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Camp Jabberwocky

I can’t tell you what’s wrong with Ronnie, although something manifestly is. But it’s easy to tell you one thing that’s right withh Ronnie: He can stand in front of a crowd of 1,500 and sing a hymn with his arms and heart wide open. His voice may be in the middle of the bell curve but you would weep with joy to hear him.

It’s hard to know how to react to Ronnie and the other 50 campers at Camp Jabberwocky. They are all profoundly disabled, from cerebral palsy sufferers twitching in their full-support wheelchairs to those with diminished intellects and emotional inflammations. But you won’t hear words like “disabled,” “sufferer” and “diminished” at Camp Jabberwocky. Not because the place is politically correct. Quite the contrary. No one there pretends that the campers are just like the rest of us. The campers are who they are. But for much of their lives, they’ve been treated as less than what they are, for most of them wear their troubles in their faces and shambling bodies. Shall we call it a human impulse to turn away from them?

And then Ronnie gets on stage. He is accompanied by a local resident who happens to be a well-known pianist. He sings a song and we hear him for exactly who he is, which is more than we thought he was. And that is a joy that will make you weep.

The story of Camp Jabberwocky makes no sense. It was founded 50 years ago on Martha’s Vineyard, although “founded” is too strong a word: Helen Lamb — universally known as Hellcat because of her determination — got it in her head that it’d be good to bring 6-8 people with cerebral palsy to the island for a week or two. So she got a 15-year-old friend of hers to volunteer and together they just did it, schlepping 6-8 kids in wheelchairs down the steps to the beach at Oak Bluffs, taking them on the Flying Horses. No money, no plan. And that’s how Camp Jabberwocky has proceeded and grown for 50 years. No one pays, no one is paid. There’s precious little solicitation. It just happens.

It doesn’t happen in a vaccum. The Vineyard, for all its preppy reputation, has a history of being diverse, open and accepting. For example, when in the 1900s there was an abnormal number of children born deaf, rather than segregating them, the community learned to sign.

But it’s not just the Vineyard. Shall we call it the human impulse to connect once we allow ourselves to?

Here are some photos of the Fourth of July Parade and the 50th anniversary celebration.

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43 Responses to “Camp Jabberwocky”

  1. beautiful, david. embracing the disordered in and among ourselves. and therein finding… joy? Yes. I think it can happen. Thanks for this story.

  2. Thanks for the article. I was there to witness the wonderful event and would like more info so I may pass on to someone I know who has a child with CP. I just know this would be a blessing.

  3. A friend told me about the camp because my son is disabled from a TBI. Can you tell me how to contact the camp directly? Thanks

  4. I don’t have direct contact info. Try calling information in Vineyard Haven, MA. It’s in the 508 area code.

  5. How do I get information on enrolling my 18 year old son with CP and in a wheelchair at Camp Jabberwockey next summer?

  6. The phone number for Camp Jabberwockey is 508.693.2339. It is in the Martha’s Vineyard area of Massachusetts.

    Adam Studnicki

    Birth Injury Lawyer
    Studnicki, Jaffe & Woods, PLLC

  7. I would also like to enroll my daughter in Camp Jabberwockey this summer – I’ve tried their phone number – but it says the number has been disconnected?? Does anyone have another number for this camp or some other way of connecting with them?! Thank you

    tHANK YOU.

  9. Kathleen, I’ve replied to you offline. Let me know if you don’t get a response.

  10. Hi- i was fortunate enough to go to your camp 3 summers ago and have repeatedly tried again. i am 17 with cerebral palsy and live on Cape Cod. i was introduced by Ross and would love to try to reenroll. Thanks Colin

  11. Hey…I just wanted to let you know how moved I am by your entry…I too work at camp jabberwocky. I heard about it my junior year and worked at the camp that summer. I’ve been stuck on it since, I can’t get enough of the camp and the wonderful atmosphere there, everyone is so loving and caring, and the way that all of the councelors work together is even better.
    I’d love to chat with you sometime about YOUR experience there.

  12. I would like to find out more about the camp. My son is 36 with cerebral palsy. How do you get an application.
    Thanks Diane

  13. Diane, Adam in one of the comments says:

    The phone number for Camp Jabberwockey is 508.693.2339. It is in the Martha’s Vineyard area of Massachusetts.

    As you can imagine, there are many more people who’d like to go than the camp can accommodate. Best of luck.

  14. Hi, The camp phone is not working. My daughter and I have been trying to reach you by phone. A Brookline Public School colleague suggested that I communicate with John Lamb. I sent him an email, but no reply.

    I am a school-based occupational therapist. Most recently, employed with the Brookline Public Schools.
    I am interested in learning about your camp and possibly volunteering this summer. My daughter is a high school graduate planning to attend Wiliams College this fall and she is also interested in volunteer opportunities.

    We own a home on Chappaquiddick where we plan to spend a lot of time this summer.

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Bonnie Weiss

  15. who is this rebbecca geller?, who is fighting everyone here. who is she what her beef joho do you know here peace to you joho and miss geller mr.x

  16. who is becky geller and why is she so mad mr.x

  17. Mr. X, someone is forging messages from Becky Geller. Ignore them.

  18. hello, david is rebbecca geller is real person not someone who mad at world if so pray for her she made need prayers god bless you

    caring person

  19. Please be aware that for a few months, a disturbed person was posting comments under the name of Becky Geller. I know with complete certainty that this person was forging Becky’s name and that the charges were false. I have removed those comments and will remove any more this person posts. If you see any comments from Rebecca Geller, you can be certain that they are forgeries, and I will remove them as quickly as I can.

    If the person posting those messages cares to talk with me about what is bothering him or her so deeply that he or she would go to Northeastern University and the Boston Public Library to post forged messages, I would be happy to hear from you.

  20. you know mr. weinberger,this like a mystrey or puzzle about this becky geller,if you know not she the person then who is and do they know her,dose she have enemies or old boy who are mad her,it will great solve this puzzle once and for all good luck to you sir in doing so

    ps how do know miss geller not writing it

    caring person

  21. I am not going to give out any information about Becky, but I can assure you with 100% certainty that was not the author of those messages.

  22. you realy care about becky dont you mr weinberger, good for you she has good in you god bless you both

  23. Does anyone have an email contact for Jabberwocky? I woudl like to volunteer. You may reply offline to [email protected]

  24. I would like info on how to enroll my 17 year old disabled son in the camp Thanks

  25. Sandy, it’s not easy getting information about how to do this. Try checking Vineyard Haven telephone information in the 508 area code.

  26. Hi! I recently read the article in Womans Day about this camp… I am a senior in high school and I have been thinking about going to college to be a special education teacher. I would love to get some information about this camp, and possibly see if I could volunteer to help. Thank you very much! -chelsea

  27. I read the recent article in Family Circle. I have a 48 year old brother who has CP. This camp sounds like a great opportunity for him. My mother would like to know how to contact the camp for information on how to enroll him. If you can help, please let me know. Thank you.

  28. Hey,
    My brother is 17 and disabled in several ways, when i go away to summer camp he always wnats to got to but he can’t because of his disabilities,and I was wondering if there is a website to go to for just information on the camp to see if it is something we could send him to in the future. I know he would enjoy the camp so much and seeing the excitement on his face telling him only what i had gathered from a magazine article it would mean soo much to me if someday he was able to go so if there is a website or anyway for me to get more info on the camp it would be wonderful… Thanks

  29. Amie, they don’t have a web site that I know of. The camp is full and there’s no known way to apply. Sorry!

  30. Hello,

    I am a Special Needs Teacher at Hingham Middle School. I would appreaciate any information you could forward to me about Camp Jabberwocky and the application process. I have three students who would benefit greatly from the opportunities you provide at your camp. I would also love to volunteer my time during the summer of 2006. Respectfully
    Tami Keary
    1103 Main st.
    Hingham, MA 02043

  31. Hi,
    I have a soon to be 19 year old niece with mild/moderate CP and I would love to get more information about Camp Jabberwocky. If someone could please forward me a phone number or e-mail address it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  32. I have a 24 yr old son with a brain injury and would like information about the camp and if he’s even elegible for the camp. He’s high functioning and has a great sence of humor. Thank you for any assistance you can provide. Here in Florida there is not much available for his age.

  33. TO PEOPLE SEEKING TO ENROL THEIR CHILDREN: I know of no contact info for the Camp. You can try getting their phone number in Vineyard Haven, MA, or writing to the camp in Vineyard Haven. I do not know of an email address or physical address for them.

    The camp is full up with campers. I don’t know of an application process or a waiting list.

    Sorry I can’t help you further.

  34. Hi
    My name is Gretchen Franzen. I attended Camp Jabberwocky back in the 1980’s (1983-1988) I was one of the best experiences in my life. I was wondering if there were any kind of reunions planned in the near future? I would love to visit again. If somebody would be kind enough to get back to me please email @ [email protected]
    Love to you all and best wishes, Gretchen H. Franzen

  35. Beautiful story.

    How do I find out more about the Camp? I’m trying to make a memorial donation. Thanks

  36. I heard about this camp through an article in a magazine. I was very interested and was wondering where I could get more information about possibly volunteering there for some time in the summer.
    I will check back for a response.

  37. Here’s all the contact information I have:

    Camp Jabberwocky
    Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
    Phone: 508-693-2339

    Good luck.

  38. I have a 17 year old daughter who really wants to do volunteer work with disabled teens and adults this summer. She is a great kid and could be immensely helpful at a place like Camp Jabberwocky. I used to live on the Vineyard so I have some contacts there- but no one seems to know how to connect with the Jabberwocky staff. Anyone can help us?
    Thanks- STX

  39. Hello David and I am sorry if I do not remember you. I have been working at Jabberwocky for the past 28 years in some capacity. The camp phone number is shut off during the winter. Letters will get to the respective directors for each session. ( Camp Jabberwocky PO Box 1357 Vineyard Haven Mass 02568 I will forward email to the directors from my [email protected]. If the directors give me permission to post their personally info here, I will. Please be assured your info will be forwarded. Camp still needs volunteers for the first session. June 19-July 22. We do have some spaces available for campers. The decisions are influenced by age of counselors and how many people we can accommodate who are in wheelchairs. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    Madeline Way

  40. just fyi, campers do pay to attend
    but financial assistance is readily and frequently offered
    little to no attendees pay the full cost

  41. I just talked to a neighbor that has vacationed where the camp is located. She had asked me about my daughter going to camp this year and I told her how disappointed Lindsey has been since she “aged out” of Southampton Fresh Air Home. She went there from 6 yrs to 18 yrs. and I have been searching since then for a camp that she could attend. Those were the BEST times of her summer vacation and she loved every minute of it. She is now 20 and I would love any information that I could get regarding the camp and how to enroll or seek enrollment for my Lindsey.

  42. Just taking a moment to say what a wonderful place Camp Jabberwocky is. I’ve worked with a young man named Leif for a number of years now. He is a yearly visitor to this camp, and it is the highlight of every year for him. It’s a chance for him to spread his wings, be independent, and he has developed friendships with campers and staff that will hopfully last for years to come. I’ll be dropping him off at the Wood’s Hole ferry on July 7th for two weeks of unequalled fun.
    Thanks to everyone connected with this wonderful place.
    Robert Newman

  43. Hi I went to Camp Jabberwocky since i was 6 yrs old that was 1982 i remember some people ,if anyone remember me from Camp Jabberwocky ,pls contact me at [email protected] or call me (508) 679-0061 i would like to talk to you all and keep in touch. i never forget anything from jabberwocky.

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