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.
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.
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 130 HIV/AIDS infected and/or affected children.
- a weekend Teen Leadership Retreat
- a weekend Teen Life Skills Retreat
- a weekend “Catching the Dream” young adult retreat
- a Teen Speaker’s Bureau
- HIV/AIDS education, training and communities outreach
- Reunion events for campers and their families
- Adopt-A-Family Program during the Holidays.
- Family Advocacy and support services
- Mentoring Program
Significant Achievements over the past 18 years
- Total Number of unduplicated HIV/AIDS Impacted Youth served in 18 years: 4,650
- Camp Dreamcatcher has provided 18 camp sessions and 24 weekend retreats to children and families coping with HIV/AIDS
- Provided 32 Reunion Events for HIV/AIDS impacted children and their families
- 460 children have been served through our holiday Adopt-a-Family Program
- 865 counselors have attended our HIV/AIDS & Diversity Training
- Provided HIV/AIDS Outreach & Education to 500 Schools and Community Groups
- HIV/AIDS Outreach & Education programs have reached 20,000 people
- CAMP SESSIONS: 3,336 volunteers. Of the total, 1,580 full-time counselors and medical personnel and 1,756 part-time professionals and community members volunteered.
- OTHER PROGRAMS: 600 counselors and medical personnel volunteered at weekend retreats & reunion events.
- THE TOTAL NUMBER OF VOLUNTEER HOURS SINCE INCEPTION IS 158,877