For many children across the country and around the world, going to camp is the highlight of their summer. Even as adults, we look back fondly on summers spent swimming in lakes, playing sports, doing arts and crafts; all while making fast friends with fellow campers. For children with disabilities, sadly, traditional summer camps have never been a viable option. Many camps are mostly outdoors and therefore not handicap accessible and there just aren’t enough counselors to provide them with the special care and attention that they need.
However, on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard lives an even more beautiful place with a simple mission: to provide a residential vacation camp for people with disabilities. Camp Jabberwocky, as it’s called, was started in the summer of 1953 by British speech therapist Helen “Hellcat” Lamb. Ms. Lamb, saddened by the way people with disabilities were treated at the time, decided to take children from the Fall River Cerebral Palsy Training Center to her small cottage on the Vineyard so that they could get out of the city and enjoy summers on the beach. She also saw it as a break for the parents, whose lives revolved around their children’s care.
Helen “Hellcat” Lamb
Known originally as the Martha’s Vineyard Cerebral Palsy Camp, Camp Jabberwocky is now the longest running residential camp for those with disabilities and hosts people with Down Syndrome, spina bifida, autism, blindness, deafness, brain injury and all other mental, psychological and physical challenges. Each summer, from the end of June to the end of August, the camp hosts upwards of 120 campers, who stay between one to four weeks. There is no age limit at Camp Jabberwocky; campers can continue to come back every summer for the rest of their lives. It is an overnight camp, with campers staying in cabins that are fully handicap-accessible and a 1:1 camper-counselor ratio, ensuring that each camper is given the full attention and care that they need.
Daily camp activities include things like horseback riding, arts & crafts, boating, biking, movie nights, and much more. The staff, who are all volunteers, seek to foster a small, family-like community where the campers can enjoy activities and experiences that are safe, empowering, exciting and fun. Staff members keep families up-to-date with camper’s daily activities on their blog, which can be found HERE.
Camp Jabberwocky relies on the kindness of others to continue their incredible work. The cost of maintaining the camp exceeds $500,000 each summer and although tuition is $1,450 per camper per week, families are only required to pay what they can. No one is ever turned away because they can’t afford it. If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation, please visit their website HERE.
The camp also hosts fundraisers and other events to help keep the camp up and running. The next event is the 4th Annual “The Jabberwocky” Fishing Tournament taking place on June 22nd from 7:30am-9:00pm at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum. If you are interested in participating or would like to donate your boat for the day, please click HERE.