Governor Maggie Hassan visited Camp Allen on the afternoon of Thursday, August 15th, to tour the camp and address the awards ceremony that is held the night before each shift of campers leaves for the year. Camp Allen, set in the pine woods in Bedford, New Hampshire, serves as a summer camp for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Approximately 600 campers attend Camp Allen each year for a week or two, with between 60 and 75 new campers arriving each week. Among the intellectual and developmental disabilities that campers cope with are autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and, muscular dystrophy.
The camp's counselors are drawn from all over the world, and include young adults from Australia, Brazil, Poland and each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Wales. The ratio of counselors to campers is one to two, while those campers who need more attention have their own counselor.
One of the Family
Governor Hassan was escorted on her tour by Executive Director Mary Constance and board members Brett Cody and Heidi Hamer.
The governor is considered a part of the family at Camp Allen. At the end of the July, she dropped in on Camp Allen's annual beach excursion, which is organized and supported by the Teamsters union.
Hassan, who is an attorney, became involved in New Hampshire politics as an advocate for the rights of the disabled and their families in the 1990s. Hassan's eldest child, her son Ben, has cerebral palsy. He is a vibrant and intelligent young man who was educated in a traditional learning environment.
Her advocacy led to her appointment by then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen to the state's education adequacy commission. She then won a seat in the State Senate, serving from 2005 to 2010, and was selected for the leadership positions of assistant Democratic whip, president pro tempore, and majority leader. In 2012, Hassan was elected governor of New Hampshire, becoming the third woman to serve as chief executive of the Granite State, and only the second woman elected to the office.
Her gubernatorial platform was based on reversing the deep cuts the Republican-led state legislature had made to social programs. "That's not the New Hampshire way," Hassan would say on the campaign trail as she criticized the GOP for failing to serve its neediest citizens.
"Maggie's For Us"
Governor Hassan was greeted warmly inside the tent that sheltered the awards ceremony and farewell dance for the departing campers.
"Maggie's for us," the master of ceremonies said, "One-hundred percent."
Departing campers receive certificates with citations that heralded their accomplishments during the summer. Hassan was no different. Her citation read:
Bringing people together to build a stronger New Hampshire,
A big welcome to Camp Allen from every camper and counselor.
You're an inspiration to many, a truly great lady and our champion.
Thank you for making time for Camp Allen at the end of your busy day.
Please come to visit whenever you can, it means so much to us all.
Hailed by chants of "Governor!" and "Maggie!" she told the campers how proud she was of them and how they were an inspiration for everyone.
Governor Hassan said how fun it was to see the campers enjoying themselves. "I'm so grateful to be here," she said. "What I'm glad about is the important work you're all
doing here at Camp Allen. You're demonstrating every day that you are working to bring all your talents and all your energy to everything you do."
She then mentioned the Peer Work vocational training program for young adults with disabilities that helps them make the transition from school to work and gain a job. "That's really terrific," she said.
"More than anything, you really make it clear to everybody in the state of New Hampshire that we all have talents and energy to bring to our state and the more we work with each other and work together and include each other the better off we all get," she said. "Everybody in New Hampshire is better because of the example that you show to all of us."
Promising to return to Camp Allen, the Governor told the campers, "I'm very very proud of each and everyone of you."