Camp Jabberwocky executive director Liza Gallagher is leaving her job at the end of December, after more than a decade leading the Island’s beloved camp for people with disabilities.
Ms. Gallagher became Camp Jabberwocky’s first paid employee when she was hired 11 years ago, said June Price Schwartz, who chairs the camp’s board of trustees and served on the hiring committee that brought Ms. Gallagher aboard.
“I couldn’t have dreamed that someone could help bring the camp to where it is now,” Ms. Price Schwartz told the Gazette this week.
On Ms. Gallagher’s watch, Camp Jabberwocky has gone from a scrappy, all-volunteer nonprofit with uncertain funding to a financially stable, tuition-free organization on a renovated campus, Ms. Price Schwartz said.
“Now we have an endowment. We were living summer to summer,” she said.
“Where Liza helped bring us financially, we’re now able to have tuition-free camp for campers,” Ms. Price Schwartz added.
Along with the capital campaign that raised money for Camp Jabberwocky’s endowment, Ms. Gallagher also oversaw the camp’s $2 million reconstruction project in 2018 and 2019 that expanded the cramped, 1960s-era main cabin into a roomy, winterized space with an updated kitchen, modern bathrooms and extensive porches.
“She actually spearheaded the whole idea of improving the campus,” Ms. Price Schwartz said.
The renovation included landscaping, new paths with slip-resistant surfaces, an infirmary in a former residential cabin and a hilltop swing pergola carved with the names of campers who have passed away.
“It was really the brainchild of Liza, and she saw it through from beginning to end,” Ms. Price Schwartz said.
“The other huge thing that Liza started, that we didn’t even have in our vocabulary at the time, was family camp,” she added. “At the end of the eight weeks of summer camp, we have two four-day weekends where campers can come with their families… campers whose disabilities might otherwise have prevented them.”
“That was Liza’s vision [and] she wants to continue to direct family camp as a volunteer,” Ms. Price Schwartz added.
Ms. Gallagher did not respond to an interview request.
Jabberwocky board member Allison Wolf who, like Ms. Price Schwartz, is the mother of former camp volunteers, said the board has engaged Colorado-based Aspen Leadership Group, which performs executive searches in the philanthropic world, to find the camp’s next leader.
“We’ve impressed upon them the urgency of finding a replacement,” Ms. Wolf said, noting that the camp usually makes its staffing decisions in January and February. “We’re working on an accelerated schedule.”
“Finding someone who has Liza’s magical charisma is going to be a challenge, Ms. Wolf added. “It would be great to find someone from the Island community.”
The camp director’s job comes with a year-round house on Camp Jabberwocky grounds, Ms. Price Schwartz said.
Ms. Gallagher’s resignation follows the departure early this year of two longtime July session directors, Kristen (Sully) St. Amour and Johanna (Jojo) Romero de Slavy, and a number of other volunteer counselors who were abruptly terminated in March.
Both the July and August sessions are now co-directed by Caitlin Lamb, granddaughter of founder Helen (Hellcat) Lamb and daughter of former camp director John Lamb, and longtime volunteer Nora Avis Olsen.