Funds will support winter retreat, ongoing facilities needs

Article written by Kaya Williams of the Aspen Times on October 21, 2021

The Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has received a $5,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation that will help the Old Snowmass camp offer a winter retreat for adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The grant will support pre-retreat outreach efforts and program costs for the retreat, according to Laura Gabbay, who has been working with the camp on grant writing and strategic planning.

The program could serve as many as 16 participants and will focus on people from rural communities on the Western Slope, including residents in Pitkin, Summit, Mesa, Gunnison and Eagle counties, Gabbay said. Dates and details will be posted to once they are finalized.

Gabbay, who is herself hard of hearing, hopes that retreats like the one planned for this winter will help offer resources to counter the isolation that so many people in the deaf and hard of hearing community are familiar with — especially so since the pandemic added another layer to that separation.

“This has never been more timely. … For people in rural areas during COVID, it’s been a particularly difficult time,” Gabbay said.

The camp also received a $3,200 donation from the Denver7 Gives program, which raises funds from viewers for charitable community initiatives; the check officially arrived in the mail on Oct. 19, board member Karen Immerso confirmed.

Board member Christy Smith, who was previously a participant and a staffer at the Old Snowmass camp, received the Denver7 “Everyday Hero” award this spring; Immerso nominated Smith for the award that honors local Coloradans making a difference in their communities.

A news crew from the channel visited the camp in May to bestow the award and produced two stories about the camp and its need for facilities updates, which helped spur donations.

The camp has spent most of this year working on necessary facilities updates and welcomed campers back for the first time since 2018 in July. Facilities maintenance and fundraising remain the primary focus moving forward, according to Immerso.

The camp also receives funding support from the proceeds of bar sales at the Thursday night free concert series on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Village, though Immerso did not yet have a number on total funds raised this season.

For the camp, which has faced financial struggles in recent years and relies primarily on grants and donations to cover costs, the funds are the latest in what Gabbay and Immerso hope is a continuing trend toward stability for the camp.

The organization relies primarily on volunteer support at the moment and does not yet have the funds to hire a director or pay employees; a capacity-building grant from the Aspen Community Foundation earlier this year helps support Gabbay’s grant-writing and consulting work for the camp, according to Gabbay.

“We’re just in a positive, forward momentum for fundraising,” Immerso said.

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