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Brotherly Love: Dragonfly Forest

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Chris May is anchor of CBS 3’s Eyewitness News at 5, 6 an...
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By Chris May

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) – Sleepaway camp is a rite of passage for many kids. But what if your child has a medical condition? A Conshohocken-based non-profit has a camp designed for them.

High above the trees in West Chester, 14-year-old Pierce Meyer is on “The Catwalk.”

Kevin Fortunato, 14, explains, “You just basically walk on the log and go to the end of the log.”

A team of campers cheers Pierce on as he reaches the end.

“My heart was racing a little bit,” Pierce admits.

Nearby, younger campers are goofing off with their counselors and enjoying water games.

This is Dragonfly Forest, a sleepaway camp for children with medical conditions held each summer at the Westtown School in West Chester.

“The kids that are here this week are kids with autism,” says Fred Weiner, the president of Dragonfly Forest. “They don’t normally get a chance to hang out in social situations that normal kids do.”

But they do here. Each camper is assigned two trained counselors.

Scott Arizala, the camp director, says, “We try to understand the individual needs of that kid and then try to deliver the program in whatever way would be successful for them.”

Laura Jansen, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a scooter, co-founded the camp after being prodded to try adaptive skiing in Big Sky, Montana and realizing she was more capable than she thought.

“It would be really neat to offer kids who couldn’t have this experience this experience,” says Jansen.

Dragonfly Forest doesn’t end when summer does. The non-profit holds after-school clubs throughout the year. It costs about half a million dollars a year in donations to fund their programs.

It may be free for the campers, but it’s a priceless experience.

Dragonfly Forest also has camps for children with persistent asthma, sickle cell, and other medical conditions.

For more on Dragonfly Forest, click here.

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