By Jan Hatchard, Director of Development
Although you may not know Alex Campbell by name, chances are you’ve encountered him working at Chilmark Chocolates or purchased one of his beautiful angel-themed greeting cards at a local gift shop. If you’re lucky, during your encounter, you were treated to his dry sense of humor or a description of the latest adventure in his world travels. Alex is a survivor with a funny bone, an artist on a mission, and a person seriously bitten by the travel bug—and you shouldn’t expect to get too far into a conversation with him without experiencing a good laugh or two.
Alex’s journey of survival began on a family vacation to Mexico when he was just three years old. The camper his family was traveling in was hit head-on by the drunken driver of a city bus. Both his father, Arthur, and his brother, Peter, died in the accident that seriously injured his mother, Cathy, and his sisters, Rebecca and Katie. Alex, thrown clear of the car and into a bush nearby, was the last to be found. After a lengthy recovery from a serious brain injury, he was ultimately left with paralysis on his right side and the loss of sight in his right eye. He acknowledges that his strong and feisty spirit has seen him through the trials of living with his disabilities. But he hasn’t let them interfere with where his interests and talents would lead him.
Alex, his mother, Cathy, and sister, Katie moved to Martha’s Vineyard from San Diego eight years ago to be close to family here on the Island. His older sisters remained in California. Alex entered Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and graduated in 2004.
When asked what he misses most about his life in San Diego other than his sisters Jennifer and Rebecca, Alex didn’t miss a beat, “Good Mexican food! Good Chinese Food! Whenever we go off to America, we must be able to have Chinese food. It’s good, it’s not expensive, and the flavor is ‘the bomb.’”
Alex blended his artistic talents with his spiritual interest in angels when he created his line of angel cards. Initially, he sold the cards from a table in front of his Lake Street home. Shopkeepers discovered his cards and they now are sold in a variety of locations around the Island: Rainy Day, The Beach House, Alley’s General Store, Chilmark Chocolates, the MV Hospital gift shop, and Sanctuary. Never forgetting the losses his own family suffered because of drunk driving, Alex contributes 5% of the proceeds from the sale of his cards to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
When asked about the challenges of living with a disability, Alex thinks carefully before he answers, “Being disabled is certainly very challenging— and there are many things I might want to do that I can’t— things people take for granted like driving to the store to get groceries, or having the social life I might want.” He credits the support he has received from Kathi Hackett, program director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Family Support Center for helping him explore opportunities to keep moving forward.
With the assistance of Kathi Hackett, his interest in the arts led Alex to an art class at the HAC (Habilitation Assistance Corporation) Program in Bourne where he has begun to more fully explore his artistic abilities with the help of his teacher, Linda. As a delightful consequence, he has expanded his card business to the Cape.
Alex notes that travel has done much to broaden his horizons; he has traveled with a special needs travel group to Italy, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. He looks to the future and the possibilities of exhibiting his burgeoning portfolio in a gallery. He dreams of some day soon traveling to Africa and New Zealand. For now, however, he’s open to all the possibilities, and notes “I’m just trying to lay back, stick my feet in the river, and see what fish bites.”