It was 60 years ago that Helen Lamb first brought a small group of children with disabilities to a leaky cottage in Oak Bluffs. The rest is not just history, but her beloved legacy: Camp Jabberwocky, a residential vacation camp for people with disabilities.
Camp Jabberwocky now sits on 14 acres in Vineyard Haven, land donated years ago by Grace Episcopal Church. The camp’s history is intertwined with the Island community that supports it. On Tuesday, July 16, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Camp Jabberwocky celebrates its 60th birthday with a jubilee and silent auction at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.
From the land to the props built for the countless performances that have taken place at the camp over the years, volunteerism and donations are the norm at Camp Jabberwocky. It would take all your fingers and toes to count the number of volunteer counselors and staff who have returned year after year to a place they consider a second home.
Johanna (JoJo) Romero de Slavy is one of the camp’s directors and she’s been spending her summers at Camp Jabberwocky for 23 years. Her assistant Kristen (Sully) St. Amour comes close to Ms. Romero de Slavy’s tenure with 19 years of Camp Jabberwocky experience. When she was a little girl, Sully said she was mesmerized by the camp’s participation in the annual Fourth of July parade in Edgartown. She was just 15 when she ventured onto the grounds and she’s still taken with the place.
“I can remember feeling chills when I saw the parade,” Sully remembers. “It was a sort of excitement but then I also wanted to cry.” Whatever it was, she’s still there and now has her two little girls with her. Sully’s husband is a good sport and realizes Camp Jabberwocky is as much a part of his wife’s life as her own family. “He’s here on weekends and he likes to build the sets and help out,” she said. The couple lives in Pembroke during the off-season.
JoJo lives in Baltimore and spends a month-long vacation at Jabberwocky. She said her decision to choose nursing as a career stemmed from her time at the camp.
“I came here as a counselor when I was 17,” JoJo said. “I knew after a day that I loved it and this is where I wanted to be.”
If this is the way the staff feels, it isn’t a stretch to imagine how amazing the Island camp is for the campers.
Camp Jabberwocky also stages a few theatrical performances during July and August. Everyone gets involved and has a role to play, whether it is building scenery or singing and performing. This Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. the campers perform Romeo and Juliet in Las Vegas and everyone is welcome to come free of charge. Stay afterwards for refreshments.
The camp is off of Greenwood avenue in Vineyard Haven.
Tickets to the Jabberwocky Jubilee on July 16 are $20, or $10 with an Our Island Club card and $5 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased on the camp’s website campjabberwocky.org.