Camp Jabberwocky, a beloved Island residential summer camp for those with disabilities that has served the community for decades, will not be welcoming campers in-person this year.
According to an email from Jabberwocky executive director Liza Gallagher to counselors, campers, and their families, the camp will not resume its yearly summer programming due to the ongoing public health crisis brought on by COVID-19.
“At Camp Jabberwocky, we realize the impact of COVID-19 is evolving on a daily basis and we understand that it has brought enormous changes to the lives of us all,” Gallagher wrote.
“I’m writing to you today with a heavy heart to share our difficult decision to suspend traditional Camp Jabberwocky programs for the 2020 season. This includes our upcoming follies, work weekends, summer camp sessions, family camp sessions, and rental programs.”
Gallagher wrote that the camp’s medical advisory team and board of trustees determined that canceling all programming would be the best decision to protect the health and well-being of the community.
This summer, Jabberwocky was planning on providing free tuition to all campers after launching their first ever capital campaign, which included endowing the cost of tuition so campers would never have to pay to attend ever again.
Although the camp isn’t moving forward with its regular programs, the folks at Jabberwocky are planning on bringing the joy and togetherness of camp to the community through alternative means.
With Jabberwebby, a newly created online camp platform, Camp Jabberwocky will continue to provide a great experience for campers through Zoom chats.
Campers can dance, sing, do yoga, and enjoy many other group activities in place of an in-person camp.
Each week, Jabberwocky will send out Zoom invitations, and campers can sign up for the activities or volunteer to lead activities for others to follow along with.
“We know that our camp family carries Jabberwocky in their hearts no matter where they are in the world,” Gallagher wrote. “When this is all over, we are going to throw the biggest party you have ever seen and hug each other endlessly while smiling from ear to ear! That’s a promise!”
Gallagher told The Times in a phone call that Jabberwocky normally serves as many as 200 campers each season, and the majority of those campers have signed up for Jabberwebby.
They also hire 170 volunteers each season, many of whom have been working at the camp for years, if not decades.
“It’s absolutely devastating. We are like a family, so it’s kind of like you aren’t going to be able to spend time with your family,” Gallagher said. “Some of our campers have been coming here for 50 years, their whole lives. And many coming for a whole month, so for many it’s the most important part of their lives.”
Gallagher said that although she is sad she won’t be able to see campers in person this summer, she looks forward to launching Jabberwebby and continuing to provide unforgettable experiences. She said she hopes to host cooking classes, talent shows, and the main event — the Jabberwocky parade, all through Zoom.
Gallagher said supporting families and campers is their main objective, and counselors and directors are maintaining close contact with all camp members to make sure they are getting the help they need.
“This is a very isolated community, so we are making sure we are keeping up with families and supporting them in any way we can,” Gallagher said. “This was not an easy decision to make, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Jabberwocky counselor Avery Lazes first started at camp in 2012, and said that although he is devastated that he will not return this summer, he looks forward to making up for lost time.
“It’s definitely a big blow to take,” Lazes said. “It’s something where I was kind of waiting for it to happen, and then once I got the news it was just so surreal.”
Lazes said that Jabberwocky provides a foundation for campers that they look forward to all year, but the difficult choice to cancel in-person camp was a necessary one.
“This decision was made completely out of a sense of love and safety for the people who do go to camp. We are living in a time right now of making really tough choices. But it’s helping me to know that we are going to get back together next summer and just have a lot of fun.”
Island drummer Rick Bausman has been associated with the camp for over 40 years, and said it has been one of the biggest elements of his life.
“It’s such a huge part of my human experience to be connected with the campers. They are some of the most delightfully pure, honest, and brave people I know. It’s not easy to accept, but right now if we love people, we have to stay away from them,” Bausman said.
But Bausman said he is willing to help in whatever way he can, and looks forward to seeing some of the campers virtually this season.
“Jabberwocky has impacted every stage of my life, and it will continue to be a part of my life. There are silver linings to this, and something positive always comes out of Jabberwocky — if anyone can put a positive spin on the coronavirus, the camp can,” Bausman said.