Supporters Come Together After Vandals Damage Camp For Deaf Families

By Melissa Garcia

SNOWMASS, Colo. (CBS4) – Supporters of the deaf and hearing-impaired community are coming together to help a camp hit hard by thieves and vandals.

Aspen Camp, located in nearby Snowmass, rents out cabins between sessions for the hard of hearing to help support the nonprofit organization’s operations.

(credit: Aspen Camp)

Hundreds of children and their families visit the camp each year from across Colorado and even internationally.

The damage that occurred during this year’s X Games has put camp staff in a bind to get the facility ready for its next group of deaf campers.

The year-round, one-of-a-kind retreat teaches life skills to deaf youth, adults and families.

(credit: Aspen Camp)

A camp spokesperson said that some X Games fans renting out a couple of the camp’s cabins through Airbnb apparently did not respect the valuable programs.

Ryan Commerson, Aspen Camp’s board president, spoke to CBS4’s Melissa Garcia through an interpreter.

He said the rowdy party-goers trashed the camp, broke an electric wiring outlet and damaged a door frame. They also left a sticky mess on cabin floors, scattered fpod along trails, and stole meals meant for deaf families from the staff kitchen after breaking into the main lounge.

(credit: Aspen Camp)

“Everything was locked,” Commerson said. “The doors and the windows were locked. And it was a smaller window that they really had to work hard to have squeezed themselves into.”

One vandal wrote a disparaging message on the kitchen’s fridge that read, “We are not deaf.”

Vandalism left at Aspen Camp (credit: Aspen Camp)

“(It was) a classless act,” Commerson said. “It’s just another example of what we always face every day of our lives as we’re growing up.”

Aspen Camp volunteers and staff members worked tirelessly to clean, repair, and restock.

“An additional unnecessary stress,” Commerson explained.

CBS4’s Melissa Garcia interviews Ryan Commerson. (credit: CBS)

The several-thousand dollars in damage were a big blow to the nonprofit that was already struggling to break even.

An outpouring of support since the vandalism, however, will revamp not only the facilities, but also scholarship funds for the 70 percent of deaf youth campers who otherwise can’t afford to attend.

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“We teach (the deaf and hard of hearing) to advocate for themselves. And this situation is just an example of the types of things that we’re wanting to practice with them to know how to deal with when they’re out in the world,” Commerson said of the adversity.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating, but has not said if deputies have been able to identify who broke in and caused the damage.

An Airbnb spokesperson provided the following statement:

“We take incidents like this extremely seriously and are urgently investigating what happened. We are in touch with our host and are giving them our full support. Additionally, we have reached out to local law enforcement to offer our assistance with their investigation. Our community standards prohibit behavior like this and if a guest violates our policies, we will take action including suspension or permanent removal from our platform. There have been more than 260 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are extremely rare, but even so, we’re constantly working to improve our policies, and our protections, because even one incident is one too many.”

Commerson encouraged anyone interested in learning more to reach out to the camp.

LINKS: Airbnb Host Safety Tips | Aspen Camp’s Facebook Page

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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