Aspen Deaf Camp raises over $62K at picnic

Staff report
Aspen Camp participants thank the crowd after performing skits on July 19 during the Deaf Camp Picnic in Snowmass Base Village.
Lindsey Gale Higginbotham/Snowmass Sun |

Over 3,000 people are estimated to have attended last weekend’s Deaf Camp Picnic in Snowmass Village, and they donated over $62,000, the Aspen Camp said in a statement.

Profits from the picnic go to the Aspen Camp’s scholarship fund. Sixty-eight percent of participants request financial aid from the nonprofit.

“We’re glad we listened to the community,” said Lesa Thomas, executive director of the Aspen Camp. “We decided about two weeks before opening night to make this into a free show, as Deaf Camp Picnic was in the ’60s and ’70s. The support was so overwhelming, and we are so grateful for our community.”

The likes of Red Molly, Starwood and many of John Denver’s former bandmates and friends, including Mack Bailey, Chris Nole, Pete Huttlinger and Rich Ganson, performed in Base Village throughout the three-day event. Hot Buttered Rum opened the weekend at Fanny Hill on July 17. The Freddy Jones Band, who joined when it learned of an opportunity to help, rounded out the lineup for July 18.

Campers gathered onstage on July 19n to perform two songs in American Sign Language: “Imagine,” by John Lennon, and “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams. The crowd was dancing along and even trying to copy their signs. The campers loved the positive comments after their skit, the statement said.

Concertgoers also witnessed a wedding ceremony between Starwood’s Bobby Mason and his bride, Jane LeBelle.

“This is a very special day, indeed,” best man Larry Gottlieb said.

“I was so touched by the outpouring of support from the community, especially from our friends at Snowmass Tourism,” said Katie Murch, outreach coordinator at the Aspen Camp. “The way we came together as a team and turned everything around was amazing. I literally choked up when I found out how much we earned for scholarships. I also immediately thought of Mike and how proud he would be of us.”

Mike Adler was a longtime board member who fought to revive local support for the Aspen Camp, especially through the Deaf Camp Picnic. He died of cancer in April. His wife and daughter joined the stage during the finale performed by the John Denver Tribute Band on July 19.

This year will mark the Aspen Camp’s 47th year of service in providing year-round programming to the deaf community as well as the Roaring Fork Valley. The Aspen Camp was founded in 1967 by Reed Harris, Tom Sardy and Bill Martin in Old Snowmass.

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