Kent Wilson remembers meeting John Denver as a child,at a benefit concert for the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Aspen Camp). Such concerts were produced annually at the series’ height, attracting the participation of Jimmy Buffett and thousands of spectators to Snowmass Mountain. At that time, the event raised more than half of the nonprofit’s annual budget.
Aspen Camp was established in 1967 by Reed Harris, Tom Sardy and Lt. General William Martin. Harris was determined to provide his son Ricky with a safe place to experience the outdoors, together with other deaf and hard of hearing children. The camp has since served countless individuals, nationwide.
The renowned “picnic” concert series, carried lovingly for years by Denver, got its start on a now dilapidated wooden stage, located within the camp’s 17 acres in Old Snowmass. That stage, like Aspen Camp itself, is receiving a helping hand from a dedicated team of do-gooders in training with Roaring Fork Leadership (RFL).
Wilson is a part of that team. The idea, he told The Sopris Sun, is to help “get the camp back on its feet” after several challenging years, further exacerbated by COVID. Joining Wilson on this project are peers Feras Abdallah, Becca Holland, Ignacio Murillo and Rochelle Norwood.
Each of them joined RFL’s Leadership Academy for different reasons. Their backgrounds cover banking, architecture, media, business management and more. Part of the 10-month RFL curriculum divides the cohort of more than 40 students into small teams, which are then assigned a civic project to tackle for the benefit of the greater community.
This team’s initial goal was to raise $10,000 toward repairing the stage by March 31.
“I have totalled about $10,100 dollars,” Wilson told his associates during an interview with The Sopris Sun.
“What? We did it!” Exclaimed Norwood.
With their fundraising goal met, each additional donation counts as “extra credit,” Norwood explained. “If we don’t use it for the stage, the Aspen Camp really needs a lot of repair and it will all get used.”
For this RFL team as well, there is more work to be done. They will next host a volunteer stage demo and rebuild day to physically lend their strengths to the project. Moreover, anyone is welcome to participate, and share in a meal provided by the Redstone General Store, courtesy of Norwood’s involvement.
“The stage is the heart and soul of the camp,” she continued. “I really hope people start to utilize the stage; know it’s theirs, for concerts, for weddings. The camp is for the deaf and hard of hearing, but beyond. It’s for the whole community, people can rent it, people can use it. Theatrical performances, anything — it’s available for all of us.”
Adballah affirmed that part of Aspen Camp’s strategic vision for the future is for greater diversification and engagement with the broader community.
Holland was raised in Basalt and remembers attending the camp as a child for an overnight field trip. She also hopes to see the rebuilt stage become a “community hub [in a] beautiful space in the Valley.”
“It’s an awesome community asset,” Wilson agreed.
For other “high needs,” beyond the stage, Holland continued, “Hopefully the momentum continues.”
Abdallah concluded, “One thing we’ve noticed in conversation with people affiliated with camp is how much work they’re doing to give these individuals an experience with nature and a connection with nature that allows them to fit in.”
To join the stage demo and rebuild on April 23, contact Norwood (firstname.lastname@example.org) or “just show up” between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aspen Camp is located at 4862 Snowmass Creek Road (online at aspencamp.org).
Founded in 1988, RFL has trained thousands of individuals and organizations. The training aims to inspire change, innovation, commitment, direction, empathy, collaboration, critical thinking and better decision making. Applications and nominations for their Academy 2023 are now open at www.rfleadership.org/academy