Flying Horse Farms is a camp that is a member of the Association of the Hole in the Wall camps, started by Paul Newman for children with serious illnesses. They’ve been in development for the last four years, and are getting ready to open their doors this Fall for their first program. I talked to Jennifer Kerns, Flying Horse Farms marketing director, to learn more about this AMAZING program.
Love+Water- How did the idea for Flying Horse Farms come about?
Jennifer Kerns- Our founders, Jenni and David Belford, had a farm in Mt. Gilead, Ohio and they used to have a one-day program at their farm for kids with illnesses. They loved it so much that they wanted to do something more permanent. Paul Newman founded the first Hole In The Wall Camp in Connecticut for children with serious illnesses and from there other organizations wanted to start camps based on the same model, so he formed an association that allows other camps to form based on the structure of Hole In The Wall Camps. So they bought land and donated 3.5 million dollars along with 195 acres of land, having made the decision to become a member of the Association of Hole In The Wall Camps. We are considered a provisional member of Hole In The Wall right now, meaning we have followed all the guidelines in setting up our camp, and we will become a full member once we open this Fall.
L+W- What have you been doing to prepare for the opening of the camp?
JK- Fundraising, raising capital, and building awareness, along with building all the facilities we need for the camp to function. There are only five other camps in the U.S. that are members of the Hole In The Wall Association, and we will be the sixth, so we’re very excited about that. We’re also the only one in the midwest, so we’re very happy to be able to offer this to the kids in this area.
L+W- What kinds of activities will you offer for the kids?
JK- It’s a typical camp experience- the only difference is that we will have a 24-hour medical facility on site. We will have swimming, horseback riding, archery, canoeing, and many other activities that kids do at regular summer camp, along with the facilities to enable kids who are in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled to participate. The kids who will attend have a variety of illnesses, including arthritis, severe asthma, cancer, heart disease, hemophilia, sickle cell disease along with many others.
We’ll group the kids with similar illnesses in the same week-long experience, so they will have a chance to bond with other kids who understand what they’re going through.
L+W- Do the kids who attend have to be from Ohio, or can they come from other states?
JK- They will be from Ohio and the surrounding states. Before our camp was opened, we did research the make sure there was a need for it in the area. We found that there are around 16,000 children that could be served by the camp in Ohio alone. Of course not all of them will be able to attend, but we can also serve kids from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana, so there is a definite need.
L+W- What are some of the benefits the kids experience by going to this kind of camp?
JK- It helps with their physical needs, since so many of them spend a lot of time in a doctor’s office being told what they can’t do. Some kids with blood disorders can’t play contact sports, but at camp they can participate in any activity regardless of their abilities because we’ve made it all safe. So they get to feel like a typical, average kid. Also, since they’re with kids with other illnesses they can share their stories and experiences with other kids who understand them, which is a huge boost to their confidence and morale. We also found out that they learn that they are not the center of the world, which is a very important lesson for them. Most kids with illnesses are often the center of attention at home, so this allows them to take a step back from that and learn selflessness and how to share. It also gives the parents a break and allows them to relax because they know their kids are being taken care of. During the year we will offer weekend retreats for families, which is also a bonding experience for the whole family. It gives the kids a chance to bond with their families in a new way, and for the families to get to know them better in a relaxed setting.
L+W- How can kids sign up now to attend?
JK- They can sign up on our website. People can also donate online. If anyone is interested in volunteering we keep a list, as we will be having some fundraising events throughout the year as well as volunteer opportunities when the camp opens. There is no charge for the kids or families to attend the camp, so we rely on fundraising and volunteers to keep it going.
L+W- Where do most of the kids who have signed up hear about Flying Horse Farms?
JK- We have relationships with all eight of the children’s hospitals in Ohio, and basically we get referrals from their doctors and nurses for kids to join our program. They have also approved our program, and will be supplying the doctors and nurses who will be volunteering each week for the summer camps. While we have been under construction for the past four years, we have been sending kids from around here away to other Hole In The Wall camps so they can experience how the whole program works, so that when we open they already know and feel comfortable with the programs. All in all, it has been an amazing experience preparing for our camp to open, and we are very much looking forward to starting our programs in the Fall.
Visit Flying Horse Farms Site
Follow Flying Horse Farms on Twitter: @FlyingHorseRide