Camp for deaf kids to open in winter |

Camp for deaf kids to open in winter

Charles Agar
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” For 40 years the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has exposed children ages 8 to 18 to the outdoors in the mountains near Old Snowmass.

And after canceling 2006 summer sessions for a campus overhaul, organizers hope to expand to a year-round facility open to all local groups.

Reed Harris founded the Aspen Summer Camp for the Deaf in 1967 on 17 acres along Snowmass Creek Road. In 1972, organizers changed the camp name to the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf.

“The mission has not changed, although the manner in which the mission is executed has,” said executive director Judith Cross, adding that with programs such as a high-ropes course, the camp focuses on increasing children’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

“And fun is the vehicle by which these skills are built,” Cross said.

Currently kicking off the last of three three-week summer sessions, in 2007 more than 100 deaf and hard-of-hearing kids will learn backpacking skills, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and canoeing.

A former camp board member who has a 31-year-old daughter who is deaf, Cross and other members of the board decided to revisit the camp’s vision, changing the camp name to Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

“First we want to do a year-round camp,” Cross said.

And that means raising funds to winterize rustic camp buildings ” Anderson Windows representatives recently donated 28 windows to help with three buildings, she said.

“We have had a reputation for being somewhat closed,” Cross said. “Our desire is to have this camp used.”

In 2007, programs for deaf children opened to their hearing siblings ” a convenience for parents who don’t have to send their kids to separate camps ” and the campus hosted separate programs for autistic children, Cross said.

With a family camp planned for October, as well as winter programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, Cross is also working with officials from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies to host programs for area schoolchildren.

“We are truly as a camp almost as cosmopolitan as Aspen is as a community,” Cross said. “We’re nurturing two of our assets, our children and our land.”

And since the days when John Denver held an annual concert and popular picnic, the nonprofit has operated mostly on local funding, Cross said, currently matching $550,000 in annual revenues and expenses.

Tuition for summer sessions ranges from $1,200 to $1,800 depending on the camp, and there are scholarships available thanks to a $1 million endowment, Cross said.

The camp will host a barbecue and open house Aug. 4. And at $325 per ticket, supporters of the camp can attend the second annual Western Shindig Aug. 18 at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch. For more information, visit or call (970) 923-2511.

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