Mayhew’s roots go back to 1893, when Groton School, an independent boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts, began operation of a summer camp for underprivileged boys on Groton Island in nearby Squam Lake. It was, at one time, the second-oldest charity camp in the country. In 1920, with the help of the Webster family, the Groton School Camp (GSC) was moved to Mayhew Island, an uninhabited Island on Newfound Lake that was used for sheep grazing and raw lumber. From this new location, the GSC continued serving needy boys from New England’s urban areas until 1966, when the focus of Groton’s efforts turned to matters on campus.
In 1969, with the Island buildings falling into disarray, several former GSC counselors joined forces with the staff and trustees of nearby Camp Pasquaney to begin the Mayhew Island Project, serving 9 boys from the inner city neighborhoods of Manchester, NH. Jonathan Choate, a Groton math teacher, and Owen Lindsay, Jr. coordinated the effort that first year. It was difficult because the facility was in poor shape. The following summer, after the untimely death of Owen, Tony Governanti, a Tilton School teacher, was recruited by our “patron saint,” Owen S. Lindsay, Sr., to begin the rebuilding of the facility and program. Tony was very skilled in making the necessary repairs on the Island and in creating a viable program. Within three years, he was hired year-round to expand “Camp Mayhew’s” reach to boys from throughout New Hampshire. About the same time, the concept of two four-week sessions was born.
In 1975, Mayhew incorporated as the “Mayhew Program” and began to be overseen by a Board of Trustees. By the late ‘70s, enrollment expanded to 72 boys and in 1980, Mayhew had two year-round community staff members. Mike Hoyt, Tim Emerson, Roger Larochelle and Dave Cameron were the early pioneers during that period. Al Cantor, a staff member in ‘75, ‘76, and from 1982 to 1995, succeeded Tony as the Executive Director in 1984. Within a few years, annual enrollment in the program was consistently at 84 boys. In his ten-plus years at the helm, Al improved the caliber of the program substantially and greatly improved the resource base.
A pivotal day and point in the history of Mayhew was January 6, 1990 when the Owen Lindsay Lodge burned to the ground on a blustery winter day. When receiving the phone call informing him of the disaster even while the fire still blazed, Owen Lindsay, Sr. typified the program’s approach to challenge when he calmly asked, “What do we need to do to rebuild for the upcoming summer?” By the following June, a new lodge had been constructed despite 6 weeks of unsafe ice and the logistical quagmires of getting all the materials and workers out to the Island in time to open camp that summer. Certainly Owen’s leadership and that of Al Cantor, Mayhew’s Executive Director, proved instrumental in this effort.
Mayhew has been blessed with great leadership at all levels over the years. Together, we continue to improve the program and make refinements that keep us fresh and strong. Every year, new individuals bring ideas and improvements to the program. One of the more significant program changes was the development of Link-Up in 1994. Link-Up was designed to encourage the boys to remain involved with Mayhew for six years instead of the customary two. David Bird took the lead role in the development and growth of Link-Up.
Despite our proud history, focus on improvement and our record of success, Mayhew will always be rather fragile. Its future success depends on a collective and continued commitment to excellence in supporting the boys.