In the current digital age of TikTok trends and endless streaming platforms, Tim and Penni Morton want to offer local kids and teens the chance to step away from the screen, at least for a little while.
Recently, this husband-wife duo celebrated the ribbon cutting of Kamp for Kids, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, located only a few doors down from the AMC movie theater at the Neshaminy Mall.
State Rep. Joe Hogan was in attendance, as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick, the Bucks County Commissioners and state Sen. Frank Farry. Individuals from CHOP, the Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, school districts and more were also on hand.
“They all came up to us and said they will do everything with their resources to help us,” said Tim, who proudly stated that an in-kind donation from Hogan’s office is already secured.
The new Neshaminy location is a youth center geared toward students in grades six through 12. Kids and teens of all abilities and backgrounds can stop by on Fridays, from 4 to 8 p.m., and weekends during normal mall hours, to enjoy ping pong, pool, basketball, a library, art and, above all, camaraderie. The Mortons’ goal is to create a safe place to socialize for those who might not fit in at school, or whose friends are turning to destructive habits.
“The youth center is aimed at mentoring and empowering youth ages 11 to 19 to pursue their potential through a safe place to build relationships and receive support,” said Penni. “Our goal is to direct kids away from the streets by offering a safe place to talk about difficult issues.”
Additionally, Kamp for Kids offers the ability to learn life skills, such as how to open a checking account and write a resume, as well as a mentoring program hosted by the Bucks County Sheriff’s Office. There’s also homework help, a food pantry, clothing closet, school supplies and other resources that attendees may be in need of.
“We’re trying to, in a relaxed atmosphere, put kids on a positive path,” said Tim. “It’s become a haven for kids to just feel comfortable.”
Kamp for Kids dates to 1997, when the Mortons launched a for-profit organization that focused on marketing and doing community work, such as food distribution and camps for underserved children. Around 2014, it became a charitable organization and, four years later, was approved as a 501(c)(3). During that time, the Mortons received national certification with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.
This youth center joins others in the area, including one at the Oxford Valley Mall. Tim stressed that Kamp for Kids isn’t a babysitting service or typical after-school program.
“This is just a safe place where they come and go,” he said.
There’s no transportation, so if an attendee leaves and can’t safely make it home on their own, a parent/guardian must stay on the premises. A waiver form is signed during the first visit by the parent/guardian to acknowledge this. While open, Kamp for Kids is always staffed to ensure safety, with attendees asked to sign in and out each time they stop by.
All aspects of Kamp for Kids, including occasional activities and trips to Legoland, the mountains and other spots, are free. From the youth center to these other offerings, there’s always one goal in mind — to help kids and teens choose to do something positive, healthy and active, rather than passive, like scrolling on social media.
Looking ahead, Kamp for Kids is hosting Aussies for Autism Day on April 22, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Lighthouse Sports Complex in Philadelphia, right next to St. Christopher’s Hospital.
Comedian Joe Conklin is donating his time, with other appearances by Philadelphia Eagles players Landon Dickerson and Jordan Mailata, CFL star Rasheed Bailey, musician Holdyn Barder and emcee Tony Luke Jr. The event is set to feature food trucks, carnival games, vendors and an Australian meat pie-eating contest with professional eater Eric “Badlands” Booker.
Cost is $10 to attend, with proceeds benefiting the work of Kamp for Kids. More information can be found at aussiesforautism.com.
“Thousands of families are unable to send their children to camp because of the cost or lack of transportation,” said Penni. “We believe that no child should be turned away from these opportunities, and we’ve made it our goal to help them attend camps, retreats and other fun programs.”
Visit kampforkids.org for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com