Patty Hillkirk has worked with at-risk youth for over 30 years. An alumna of Penn State University, Patty also has three years of therapeutic training with the Pennsylvania Gestalt Center. She established a private psychotherapy practice in 1990, specializing in work with trauma survivors and people with special needs. Patty’s work in the HIV/AIDS community started in 1986 as a volunteer with the Red Cross and then as a therapist with adults living with HIV/AIDS.
Patty is the founder of Camp Dreamcatcher, a fun, safe, and therapeutic escape for children and teens infected by and coping with HIV/AIDS. Inspired to create Camp Dreamcatcher after watching a “60 Minutes” segment about a summer camp for children coping with HIV/AIDS in New York, Patty’s dream was to create a therapeutic and loving community to embrace children impacted by the disease. Due to her leadership and dedication, what started as a one-week camp in 1996 now serves more than 400 HIV/AIDS impacted youth each year and delivers HIV/AIDS outreach and education to over 6,000 students and community members. Programs include an educational camp session, weekend Retreats, Camper Reunion Events, a Mentoring Program, a holiday Adopt-a-Family program and a Teen Speaker’s Bureau. The community she has built was featured in the film “Tiny Tears,” which was screened at both the United Nations and The Cannes Film Festival. Patty’s work makes all services provided by Camp Dreamcatcher free to participants.
Hundreds of counselors, medical personnel, professionals, and community members volunteer throughout the year with Camp Dreamcatcher, and over the past 18 years, the volunteers have provided 157,000 hours of service to children coping with HIV/AIDS. All of the services provided by the organization are free and children benefiting from the programs come from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Patty is married and resides in Kennett Square. She serves as a member of the Kennett Lions Club Morning Branch and volunteers with the YMCA as a coach for her son’s basketball team.
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
2013 Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development Alumni Recognition Award
Received the College of Health and Human Development Alumni Award for professional excellence and exemplary voluntary community involvement in a health and human development field. Presented a speech titled “Catching a Dream: My Journey Helping HIV/AIDS-Impacted Youth,” as part of the Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series, which was established by the Board of Directors of the College of Health and Human Development Alumni Society.
2011 West Chester University’s Woman of the Year Award
Recipient of the first Woman of the Year Award which recognizes a woman who displays leadership and service qualities worthy of special recognition. It is awarded for distinguished and exceptional achievements in her profession and/or volunteer activities that have positively impacted women and/or girls.
2010 Beacon of Hope Award
Awarded by Lions Club International for “Being a beacon of hope to those in need around the world”.