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A New Support Space at Valley Youth House's Camp Fowler | WDIY Local News

Team members break first ground at Camp Fowler in Orefield to celebrate their new Carter Family Center, which will create more space for indoor recreation and educational programming.
James Zipprodt
Team members break first ground at Camp Fowler in Orefield to celebrate their new Carter Family Center, which will create more space for indoor recreation and educational programming.

Leftover snow on the ground couldn’t stop the celebration at Camp Fowler in Orefield Tuesday as they prepare to break ground on their new Carter Family Center.

The Valley Youth House camp provides kids with outdoor experiences to help them deal with challenges they face. Valley Youth House CEO Tom Harrington explained the camp’s method:

“So for example, if you’re going up a climbing wall and coming down the zipline, a lot of kids might be scared to do that, but they get up the nerve to do it. They overcome that challenge and then at the end of the exercise, they’ll sit down with the other kids and staff and our staff will say, 'Alright, how does this relate to other challenges you have in your life?' So it’s a program resource we have to help not only the kids in Valley Youth House, but any young person in the community can come out here and take part in exciting and experiential learning, as well as educational programs.”

Camp Fowler has made major impacts on countless young people, including Chaunice Holley, Mrs. Pennsylvania America 2023.

“I came to camp… At that point, it was called Camp Horseshoe, and I think funneled through the Boys and Girls Club. It was an exciting time to be able to come to Camp Horseshoe in the summers because it was literally where all of my friends got to be kids. We had adult stuff that was happening at home that we were dealing with as children, too young to really be dealing with those things. But then we came here and it was just fun.”

The 43-acre property welcomes children from low-income families, underrepresented populations, and those living in foster care. Its outdoor behavioral therapy approach provides support for those struggling with trauma.

“I remember a young person last summer who came here and the first night, they wanted to go home. They wanted their foster parent to come pick them up. So we called their guardian and talked that young person into staying. And the next day, they had a tough day, and that night they wanted to go home, and we were able to talk them into staying. By the end of the week, they asked if they could come back the next week.”

The camp originally only operated in the summers because their cabins weren’t built for winter weather. Recent updates in the buildings, however, have allowed them to provide their services year-round.

“The first time I came, seeing the new bunk, this is some elevated glamping situation, which I am here for. Some of these bunks might be better than the homes that the kids have, and could be more of a home than they have. So for me, that in itself is valuable.”

Now the camp is preparing to break ground on their newest building, the Carter Family Center. Much of the funding, materials, and labor will be donated by local groups or businesses.

“One of the things we’re really excited about is how the community has come together to support the young people in our community… over $2 million will be in donated services and materials that are provided by the local construction companies. It’s been a great partnership with our local builders.”

The Carter Family Center will add space for indoor recreational activities and educational programs, allowing more children to attend the camp during colder months and expanding their programs and resources.

Chaunice Holley said the support that Camp Fowler provides is vital.

“Kids don’t have voices, and 98.999% of the time, they don’t have a choice in the situations that they are growing up in or that they are born into. To have as much assistance and help as possible is so very important. And assistance doesn’t just look like green, assistance is time. It’s patience, it’s effort, it’s a share, a like. It’s just being able to put yourself in an empathetic position to see the world through their eyes.”

James is the News and Public Affairs Director for WDIY. He reports on stories in the Lehigh Valley and across the state which impact the region, along with managing WDIY's volunteers who help create the station's diverse line-up of public affairs programs.
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