Jill Bearman never let her illness stamp out her spark.
And the Pikesville girl’s legacy will continue with the completion of Jill’s Place, a 700-seat theater expected to open at Camp Louise in summer 2018.
Nestled in the hills of Western Maryland, the all-girls camp became a home away from home for Bearman, who spent her summer days as a camper in the 1970s and 1980s before she died in 1986 from cystic fibrosis. She was 15.
Construction crews broke ground last week on the $2 million theater, funded largely by a $500,000 donation from the Baltimore-based Herbert Bearman Foundation. The gift is the largest of its kind, aside from major funding provided by The Aaron Straus & Lillie Straus Foundation, to be received by the Jewish camp in its almost 100-year history.
Sheldon Bearman, president and treasurer of the Herbert Bearman Foundation, and his wife Arlene Bearman said Camp Louise was her happy place.
“Jill had a zest for life that was a wonder to behold,” the Bearmans said in a Camp Louise press release. “She was determined to overcome her physical limitations and live a loving, meaningful and enjoyable existence. … We really believe the highlight of her year was the opportunity to be a camper at Camp Louise.”
For Alicia Berlin, who serves as the director of Camp Louise, the project will forever hold a special place in her heart. She and Bearman grew close while attending the camp in the early 1980s.
“She loved camp,” Berlin said. “I think Jill would be so thrilled about the theater, not only because of the performing arts programs that’ll take place there, but because Jill’s Place will be a center for our community to gather for all different reasons.”
Berlin said the camp’s current theater, known as Terrace Theater, is lacking a roof, which has proven to be a stressor with summer thunderstorms, which have forced campers to reschedule musical performances, talent shows and other well-rehearsed productions. In addition to a sturdy roof, the state of the art theater will include an upgraded audio system and enhanced lighting features.
Community members wishing to snag a role in the construction of Jill’s Place can do so by sponsoring benches, the sound booth and more.
“So many in our Camp Louise family remember performing on stage and want to be part of this project,” Lauren Perlin, director of development for Camps Airy and Louise, said in the press release. “These naming opportunities provide a way to do just that.”
To contribute to the making of Jill’s Place, call 410-843-7340 or email Lauren@AiryLouise.org.