The community of LGBTQ families lost a leader in April, but her passing went almost unnoticed in the media outside of her home of Ottawa.
In 2004, spouses Julia (“Jules”) and Holly Wagg of Ottawa co-founded the Ten Oaks Project, a charity that “engages and connects children and youth from LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer) families, identities, and communities.” Some of you may be familiar with their two annual camp programs: Camp Ten Oaks (ages 8-17) and Project Acorn (ages 16-24). The couple also became parents of three children in the following years.
On April 14th, 2017, Julia died of leukemia at the age of 36. Holly has shared more about Julia and her legacy at her website, Ringleader of Fire. She writes of her work with Ten Oaks, her career as a human resources professional, and the many accolades she received as a community leader, as well as her roles as mother, daughter, sister, and wife. Julia was recognized as a Co-Community Builder by Marshal Capital Pride in 2014, and has received a United Way Community Builder Award and a Capital Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Ottawa Citizen marked Julia’s passing and called her “A force of nature in Ottawa’s LGBTQ community” in a lovely piece about her life and family. They said Camp Ten Oaks is “the single most important made-in-Ottawa contribution to LGBTQ children and families in Canada. Its work is that magical and transformative.”
Last week, Holly added her post, “Vacationing as a Family of Two,” to the Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day list. It’s a heartwrenching but ultimately inspiring piece about living in the aftermath of grief, especially as a queer parent. I encourage you all to go read it, and to learn more about Julia’s life and work. Our community has lost a leader, but the Wagg family has lost a mother. I offer my condolences on their loss, and my gratitude for Julia and Holly’s work.
Here’s a seven-minute video commemorating Julia’s life and the impact of Camp Ten Oaks.