Island youth and families can keep busy this winter with Funhouse

The Funhouse Commons is offering a medley of new programming for island youth.

First up is the Rainbow Club, a bi-weekly gathering for LGBTQIA+ middle and high schoolers and allies (ages 11 to 18).

“Middle school is a crucial time for queer kids to have that safe and inclusive space,” said Youth Development Program Director Maddie Olson. “With the Rainbow Club, there’s a built-in leadership opportunity for the high schoolers. It’s absolutely for all kinds of kids — allies are absolutely welcome. It’s not just about sexual orientation; it’s a safe space to talk about identity, about life issues and just to hang out with other kids in the community who may share some common ground. I want this to feel like a celebratory and easy break from the heaviness that can be associated with the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The club will meet every other Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Funhouse. The first session is on Dec. 21. Attendees can enjoy crafts, games, pizza and a viewing of the show “Heartstopper.” Those interested can drop in; no sign-up is needed.

In Olson’s previous job as the public school librarian, they were the high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance advisor.

“The Rainbow Club came out of a need for a middle school GSA club and support,” Olson said. “We’ll see how it grows and develops it based on the needs and desires of the kids who attend. We’re also making interisland queer club connections and will collaborate with the GSA clubs on San Juan and Lopez.”

From Jan. 24 to March 6, the Funhouse will lead the Strengthening Families Program, a free course for parents and kids ages 10-14 to gain tools, skills and strategies for navigating adolescence. This class provides free dinner, a parent and youth breakout session and a family session. They will also provide free childcare for younger siblings. The seven sessions for English-speaking families will be held on Wednesday evenings from 5-7:30, starting on Jan. 24, and the four sessions for Spanish-speaking families will be on Tuesday evenings from 5-7:30, starting on Feb. 6 at Camp Orkila.

In 2021, the Coalition for Orcas Youth elected Strengthening Families as a priority program towards its vision of “a community empowering youth with skills and resources to become compassionate, healthy adults.” The curriculum helps parents establish the foundation for a strong relationship with their young adolescents. Youth build skills such as goal-setting and tools for dealing with peer pressure, helping them navigate towards healthy choices. Last year, 11 families participated, eight of which were Spanish-speaking.

“It’s a cool program. One of my favorite parts is the empathy-building portion for both parents and kids,” Olson said.

Instead of the Funhouse’s traditional long-term mentorship program, adults and youth will be paired together in four-month arts and skills-based apprenticeships. From Jan. 14 to April 27, artists and makers in the community will be matched with middle and high schoolers to work on a project for up to two hours a week. The work will then be displayed in a gallery show. Three artists have signed up so far: Alli Cobb, Ashanti Makeba and Andrew Youngren.

“We are recruiting artists and mentees at the moment,” Olson said. “This is the continuation of a program from 2019 that was put on hold. I am excited to see where we go with it — having kids and mentors connect over a shared project.”

For more information or to sign up, email