Impact Stories

Truly Included

From family tradition to personal experience, learn about Tatum’s transformative camp experience.

Tatum Braaten comes from a family of Flathead Lake UM Campers, and says basically she came to camp because her dad did. He stayed friends with other people who were very connected to camp, and through that Tatum headed to camp, too, when she was going into 6th grade. She didn’t know anyone else at that point, instead of going with family or friends, or a group from church, she was going as someone who wasn’t already connected to other kids at camp. Despite that, Tatum says “I remember everyone included me even though they had their friend groups from previous years. Everyone was really welcoming and I remember having a really good time.”

She continued to attend camp through Middler, and by that time there was a pretty large group attending from Great Falls. But she didn’t just spend her time at camp with people from back home. “It was still fun to see those people who I was friends with from years before. We didn’t just hang out with the people we already knew from home.”

Tatum says she always enjoyed attending camp and wanted to give back. She intended to be a counselor ‘someday’ but a dean of Rising Leaders snagged her for that program and got Tatum started helping at Tween Camp. It was another way of connecting with both counselors and people her own age and younger.

When asked what she finds at camp that is unique she says “just the acceptance from everyone, everyone includes everyone and you don’t ever feel left out or like you don’t belong.” At school and outside of camp she feels like people don’t necessarily want to break out of their friend groups, they already have their friends and don’t really seek out new friendships, whereas at camp everyone is working to make connections with each other, no matter what their previous relationships were, or not.

Those lessons at camp have led Tatum to try to treat people the way she would at camp. She says even if she doesn’t know someone very well she tries to include them and make them feel like a part of the group. This is the biggest lesson she has learned so far at camp, and one she is grateful to be able to take out into the world as she graduates from high school.