For the past 10 years, West Chester University students have put forth a philanthropic effort to help children who have been infected with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS through annual fundraising events for a local organization, Camp Dreamcatcher. Last year’s event, Field of Dreams, raised close to $34,000 to help with the money going directly to support therapeutic and educational programs for 160 children and adolescents, ages 5 to 17. The money fundraised through WCU’s event provided a full week of camp for over 40 children.
“The mission of Camp Dreamcatcher is to provide safe and therapeutic services for children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS and their families,”states the official website of the Southern Chester County camp. The children and counselors spend the week on the grounds of Camp Saginaw, where they can participate in various activities such as tennis, mini-golf, swimming, canoeing, hiking, go-cart racing, arts and crafts and many more.
Sticking to their mission, there is no charge for any of the services provided by the organization. The entire camp is funded through many corporations, foundations, individuals, including the United Way of Southern Chester County, and the majority of funds come from West Chester University’s annual event.
Patty Hillkirk, a psychotherapist, who founded the organization in 1995, felt it was important for these children to have a safe haven, a place where they could be a kid and forget about the trials and tribulations that have infected their lives through HIV/AIDS. It was her dream that these children could have, as detailed on the site, “a special place that was safe, supportive and nurturing, and a place to express their feelings of fear, sadness and anger with adults who understand and with children who may share their burdens.”
Camp Dreamcatcher provides several programs such as the one-week therapeutic camp experience, a teen leadership retreat, camper support groups, camper/counselor reunion parties, HIV/AIDS training, education, community outreach programs, and also a Holiday Adopt-A-Family program.
The Wish Log Ceremony, an event at camp, that is held at the end of the week. Throughout the week, the campers and staff members find a log and decorate it however they want. The last night of camp everyone gathers together to attend the Wish Log Ceremony. The campers all have a chance to state their wish out loud or just say it in silence, and then throw there log into the bon fire.
“The wish log ceremony was a life changing experience for me. Watching these children stand up there and asking for their mother’s life back, I felt like I could never complain again,” said Stacy Kirk, a Camp Dreamcatcher counselor.
Camp Dreamcatcher counselors and Inter-Greek Council philanthropy representatives, John Farley and John Beresk are attempting to coordinate with other service organizations on campus to become involved with the annual event. Last year, the Abbey Society contributed to WCU’s annual donation. On Valentine’s Day two weeks ago, Farley and Beresk and fellow members of the WCU Camp Dreamcatcher committee organized a fundraising event selling paper hearts for a dollar, which were displayed in Sykes Student Union, raising over $270.
“We are extremely grateful to John Beresk and John Farley and everyone else working hard on the WCU events throughout the year. Without their commitment and support, we would not be able to offer programs to kids coping with the reality of HIV/AIDS,” said Hillkirk.
WCU will hold its annual event for Camp Dreamcatcher, Saturday, April 22, where students participate in softball, wiffle ball tournaments, and carnival games for the campers who attend. The day also marks the 10th Anniversary Celebration Event to be held in Kennett Square. The event includes a silent auction, dinner and dancing. Jim Wooten, former Senior Correspondent for ABC News Nightline and author of “We are all the same, a story of a boy’s courage and a mother’s love”, will be our Keynote speaker. Tickets are $75 and folks can call 610-925-2998 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further info.
“WCU has supported camp for years and years by inviting us to be part of health fairs, etc. and by being a major resource for counselors,” said Hillkirk.