CAMP Rehoboth co-founder, influential LGBTQ advocate Steve Elkins dies
The co-founder and executive director of CAMP Rehoboth and a longtime fighter for equality legislation in Delaware has died from lymphoma, according to a Facebook post.
Steve Elkins, 67, served as CAMP Rehoboth's executive director for over 25 years with the motto “room for all.”
Delaware Democratic Party Chair Erik Raser-Schramm says that motto is one of the things he admired most about Elkins.
“Seeing that from Steve — as upset you can get in terms of your opponents or people that are anti-equality, the reality is we’re all human and we come to the table with different perspectives,” Raser-Schramm said. “That was a legacy from Steve that will live with me forever.”
Schramm says Elkins was a tireless bright spot during the fight for marriage equality in Delaware, serving as a positive face for the movement before legislation passed in 2013. And as he looks at his own family — his husband and his two sons, he says it's because of Elkins that he's fortunate to have them.
"When CAMP Rehoboth was having their big street festival, I took Isaac (Schramm's son) down to meet Steve and that was the last time I saw him," Schramm said. "I'll always remember his face and how it lit up when he saw Isaac, and it was to me less about his opportunity to meet Isaac, but me thanking Steve for all he did for us to be able to have that family here in Delaware."
According to a Facebook post from CAMP Rehoboth, as the executive director for more than 25 years, “Steve’s leadership and vision has allowed CAMP Rehoboth to become one of the most respected and successful non-profit organizations in Delaware, and has contributed greatly to establishing Rehoboth as a widely recognized community with “room for all.”
Mark Purpura, who is on the board of directors for CAMP Rehoboth, met Elkins at a meeting of LGBTQ advocates years ago when they were forming Equality Delaware — a coalition that campaigned for protections for the LGBTQ community. Purpura says Elkins transformed the City of Rehoboth Beach into a welcoming, inclusive place to live.
"Originally [CAMP Rehoboth] started out at a time when there were bumper stickers around Rehoboth saying ‘keep Rehoboth a family town', which was really code for 'keep the gays and lesbians out'," Purpura said. "Steve wanted to change that and he had a vision. And he implemented that vision over the long term."
Rehoboth means "room for all" and Elkins had a vision that it could "truly be a place with room for all," Purpura said.
"He made it a reality," Purpura said. "He's the reason why me and many other people have moved to this great city."
“He saw to it that we were woven into the fabric of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and all of Delaware,” said Fay Jacobs, who has worked with CAMP Rehoboth since 1995.
News of Elkins' death also touched the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware. In a statement, Delaware's ACLU said they shared a symbiotic relationship with Elkins for over a decade, working with him to pass anti-discrimination legislation to protect individuals.
"Steve leaves a legacy for the entire Rehoboth Beach community based on a vision of inclusivity he and his husband Murray Archibald have nurtured through CAMP Rehoboth for nearly thirty years. We will remember his legacy and humbly work to continue it," Delaware ACLU staff said.
Elkins was instrumental in the implementation of a nondiscrimination bill protecting “sexual orientation” in Delaware’s discrimination statute, which was passed in 2009. Chris Beagle, the president of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors, says it struck him that Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill into law at CAMP Rehoboth on July 2 – Elkins’ birthday.
Beagle said those close to CAMP Rehoboth plan to continue Elkins’ legacy.
“I had seen him as a pioneer in the fight for LGBT equality for years,” Beagle said. “He truly became a personal mentor for me.”
CAMP Rehoboth says grief counselors are at their site today.
Details on funeral arrangements have yet to be released.
This story has been updated.