and those experiencing homelessness. Danielle has helped to coach her friends in becoming more eco-friendly and incorporating plant-based rituals into their diets. In addition, Danielle is an honor-roll student who enjoys running, yoga, hiking, and writing.

Amanda is a senior in high school and lives in Canton, Ohio. She attended the New York session for animal advocates in 2015. She founded and is president of an environmental club at her school, called Saving Our World (SOW). She is passionate about all of the aspects of veganism, from animal rights to human rights and beyond. She is also chair of the tabling committee for the Cleveland Animal Rights Exchange, and a member of the peta2 Youth Advisory Board. Outside of activism and being a dedicated student, Amanda also enjoys playing flute and piccolo, reading, hiking, and yoga.

The three of us came to YEA Camp passionate about animal issues but also care about so many other important issues in our world. We will be working to elevate the voices and accomplishments of a diverse group of YEA Campers across the country who will be telling their inspiring stories about the difference they are making for so many causes that concern young people today.

Nowadays, adolescents tend to be painted in an increasingly negative light by the media. Well, it’s officially 2016 and our New Year’s resolution is to turn that stereotype around.


Five YEA Campers (all too young to vote) passed out leaflets at this Bernie Sanders rally in Oregon.

The YEA Camp Blog is ready to paint many deserving youth with positive recognition. The stories you will read here recount the bold feats of a teen trying to end modern-day slavery, the determined voice of a girl working to erase the stigma of ideal body image in society, the exhilarating experience of a camper who recently attended the COP21 environmental conference in Paris, tips for youth getting involved in politics (who cares that we’re too young to vote?) and so much more. These are just a taste of what’s to come this year in the name of social justice activism – all of which have been accomplished by middle and high school-age YEA Campers – and we know you will be blown away.

Let’s forget everything we thought we knew about what teens do in their free time.

Let’s envision a world where fresh young voices are heard over the rest, rising above societal expectations, prejudice, hate and negativity. Of course, rising above the crowd requires many hands to hold them up; that’s where you all come in. By keeping up with or subscribing to this blog and supporting YEA Camp’s life-changing work, we can help carry these voices of the future up through the clouds and out beyond the stars. Let us take you on a journey you won’t forget.

Best wishes for 2016,

Leah, Amanda and Danielle

YEA Camp Blog Editors


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Help YEA Camp Say YES!

12377951_10154466073269698_8479935516608177302_oHappy holidays, all!

This time of year, as we’ve just announced our dates for next summer, we are already getting scholarship requests from amazing teens around the country, and we want to say YES to all of them.

We are working on an online course for youth activists, teaching a mini course on activism at a Bay Area school, redoing our website, supporting our past campers in their activism, planning for 2016, launching our new camper-led blog, and more – and we are saying YES!

11834743_10153198212076843_4330414582553376277_o (1)But we need your help to say YES to so many wonderful opportunities to support young activists in making a difference.

How can you help? We’re glad you asked! Here’s a few ideas!

  1. You can make a donation! If you can’t afford much, you can even make a monthly donation of a smaller amount, or if you can afford more, even better!
  2. Can’t contribute yourself or want to do even more? Become a YEA Camp Hero and create an online fundraising page for others to donate to. Simply go to this page and click the big “FUNDRAISE FOR THIS CAMPAIGN” button and you’ll instantly have your own fundraising page as a part of our team. Write a bit about why you feel people should donate to YEA Camp and then share the page with as many people as you can!
  3. Make a short video about your experience at or with YEA Camp and share it in your page and on your social media or email! Include a link to your fundraising page. Check out Ananya’s awesome video as an example!
  4. Plan a fundraising event! Some ideas include:
    -A fundraising dinner — invite people to your house for dinner (maybe a simple pasta or a potluck) and charge an entry fee, say $15, to go toward YEA Camp. Give a short talk about YEA Camp and ask people to give, and you can raise even more money!
    -A garage sale, with the proceeds going to YEA Camp
    -A bake sale, of course – yum!
    -A volunteer-a-thon – get people to pledge to donate money towards your volunteer efforts and donate it to YEA Camp! It could be a run, volunteering at your local shelter, or anything else that inspires you.

Your donation is a way to pay what you got out of YEA Camp forward and helps so much to support and grow our YEA Camp community!

With so much gratitude for all of you who have helped YEA Camp make a big impact for so many young leaders,

Nora + Team YEA Camp

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