Posted on

Aspen School Camp for the Deaf trying to regain community clout with annual picnic in Snowmass

The Aspen Camp School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is on a mission to regain its mojo in the community’s eye.

The camp is doing the same great programs and providing the same great services to the youth who come from throughout the country each summer. Since it opened in 1973, it’s helped deaf and hard of hearing children and young adults realize there’s a world for them that is inclusive rather than exclusive, said camp executive director Lesa Thomas. It’s always used nature and the outdoors as a teaching tool and empowering setting.  “The camp changes lives in a big way,” Thomas said.

What’s changed is the camp’s visibility in Aspen. It’s understandable, Thomas said, because while it used to be one of a few prominent nonprofit organizations in the 1970s and ’80s, now there are hundreds groups vying for the hearts, minds and wallets of local donors.

The camp used to be high on the community radar because its annual picnic was the can’t-miss event of the summer starting in the 1970s. John Denver took the camp under his wing in 1976 and regularly headlined the event. He recruited Jimmy Buffett, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and other performers.

The deaf camp’s picnic was to Aspen what Mountain Fair is now to Carbondale, said one longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident who has regularly attended both.