Author enthralls crowd at Camp Mayhew
BRISTOL — For the third consecutive summer, Marty Kelley, a self-described “author/ illustrator/recovering second grade teacher” from New Boston, came to Camp Mayhew on Newfound Lake, where on Sunday he enthralled the young campers with tales of mystery and adventure featuring an orphan girl named “Molly.”
Kelley’s appearance was made possible by the Children’s Literacy Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “nurture a love of reading and writing among children throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.” Since 1998 CLiF has served more than 125,000 children in nearly
400 communities in the two states.
In some obvious ways, CLiF and the Mayhew Program, of which the summertime Camp Mayhew on Mayhew Island is a part, are a perfect match in that both work with at-risk youngsters, the former in communities where resources are limited and where children might have low literacy skills.
Camp Mayhew, which has roots that go back to 1893 and the then-Groton School, which operated a camp for underprivileged boys on Squam Lake, “challenges and helps at-risk New Hampshire boys to believe in themselves, work well with others, and find their best.”
The boys are 10- and 11-years-old and come from low-income, single-parent families.
They are referred by school officials, youth counselors, and social workers, and are accepted into the two-part Mayhew program which has a mentoring component during the school year and in the summer at Camp Mayhew.
Gregory Stautzenberger, who is in his sixth season as Camp Mayhew’s program director, said the 42 campers who attend one of the two 25-day sessions get a full slate of activities each day, including “quiet time” after lunch, when they’re encouraged to, among other things, read.
Camp Mayhew has a “Society of Distinguished Readers” for those campers who read 300 or more pages during their stays and overall, reading is strongly encouraged right up to “lights out” at 9 p.m., said Stautzenberger.
Since 2010, CLiF has brought Kelley to Camp Mayhew, and with him, Stautzenberger added, scores of new books. After Kelley finished telling tales last night, each Mayhew camper got to pick two books for themselves.
Most recently the author of Fame, Fortune and the Bran Muffin of Doom , Kelley said he’s many things, but not normally a storyteller “but I will be tonight.”
As he began his presentation, however, it was clear that Kelley — who does about a dozen CLiF programs annually — knows how to tell tales well, luring the campers in with a personal reflection, intermixed with some humor, followed by repulsive horror.
“This is absolutely one of my favorite places to come to,” Kelley said, and one of the few places where he has been to multiple times as a CLiF representatives.
Kelley asked his audience to show their hands if they hated, loved, or were indifferent to reading, immediately asking “how many of you guys are married?” The question was understood by the adults in the room, who laughed a little more heartily when a handful of campers raised their hands to indicate they were indeed hitched.
Kelley confessed that he was really tired Sunday because he had stayed up late Saturday night after meeting a girl named “Molly” who was living at a London orphanage which was run by “Miss Adderstone” whom Kelley pointed out was “not a nice lady.”
Once, when Miss Adderstone found out that Molly had broken a rule at the orphanage, she ordered her to clean the bathroom with her toothbrush. The thought prompted disgust in the campers who gave up a collective “aaarrggh,” which, Kelley pointed out, was exactly “what Molly said.”
At that point, the Mayhew campers were hooked and over the course of the next hour, Kelley reeled them in — hook, line, and sinker — to the joys of reading.