Thanks to the generosity of hundreds – including dozens of local people like the Bill and Pam Kreeger – Flying Horse Farms is celebrating its fifth birthday.
In five years, the camp has served more than 3,300 campers through weekend and week-long camp sessions. It is a star within the SeriousFun Children’s Network, a network of camps across the globe founded by actor, philanthropist and Ohio native Paul Newman. And it’s fulfilling its promise to transform lives, a Yale study shows: Campers leave with higher self-esteem, greater confidence and more independence. The bonus? It’s transforming the lives of the people who help run it, too.
Bill Kreeger was a businessman, a deal maker, a guy’s guy. A gaggle of kids? Not really his comfort zone.
But he and his wife, Pam, were curious about the beautiful plot of 200 acres a mile down the road from them in Mt. Gilead where Flying Horse Farms was being built.
So they attended an open house. They watched the buildings being erected. They became engaged in the idea of camp’s mission—to provide magical, transformative camping experiences for children with serious illnesses and their families, free of charge.
Bill, 62, who retired from printing and publishing, joined the board of directors. He gathered friends to help build shelves and hang towel racks. He and Pam, 61, a retired retail manager and longtime Sunday School teacher, donated money.
“We just felt it was an awesome project for God to put in our backyard,” Pam said.
And when camp first opened its gates on a November weekend in 2010, the couple, who have been married 31 years, were there as volunteers. Bill earned the camp nickname “Grandpa.” And he’s been a self-proclaimed changed man since.
“I’m a different person because of this camp,” Bill said.
His eyes well with tears as he talks.
“These kids have been dealt a hand you can’t imagine,” he said. “What they do with the hand they’re dealt is just amazing. I guess that’s why we keep coming back and coming back.”
Bill runs a group of local men in their 60s, 70s and 80s known as “The Over-The-Hill Gang.” The group visits camp twice a month to tackle projects from painting to building canoe racks. He and Pam volunteer every year at a spring family camp (attending by children with illnesses along with their family members), a weeklong summer camp (kids only) and a fall family camp. They also volunteer on the first day of summer camp sessions to help get the campers checked in and ready for adventure.
Bill specializes in archery, which he has become certified to instruct.
“You haven’t lived until you hold the bow for an 11-year-old girl—beautiful girl—who suddenly can’t hold it anymore because she has cancer,” Bill said.
Submitted by Kristy Eckert.