Camp Dreamcatcher plans Catching Dreams for Kids event06/14/2022 01:27PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Camp Dreamcatcher’s annual week-long camp of therapeutic and educational programs for children impacted by HIV or AIDS is now about two months away. An important—and fun— fundraiser to support the Kennett Square non-profit will take place on Saturday, June 25 with a Catching Dreams for Kids event that features two different in-person wine tasting and food pairings.
Proceeds from the event will help Camp Dreamcatcher to carry out its mission to provide educational and therapeutic programs to children—and all the services are offered free of charge to the children and their families. This year’s camp session will take place from Aug. 21 to Aug. 27.
There are two different guided wine tastings and food pairings on June 25. The first is the Sommelier's Secrets Experience that will take place at Work2gether on State Street in Kennett Square from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with five wines and individual appetizers. The cost is $75 for this experience.
Then, at the same location from 7 to 9 p.m., the other wine tasting and food pairing will feature six wines and a four-course meal from La Verona. This option costs $250 per person and will be limited to 12 people who will enjoy the food and wine on the Work2gether building’s balcony.
Kelly Daniels, a wine educator and ambassador for the Boisset Collection, will guide participants through the wine tasting and food pairing events.
For Camp Dreamcatcher, the fundraiser is another step toward normalcy after two very challenging years.
“This is our first in-person fundraising event since the pandemic,” said Patty Hillkirk, the executive director of Camp Dreamcatcher.
Hillkirk explained that she loves that they were able to hold the first fundraiser at Work2gether in Kennett Square because they had originally made plans with Work2gether owner Nick Winkler to stage an event before the pandemic hit.
“We were going to have a fundraiser at Work2gether in 2020, and we all know what happened,” Hillkirk explained. “So we wanted to make sure to go back to them for this.”
Numerous businesses, individuals, and organizations have also offered items for an online auction that will help raise funds for the upcoming camp session. Auction items that are now up for bid include experiences like a private wine tasting or an overnight stay at the Kennett Square Fairfield Inn with two tickets to Longwood Gardens included. Local businesses like the Mushroom Cap have offered packages for the auction. A three-month YMCA membership, Amazon gift cards, and restaurant gift certificates are also currently up for bid. Longtime Camp Dreamcatcher supporters like Ginny Fineberg are also auctioning off a variety of handcrafted items.
Hillkirk said that they will be adding new auction items each day right up until the event. The auction will close at 10 p.m. on June 25. You don’t need to be at the fundraiser to participate in the auction.
The goal, Hillkirk said, is to raise about $20,000 through the Catching Dreams for Kids event and the online auction.
All of Camp Dreamcatcher’s programs are provided for free to children so fundraising is a critical component of the organization’s work. It costs about $600 to simply have a child participate in the camp, and each child will benefit from between $1400 and $1800 in therapeutic programming, on average, during the week. That doesn’t happen without a lot of generosity.
Hillkirk founded Camp Dreamcatcher in the mid-1990s and its mission is as vital as ever. Today, it is the only free, therapeutic program for children who are coping with the impact of HIV and AIDS on the East Coast. While there have been some impressive medical advancements that allow children who have AIDS to lead much longer, productive lives, there are still many challenges. Many of the children who attend camp have lost loved ones. Some live in poverty. Others are targets for bullying.
The pandemic only heightened the feelings of isolation and anxiety for many of the children, and that creates even more of a need for therapeutic programs like those provided at Camp Dreamcatcher.
Hillkirk said that when they were able to hold an in-person camp in the summer of 2021, after being unable to come together in 2020, they expected the children to be suffering from more depression than in previous years because of the hardships created or exacerbated by the pandemic—and that’s exactly what they saw. This led to more behavioral issues at camp, especially among the youngest kids.
This prompted Camp Dreamcatcher to boost the training for its staff and volunteers, especially those who serve in leadership positions during the camp. This training focused on having the leaders be able to provide “youth mental health first aid” to the children who need it.
“The bottom line,” Hillkirk said, “is that there is a mental health crisis right now. Most of the kids don’t have access to mental health programs.”
Hillkirk said that Camp Dreamcatcher has also been focusing on ensuring that all programs are diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
The goal has always been to provide a safe space for youngsters, and part of that is ensuring that each child feels like he or she belongs—and is being treated equitably. Hillkirk said that the Philadelphia Foundation has supported Camp Dreamcatcher’s efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion through a Leadership Grant in 2021 and an Impact Grant in 2022.
Many local businesses and local organizations like the local Lions Clubs and Rotary groups help assist Camp Dreamcatcher with its mission. Many of the organizations and businesses who have sponsored events, rallied volunteers, or otherwise helped out have been right in the Kennett Square community.
“The town has been so generous to us through the years,” Hillkirk said.
A dedicated team of volunteers has also donated more than 240,000 hours in service to the children. So far, during Camp Dreamcatcher’s 27-year history, nearly 6,000 youngsters have benefitted from its programs, and that wouldn’t have happened without the people who volunteer.
“The kids tell me that camp is the only place where they feel comfortable sharing their feelings about HIV and AIDS,” Hillkirk said. “We provide an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance. The kids can let down their walls. Our counselors provide unconditional love to the campers.”
So far this year, 52 children have registered for camp, and 22 of them are new.
“We’re getting calls every day for new kids,” Hillkirk said, adding that this increases the need for new volunteers as well.
For more information about how to volunteer at Camp Dreamcatcher, to learn more about the Catching Dreams for Kids event, or to make a donation or to become a sponsor, visit the organization’s website at www.campdreamcatcher.org.