1928-1932

The years 1928 through 1932 were marked by rapidly growing camper enrollment and an increased need to serve handicapped children – girls and boys – from the state of Vermont. Sadly, the end of this period was marked by the sudden death of Walter Thorpe in February 1933 at the age of 57.

Although it remained an all-girls camp until 1931, a committee was formed in 1928 to consider the possibility of establishing a boys’ camp. Boys were accepted on a limited basis in 1931. In 1932 the boys’ camp was opened.

In a very short period – 6 years – Walter Thorpe established a camp for handicapped and underprivileged children; children who previously had no opportunity to attend summer camp. During that time he also mentored many in the occupation of helping the less fortunate, setting the foundation for a Vermont tradition that continues today. The people he inspired included his daughter, Mae, his son-in-law Basil Walsh, and his granddaughter, Joyce (Walsh) Heath. All three would become directors and devote most of their lives to Camp Thorpe.

The board of trustees adopted the following resolution soon after his death in February 1933.

RESOLUTION

The idea of a camp for crippled children in the healthful, green hills of Vermont originated with Mr. Thorpe. The carrying out of plans for the fulfillment of that idea, in the organization of a corporation, the securing of proper land, the erection of buildings and equipment, was the work of his hands. He and Mrs. Thorpe gave to the corporation the land on which the girls’ camp was erected. During the years of its existence, the success of the camp has been due to his untiring efforts, his kindly ministrations, and his unselfish devotion. He has been the one who has interested others to give of their substance to carry on the work; indeed, it is not too much to say that this corporation would not be in existence, had he not promoted it from the beginning. It will be a hard and difficult task to conduct the camp without him. No one else can give what he gave to it.

We, the members of the Board of Trustees, desire to place on record an appreciation of his beautiful, kindly life, his happiness in doing for others, and the sweetness of his ministrations to the unfortunate, especially to little children. His memory will ever remain as a sweet-smelling savor, giving inspiration and courage to those who will try to carry on in his stead.

His sudden passing from this life to the great life beyond has created a void that can never be wholly filled, but it would be his wish that all the activities of this corporation should be carried on without him.

The Camp for Crippled Children will stand as a memorial to his kindly, unselfish, trusting life, created by him to help those in need. The living of such a life as his makes us realize what great things can be accomplished by a loving spirit.

In expressing our deep regret at his death, we record the deep satisfaction which we fell in having been associated with him in the work of this corporation.

Excerpts from articles published in the Rutland Herald soon after Walter Thorpe’s death:

No bare recital of facts and figures can tell the story of his work with those children. Crippled kids, all of them, many of them could barely swing themselves along with crutches, but what a time they had. He taught them songs, and how they sang the Rotary songs that he specialized in! He taught them games. They reveled in the swimming pool. They walked the trails. Three times a week at least there was some kind of entertainment in the lodge. One week with him and they were no longer cripples in spirit, just kids having a whale of a time. And they thrived on it…

Next summer the crippled kids won’t have their beloved director to lead them and jolly them, but if they can have those eight weeks of camp life his greatest gift to the world can be perpetuated…

The Camp for Crippled Children in Goshen is Walter Thorpe’s monument. Built upon the foundation of his practical idealism, cemented by his universal sympathies and friendships, roofed over by his ability to win and hold support for the adventure, the 3 C’s Camp will perpetuate the memory of Walter Thorpe among the people of Vermont and all New England.

The printer’s rules are not turned over to show the black of mourning here, because up there on the hills of Goshen his spirit lives, and it requires only the devotion and ability of his friends and family to continue his influence and his good works although his person has passed from among them.