A group of folks from the West Coast with abilities of varying degrees enjoyed summer camp at Camp Casey this year.
“I love this camp. I love all the people. I love Gillian,” said Isaac Whiting, who came from San Diego. “It’s just a way for people like us to be in and share community.”
He was part of a group of 10 campers and 10 volunteers, called “mates,” who attended a camp organized by The Wabe of Whidbey Island. They used the Quartermaster’s Building for activities and to cook meals while they slept in two Staff Quarters buildings.
“It’s a very convenient setup,” volunteer Kenn Heller said.
The Wabe of Whidbey Island takes its name from the Lewis Carroll poem “Jabberwocky.” Campers spend nearly two weeks creating arts, crafts, and music, and going on nature walks.
“We try to use adventures and art in any way to promote relationships,” said Gillian Butchman, director of The Wabe of Whidbey Island, which started in 2017. Organizers like to keep the camper-to-volunteer ratio at one-to-one.
Campers first visited Camp Casey in 2019. After canceling the summer camp in 2020, campers returned in 2021, and Butchman said the group is planning to visit again.
She said Camp Casey, with its large parade grounds, fire pits, access to the beach, and historic structures like the lighthouse, suits the campers’ needs perfectly.
“Our gang likes to make up sports games and ride bikes,” Butchman said of the parade grounds. “The fire pits are a great place to sing songs and roast marshmallows.”
The Wabe of Whidbey Island’s summer camp provides a way for campers to connect with each other.
“All of my friends are here. I like to go on a special journey,” said Erik Paslay, who traveled from Bend, Oregon.
The Wabe of Whidbey Island is a program of the Katie Johnson Fellowship, which started in 1993 at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The fellowship was named after Katie Johnson, a little girl with cerebral palsy who died in 1992 at the age of 12.
Similar camps over the past 22 years have popped up in Mexico, Guatemala, Mississippi, Massachusetts, and Vermont, with another forming in the Berkshires. “Our idea is to get other camps started rather than make ours larger,” Butchman said.
No matter the size of their group, Camp Casey looks forward to continuing to host the Wabe of Whidbey Island — a small group with a huge heart.