The Issue: Support for Youth Dealing with HIV/AIDS
HIV infection is more prevalent among people with a lower socioeconomic status, which encompasses education level, income, employment, and housing status, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to affecting their likelihood of contracting HIV, the American Psychological Association states that lower socioeconomic status may also reduce individuals' access to treatment and education about the disease, affecting their quality of life. About 97% of Camp Dreamcatcher's participants come from low-income families affected by HIV/AIDS, so many campers do not have access to therapeutic and educational programs in their own communities. At the weeklong summer camp, they get the opportunity to participate in those types of programs, along with having fun with their peers.
The Campaign: Sending Youth Affected by HIV/AIDS to Camp
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by Camp Dreamcatcher to send youth affected by HIV/AIDS to its weeklong camp. For every $470 raised, Camp Dreamcatcher can sponsor one youth's participation in the camp. About 130 campers from about six states attend the session every year, and this year’s camp takes place August 18–24 at Camp Saginaw in Oxford, Pennsylvania.
During the week, youth aged 5–17 can take part in hundreds of available therapeutic, educational, and recreational programs, including art therapy, bully prevention, swimming, and hiking. The programs help youth safely express their feelings about HIV/AIDS in a judgment-free environment. More than 250 counselors, medical personnel, and community members volunteer to work at the camp.
In 1995, Patty Hillkirk was working as a psychotherapist and dreaming of starting a camp for youth infected or affected by HIV/AIDS that would provide a safe environment for them to express themselves. Camp Dreamcatcher realizes this goal with a weeklong camp session in August where children aged 5–17 can interact with their peers. Campers and counselors may be coping with their own infection or the infection or death of a family member.
During the camp, youth can take part in 80 therapeutic programs, including music and psychotherapy; 35 educational sessions on pertinent topics such as depression and college preparation; and 150 recreational activities, including swimming, a ropes course, and the annual dance and talent show. Throughout the year, Camp Dreamcatcher also runs life-skills and leadership retreats for teenagers, training for counselors, community outreach, and family advocacy, as well as an Adopt-A-Family program during the holidays.