Local summer camp the focus of Oscar nominated documentary

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HUNTER, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In the tiny town of Hunter, a big secret is out.

An Oscar-nominated documentary called “Crip Camp” reveals that the birthplace of the civil rights movement for anyone with a disability. It happened at a summer camp in Hunter.

“And I’m sure most people, everyone here, has someone in their family or connected to their family who is handicapped,” said Dede Terns-Thorpe, Town of Hunter historian. “Their life was changed because of what the kids at Camp Jened did.”

More than 50 years ago, special needs kids came to Camp Jened with one wish, treat me normal.

“We all remember the kids coming into town to the pizza place and ice cream place with their wheelchairs,” said Linda Geary of the Mountain Top Historical Society. “They were an element that added an understanding and a compassion to all of our lives.”

Then something unexpected happened. The camp lit a fire under these children. And when they became adults, they organized, marched on Washington and made certain they would never be ignored again.

Their unrelenting pressure brought about the A.D.A., The Americans with Disabilities Act. Those ramps, elevators and handicapped bathrooms we all take for granted, were dreams hatched in Hunter by those crazy kids.

The Historical Society’s Gary Slutsky wants to honor them. “We want to see a historical marker, the New York state type blue and yellow, three-feet wide and two-feet high on a five-foot pole.”

They also want to an A.D.A compliant trail that will lead to the historical marker to Camp Jened.

There is money to raise and paperwork to file but they’re confident it will happen. Just look at what a group of determined teenagers once did in these very hills.

“We’re so thankful that those people and had the experience that they did, and went on to do great things for our country and our larger world.”

Crip Camp did not win the Oscar for best documentary, “My Octopus Teacher” took home that award.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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