Patty Hillkirk had a dream in 1995 to start a camp for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. While there were other camps for disadvantaged kids, and those with serious illnesses, the camp was envisioned as more than just an outdoor, fun experience. As a psychotherapist, Patty felt it was also important for the kids to have a special place that was safe, supportive and nurturing, a place to express their feelings of fear, sadness and anger with adults who understand and with children who may share their burdens.
During one week in August, children ages 5 -17 attend Camp Dreamcatcher. The children coming to camp may be coping with the HIV/AIDS infection of a family member, the death of one or both parents, or their own HIV/AIDS infection. The purpose of Camp Dreamcatcher is to provide children whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS with a chance to get away from home for a week and have fun! The children enjoy swimming, basketball, campfires, hiking, boating, arts/crafts, a carnival, scavenger hunts, horeseback riding, an adventure challenge course, go-kart racing, miniature golfing and the much anticipated dance and Talent Show!! The camp also offers the children a chance to express their feelings in a safe therapeutic environment. Professionals in the fields of psychotherapy, music/art therapy, yoga and massage facilitate individual and group experiences for the children. In all, over 260 counselors, medical staff and other professionals volunteer their expertise to make the camp an unforgettable experience for the children.
The mission of Camp Dreamcatcher is:
1. To provide safe and therapeutic services for children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.
2. To foster an atmosphere of tolerance, compassion, respect and understanding through volunteer opportunities, services and expanded community outreach.
In 1999, we expanded our programs to meet the growing needs of the children we serve and Camp Dreamcatcher now offers the following programs throughout the year:
» a one-week therapeutic and educational camp session for 170 HIV/AIDS infected and/or affected children.
» a weekend Teen Leadership Retreat
» a weekend Teen Life Skills Retreat
» HIV/AIDS education and training for volunteer counselors
» camper/counselor reunion parties
» HIV/AIDS education and community outreach. This program includes presentations by members of our HIV/AIDS Teen Speaker’s Bureau, who share their personal stories with middle schools, high schools, universities and community groups.
» Adopt-A-Family Program during the December Holidays.
» Family Advocacy and support services
» camper support groups
There is no charge for any of the services offered by Camp Dreamcatcher. All funds are raised from foundations, the United Way of Southern Chester County, corporations, individuals and fundraising events.
Learn more about Camp Dreamcatcher by visiting them online at www.CampDreamcatcher.org.