Ok, ok, ok…I know it was cheesy, cliché, and perhaps a bit punny, but does that make it any less true? While I’m not quite old enough to remember Stonewall, I have many friends that do. Most of us have heard the stories. The history of our community is littered with all many of horror stories detailing the obstacles and tribulations of a culture desperately struggling for acceptance. From riots in the streets of New York to the assassination of Harvey Milk, from the hateful words of Anita Bryant to the protests of Westboro Baptist church, if there is one thing we can all agree on – we’ve seen our fair share of ugliness. As a community, we tend to dwell on that ugliness; it serves as a fuel for our movement, but I find that more and more we are seeing a change in attitudes toward the LGBT community. We have witnessed the passing of a plethora of positive LGBT legislation, the end of discriminatory laws like DOMA and Proposition 8, and the growth of this country toward true equality. Are we finished? No. Is there room for more growth? Always. But…no matter how you slice it…we’ve come a very long way in a short period of time.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter, the founders of R Family Vacations. For the last decade, Gregg and Kelli have been planning and promoting vacations for LGBT couples, their children, extended family, and friends. They provide positive experiences that allow LGBT families to just ‘be themselves.’ With venues both domestic and abroad, more than 15,000 guests have benefitted from their hard work and dedication. This year they chose Wonder Valley Ranch Resort, here in the Central Valley of California, as their venue. This reporter is pleased to report that they have had an amazing experience.
“The [Wonder Valley Ranch] resort staff has been awesome. Everyone has been kind and friendly,” Kaminsky stated. “It just needs to be said. They deserve to be recognized for it.” Given the Central Valley is known for its conservative attitude toward LGBT rights, this is profound-a testimony to where we are headed as a people. His business partner, Kelli Carpentar told me, “[The staff] has been present for several of the educational programs. They were listening and participating.” I was also surprised to learn from them that they have met very little resistance in planning these vacations and have experienced only one protest in the last 10 years.
Each vacation offers unique opportunities for LGBT families to grow and experience life together. This week has been no different. Guests have been able to participate in a variety of activities including: horseback riding, swimming, fishing, archery, and yoga- all offered by the resort. The Family Equality Council provides R Family Vacations with programs and presentations to educate people on the issues that face LGBT families in this country. In addition, R Vacations provides their own entertainment including a piano bar, dances, singing, and special guests, like LGBT comedian Alec Mapa. Stephen Botte, a veteran vacationer with R Vacations shared with me an experience he had while visiting with his son Francesco. “There was a dance last night, and all these kids were just having a great time. It was very emotional for me to see all of them so happy and enjoying themselves.” Isn’t that what a good vacation is all about? Cindy Bokitch and Julie Drzymala are among the guests, celebrating their 9th year with R Family Vacations. Cindy told me, “We love being able to do this, because I get to hear my kids ask some amazing questions. They’ll say, ‘Do you have two dads or two moms?’ or ‘Were you adopted or invetro?’ I just think it’s great that they can do that and feel normal doing it.” Cindy and Julie gave high praise not only to R Family Vacations, but also to the resort. “Everyone has been just great to us. So loving and interested and kind.”
Gregg and Kelli both relayed to me the truth behind their business. “It’s not just about providing families with a good vacation,” Kaminsky said. “It’s about creating opportunities to educate and grow.” Ms. Carpentar added, “It’s about social awareness and showing [LGBT families] in a positive light.” Well, Gregg and Kelli, you’re doing a great job at all of the above. I spoke with multiple guests as well as resort staff members, and every single person had nothing but wonderful things to say about their experiences with R Family Vacations. One young guest summed it up for me. I asked, “What’s been your favorite thing so far?” And with a pensive grin, she said, “All the smiles.”
If you are looking for a fun-filled, thrilling, family-oriented adventure complete with Broadway music, laughter, and memories that will last a life time, then look no further than R Family Vacations. And, if you have occasion to wonder if things are really changing for the better…then take a good look at what they’ve been able to accomplish and know…without a shadow of a doubt…that we’ve definitely come a long way…gayby! J
You may contact R Family Vacations by visiting their website at www.rfamilyvacations.com or by calling (917)-522-0985. Book your adventure today!
If you would like more information about the Family Equality Council, visit their website at www.familyequality.org
For more information on the Wonder Valley Ranch Resort and Conference Center, visit their website at wondervalley.com
Gregg Kaminksy and Kelli Carpenter, business partners in R Family Vacations
Bill Butchart and Andra Oshinsky of Family Equality Council
Here are 2 of the families I met while attending the events at Wonder Valley Ranch Resort. The weeks festivities were hosted by R Family Vacations.
Meet Stephen Botte and his son Francesco. Stephen is a California native. He has recently separated from his partner and is now raising his son as a single dad. Steven loves the family life. He has taken several vacations with R Family Vacations and says he will continue to do so. Francesco, who was a little camera shy, was too busy having a good time to give me a quote, but that smile says alot! :)
This is Cindy Bokitch and wife Julie Dryzmala from Vancouver, B.C. This is their 9th vacation with R Family Vacations. There children (from left to right: Bowen, Harper, and Merlin) were filling their plates just moments before this picture. Julie said, "We've had an amazing time here. Everyone has been so kind, and this place is just beautiful." I was also able to have a sit down interview with Cindy, the highlights of which ca found in the related article. Are they are gorgeous looking group?