A retreat for gay youth that began in Alberta is hoping a new fundraising campaign will enable its program to go national.

Camp fyrefly, which opened in Edmonton in 2004 before expanding to Calgary and Saskatoon, has already received a $500,000 boost toward its $5-million goal from the Stollery Charitable Foundation.

'So coming to Camp fYrefly was an amazing experience.'— Evan Westfal

Some of the money raised will also go to the Sexual Minorities Institute at the University of Alberta.

Camp fYrefly has been a life-changing experience for people including Evan Westfal.

"I grew up in a small city outside of Edmonton and I felt very isolated being a gay youth," Westfal, 25, told CBC News. "So coming to Camp fYrefly was an amazing experience. I felt friendship, and I felt like I was surrounded by people who loved me and understood me for who I am."

The benefits such retreats provide should be available nationwide, Westfal said.

"I think we need to set up a lot of resources for queer youth across the country," he said.  "Every year we have youth coming to Camp fYrefly from very far destinations.

"One year we had someone come from Nova Scotia and they were lamenting at the end of camp that they didn't have the same resources in their own community."