When Phyllis Cronin scans the 191 acres of Camp Horsin' Around in Perryville, she sees a dream realized, but years in the making.
"It's taken us 121/2 years to produce this great camp," says Cronin, longtime chairwoman of the camp's board. "This is the first year that it is a full-service camp."
The camp has long hosted kids with compromising health conditions or disabilities. This year, there will be a total of five cabins able to accommodate 100 campers overnight and the 40 counselors who care for them.
Most important, they will be able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the camp in the new dining hall.
Until this year, Cronin says, Camp Horsin' around provided day camps for kids, but all the food had to be catered. Cooking hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire wasn't a practical solution for a weeklong camp.
Now, she says, campers will have the full sleep-over experience.
Camp Horsin' Around is modeled on the late actor Paul Newman's camps in Connecticut and Florida that serve the same demographic.
Cronin says Newman was a donor to Camp Horsin' Around before his death in 2008, contributing generously to the creation of a pavilion where kids can have campfires, work on crafts, play games and roast marshmallows.
Now that the $1.4 million project, including cabins and dining hall, is complete, campers can explore the outdoors, go swimming, walk or roll wheelchairs on a swinging bridge, play in the creek and fish in a stocked lake.
Cronin says the camp does not take individual campers but is open to groups that serve disabled and medically challenged children.
"Kids can have a special place to have fun and the kids can do all their bodies let them do," she says.
That is the draw for Vanessa Welty, co-director of Kids Can Do, a pediatric therapy center in Danville. Kids Can Do brings children receiving outpatient therapy at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center to the camp. Although she's not quite ready to try overnight visits with her medically fragile children, she can't say enough good things about the camp.
"It's everything they need; it's true camp," she says, mentioning the secluded landscape that gives them a sense of adventure.
Cronin is stepping down this year as chairwoman of the board but, she says, she is still dreaming of what the camp might look like someday.
"We would really love a boathouse," she says. "The fundraising is never ending."