OREFIELD, Pa. (WLVT) - In the woods of Lehigh County, Camp Fowler waits to warm up. The seven cabins on the 43-acre property come alive when Bethlehem-based Valley Youth House welcomes dozens of kids.
Those cabins are getting an upgrade, thanks to a $1.4 million project supported by the community and local construction companies.
Camp Fowler isn't like other summer camps. It's actually a form of therapy Valley Youth House offers for free.
"Therapy in an office sitting on the couch doesn't work for all children," said camp coordinator Lori Hooper. "So, we try to have that other option to be here out in the woods and doing outdoor adventure therapy."
"It really helps with rates of depression and having a calm environment for youth to be able to kind of reset," added development officer Emily Conners.
It's a camp that includes youth who might not have access to a place like this: those in low-income families, in foster care, in the juvenile justice system, and in the LGBTQ+ community, among other groups.
"We're able to enhance their communication skills, help them deal with past trauma, build their self-esteem and really, really help them work on their leadership skills," Hooper said.
"This is a place where we're transforming lives," Conners said, "and often, we're saving lives, too."
The cabins have been here for 75 year, long before Camp Fowler started. They were built by the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown and have been used by several groups over time.
The cabins don't have bathrooms and are not ADA-accessible. There's also no insulation, which limited camp activity to warmer months in the year.
The project brings together companies like Kay Builders, Brooks Development Group, Commerce Construction Co., Majestic Realty Co., Quadratus Construction Management, Inc. and Langan to make the upgrade possible.
"They're all looking to give back for the right reasons, and they're just really, really good at what they do," said camp manager Matt Galle. "So, all the pieces are coming together."
"We want to make sure that our facilities match the quality care that we're providing," Conners said.
The project broke ground last month. The cabins will have bathrooms, heating and air-conditioning, as well as space for a common area and a room for counselors.
"For the time they're here, it's their place," Galle said. "So, it'll go a long way in helping shape the therapeutic effect of the camp."
"That allows us to serve more kids for a longer time and year-round, so it will really transform in a powerful way our programming that we're doing here," Conners said.
Three of the cabins will be ready to go by the summer of 2020. The other four will be done by the following summer.
"It's an incredible collaboration and a wonderful, wonderful community project," Galle said.
"It's fascinating to see how so many experts in different areas are all coming together from the construction side, from the social work side, the clinical side to really make this the best possible facility we can, because our young people deserve that," Conners said.
The project is working towards becoming fully funded. To contribute, contact senior vice president of development and marketing Christina Schoemaker at 610-820-0166 or email@example.com.