One-of-a-kind camp brings summer fun to the disabled

Just a few miles down the road from where President Obama is staying on Martha’s Vineyard is Camp Jabberwocky
Just a few miles down the road from where Pre... 03:57

Just a few miles down the road from where President Obama is staying on Martha's Vineyard sits a magical summer camp called Camp Jabberwocky, a camp for the disabled, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

The first thing you notice about the campers is that they are noisy, and all of it is the sound of celebration.

On Saturday the camp hosted its main fundraiser, a 5k race on Martha's Vineyard. The race drew almost 500 runners, including most of the 34 disabled campers.

No matter their disability, from mild Downs Syndrome to severe cerebral palsy, those participants either crossed or were pushed through the finish line. Even for those campers who can't communicate, there was no mistaking their look of triumph.

Peter Bradeen, one of the campers who finished the race, said the camp gives him "all the fun (he) can get."

Camp Jabberwocky CBS News

Nestled in the woods of the Vineyard, Camp Jabberwocky was started in 1953 when its founder, Helen Lamb, insisted the disabled didn't belong in institutions. She died in 2011, but her vision of telling campers what they can do is alive. Almost every day the campers go horseback riding, paddle boarding, mini golfing and are taken for a swim in the ocean.

Leys Bostrom, who's volunteered at the camp for 17 years, said everyone at the camp believes everything is possible.

"And then you bring them to a horseback riding stable and you say, 'No, you can get on this horse,' and they say 'I don't think I can get on that horse,' and we say 'Absolutely, if you want to, we can get you on that horse.' So there's a can-do attitude that I've never found anywhere else," Bostrom said.

Part of what makes the camp special is that so many who join in the summer fun--from the campers to the counselors to the cooks--wind up returning every year for the rest of their lives.

Bradeen, for example, the camper who finished the 5k, is 33 years old and has been a camper for 22 years. Another camper, Jeremy Long, has been attending every summer for 30 years. There's no age limit-because together, the campers feel like family.

Peter Bradeen (left) at Camp Jabberwocky CBS News

Even the volunteers, who don't receive any pay for their work, are happy to return year after year.

"I'm paid with hugs from the campers and seeing them enjoy their summer," Patty Kennedy, who has been a cook and kitchen manager for 11 years, said.

One of the highlights of every summer is the talent show which included Bradeen's rendition of "Greased Lightning."

Even the wheelchair-bound campers are part of the dancing crowd. For the counselors, it's the moment the big personalities of the campers emerge.

Counselor Hailey Love said the camper she was dancing with showed pure joy and was able to express herself in different ways.

The camp operates on about $450,000 per year, most of which comes from donations.