Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Transcription by Kyle Larson
kdnk: We’re about to speak with the Aspen Camp. We’ve been featuring non-profit interviews all week today on kdnk and during Fun Drive. Hello?
Lesa Thomas: Hello, this is Lesa Thomas with the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
kdnk: Hi, Lesa, thanks for joining us here on kdnk.
LT: You bet!
kdnk: So, for people that don’t know about your organization, um, tell us a few details here. You’ve got a pretty big organization serving quite a few people.
LT: We sure do. In the last several years we’ve real expanded our local programs. But we were established in 1967 as an organization to serve Deaf and Hard of Hearing children from around the United States, for summer camp. And we expanded that to a Winter Camp and have been providing that for over thirty years. In addition to that we provide, um, adult programs for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and a big population, over nine hundred last year, of local, uh, kids and adults, like Basalt Elementary, Aspen Elementary, and the Roaring Fork Leadership group, and we host lots of retreats at the camp as well. So, it’s a lot of fun and we provide a great outdoor experience.
kdnk: So, when you talk about programming…what exactly do you mean? Is this just a fun summer camp?
LT: Well, it is a fun summer camp, but we have curriculum, an educational curriculum, focused on language development and on social skill development and on life skills. So, it’s more than just fun, although we do go horseback riding and rafting and have a great time, in the outdoors. A lot of our kids come from the inner city, and they’ve never been outside, and so we have, uh, overnight backpacking trips and a weeklong backpacking trip as well. So the kids really get exposure to what it takes to be outside.
kdnk: Well, tell me more about those experiences and talking to some of the kids that are participated in your program, uh, what are they telling you about what really sticks with them from having this experience in Aspen?
LT: You know, I-I remember this one kiddo who came (clears throat) from New York City and he of course had seen the parks in New York City and what have you, but he had never really been outdoors. And he said that it really taught him how to be independent and how to be reliant on-on his own skills. And he was really proud of himself. He takes back something that the other kids in his neighborhood don’t have.
kdnk: Well, children with hearing impairments, what kinds of, you know, discrimination or prejudice do you think that they’re dealing with in their daily lives, that you encounter when you’re, uh, working with these children?
LT: You know, bullying is a big issue in-with all kids in school, and a Deaf child is typically mainstreamed in a situation where they are with, mostly with hearing people all day long. And, the responsibility for communication lies upon the child, um, and not their peers and they miss out on jokes, they miss out friendships, they miss out on language development and ninety percent of those kids are born t-with-to parents who do not use sign language and also are not, um, familiar with how to raise a child who is, uh, deaf or hard of hearing. So, what happens is the kiddos end up losing out on friendships and feeling the same and having that experience of camaraderie. When they come to camp they get that experience, they get lifelong friends that they never lose, they get that confidence, they get that language, and they’re never left out they are always a part of the ‘in’ group.
kdnk: That must be a very powerful bonding experience for those children, you know, memories that they’re never gonna forget and a support system that they can take back with them even when they go home for the summer.
LT: And those skills that they develop at camp and those friendships they develop are generally lifelong. Some of the kids stay friends for the rest of their lives because they have made that bond. I know our staff come from all over the United States and they also bond. As deaf and hard of hearing adults they make great role models for these kids and help them learn how to cope and to have the experiences that are positive within their community.
kdnk: Well, what do you guys do to raise money to support your programming?
LT: We have a couple of, uh, fundraisers throughout the year. We have one coming up in July, the Deaf Camp Picnic, most people are familiar with that. Um, that will be again July sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth in, um, Snowmass, that is this year. And then we also will, in 2016 we will have a fundraiser in Denver called Kiss-Fist. KISS-FIST is a sign, so if you make a fist and you kiss the back of your hand, that means ‘we love it,’ ‘I love it,’ in American Sign Language. And so we’re going to have a fundraiser dinner in Denver next year probably in March. We also accept donations. And we have a campaign going right now to help save our pond. Um, Aspen Camp is on seventeen acres in Old Snowmass and we finally got the rights, our water rights to develop the augmentation pond. And, so we’re going to need raise funding for that. We also have a project for a level playing field. So many of our local kids come and we are on of course a mountain and we don’t have a level playing field, and we have that in the works. So, we have lots of volunteer opportunities too. For folks that want to come out and volunteer (dog barks) we have volunteer work day, and we have other things that we can do with volunteers. So we have a lot going on.
kdnk: If people want to get more involved, where should they go to get more information about Aspen Camp.
LT: Um, our website is aspen camp dot o-r-g, and we also have, um, you can call the office at 970 315 0513 and that will, uh, bring you to an interpreter because all our staff are deaf in the front office. And the interpreter then will interpret the call for you as you make arrangements to volunteer or come out and see the campus or create your own You-Camp that we have.
Kdnk: Ok, well, thank you Lesa so much for calling in. I appreciate all the work that you do right here up the valley, supporting the diversity in the Roaring Fork Valley through your efforts with Aspen Camp.
LT: Thank you so much for having me it was fun and I really appreciate you highlighting us, it‘s great. And I encourage folks to visit the website, aspen camp dot org, and check us out!
kdnk: Ok, thank you so much. That’s Aspen Camp, right here in the Roaring Fork valley, operating in Snowmass. A lot of people know you guys from the great concerts you put on every summer.