Summer rock camp ‘gave us both hope’

Teenager benefits from peer support program for kids with mood disorders

Luna at the summer camp that helped her.

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Luna Moore is 17.

Since the age of 12, this teenager, who prefers to be called ‘they’ instead of ‘her,’ has attended a summer band camp at the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM) called “Let It Out!”

From childhood, Luna has dealt with depression, severe anxiety, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

The camp grounded the child within, offering invaluable coping skills and strategies, as well as experiences and friends. The experience reflected a kinder reality and it’s a bedrock for the family.

The program is part of a constellation the United Way supports. Its annual fundraising campaign kicked off in mid-September with a goal of $20.5 million — $500,000 more than last year.

Donations will see it help more than 11,000 Winnipeggers through its Community Plan for a Better Winnipeg. The plan includes 1,800 more children with mentors, 4,000 more connected with mental-health supports as well as job skills and money-management training for another 2,800 adults.

People who have seen Luna perform have said the talent packed in those vocal chords is awesome.

Luna at the summer camp that helped her.

“For the first time I felt genuinely happy; it was when I felt first accepted and knew I had found my place in the world.”

Mother Allison Moore credits the summer band camp for seeding a lot of Luna’s current sense of confidence. And they recalls how they felt when their mother discovered the existence of the program and brought it to their attention.

Let it Out is a two-week summer rock camp that Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba classifies as youth programming. It’s very popular; four consecutive sessions, each two weeks long, fill up fast every year.

Still, Moore wasn’t sure about the fit. Not initially.

“To be honest, I was a little wary about putting Luna in a program for people who had mental-health issues. I wasn’t sure what the stigma might be if other friends from school found out. But that first summer was amazing.

“I saw Luna perform for the first time, it was a Nirvana song. Only 12, but Luna was belting out the tune with a beautiful, deep, strong voice,” Moore said.

Seeing was believing.

“I could see that Luna was happy and confident in a way I had never seen before. Since then, Luna has never hesitated to stand up on the stage and sing,” Moore said.

As a mom, she knows Luna’s future is rooted in her sense of self and they’ve built a support network around them, with other therapists, in programs they’ve attended such as the Rainbow Resource Youth Program.

“It was the Let It Out program that was first and gave us both hope that things could be good, life could be meaningful.”

Luna, meanwhile, said there was never a time when they didn’t understand that music could be soothing. “Even before I knew what music was,” Luna said.

Eclectic in taste, Luna loves indie and low-fi and pop punk.

Luna performing at United Way Winnipeg's Celebration event.

In a demonstration of the power of therapy to conquer anxiety, Luna performs before a big crowd at United Way Winnipeg’s Celebration event.

“I like the slower kind of down music because it reflects more how I feel than upbeat pop music,” Luna said.

The teenager used to play piano but these days, it’s the ukulele. The voice was something Luna was born with.

And yes, writing lyrics, is another part of it.

“Six years ago I first performed onstage with Let It Out. For the first time I felt genuinely happy; it was when I felt first accepted and knew I had found my place in the world,” Luna said.

Luna thanks people such as Taylor Demetrioff, who started the band program and is still involved in it.

“In the future summers, I hope I can volunteer there because I want to help other kids. And I want to keep going.”

By Alexandra Pauls, Winnipeg Free Press. Reprinted with kind permission of the Winnipeg Free Press.

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Sean LedwichLuna