BORN OF A MOTHER'S LOVE
In the heart of DEAN Adventure Camps lies a story woven with love, imagination, and a passion for nurturing young minds. The story began at Laura Kelly’s kitchen table in 2001, a place where neighborhood children gathered to knit and sew.
Laura, a working parent like many of us, yearned for a space that would nurture her children just as she would.
What started as a small gathering soon blossomed into The Handwork Studio, a vibrant space where children across five states discovered the joy of making things with their hands, blending childhood development with the art of creation.
The story took a dynamic turn with the birth of Velocity Adventure Camp in 2023, co-created by her husband, John Kelly, who brought his expertise from a career in commercial real estate. Velocity Adventure Camp, an extension of The Handwork Studio's ethos of “Learn By Making,” embraced the spirit of “Learn By Doing.” It was a place where outdoor sports were not just activities but avenues for building confidence, friendships, and joy.
The evolution into DEAN Adventure Camps is a culmination of these rich experiences – a place where Discover, Explore, Achieve, and Navigate are not just words but pathways to empower and ignite kids of all ages.
DEAN stands as a testament to Laura and John’s vision of creating an environment that shapes confident, creative, and happy children through diverse and exhilarating experiences.
THE DEAN METHOD
Our approach combines the creativity of handwork with the exhilaration of adventure and the joy of play, allowing campers to learn by making, doing, and playing. Rooted in the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), The DEAN Method is a pathway to self-assurance through kindness, adversity, and ideation. By Discovering their passions, Exploring endless possibilities, Achieving goals, and Navigating challenges, children develop a mindset for lifelong learning and foster a sense of pride in one’s accomplishments.
The DEAN method, in conjunction with our proven 5Cs process, takes campers on a journey through the stages of Comfort, Commitment, Courage, Capabilities and Confidence where they’ll learn not just what they can do, but what they can achieve!
Witness the evolution of learning, where your child is not just a camper but an explorer on a journey of creativity, growth, and endless possibilities.
Our one-of-a-kind camp plan is crafted to introduce campers to a wide range of skills in a fun and challenging way. We believe everyone can unlock their creative potential if they have the right tools, guidance, and support behind them. With our proven process, campers will go on a journey through the stages of Comfort, Commitment, Courage, Capabilities and Confidence. They’ll learn not just what they can do, but what they can achieve!
It's natural to feel a flutter of nerves about meeting new faces. We understand that embracing new experiences can be daunting at first. However, our nurturing and skilled counselors are experts at turning those initial jitters into joyous connections. They guide campers through a day filled with playful games, captivating storytelling, and camaraderie-building activities. This warm and inviting atmosphere sets the perfect stage for kids to comfortably approach challenges and risks.
Immersed in days brimming with artistic inspiration and enlightening adventures, campers learn the empowering skill of leading their own decisions and embracing self-accountability. This is just the beginning of many valuable lessons they'll carry with them, extending far beyond the bounds of our camp.
Every new learning experience is designed as a confidence-boosting challenge, perfectly crafted to expand the horizons of your camper's mind. Our enthusiastic counselors are the champions of courage, encouraging each camper to navigate through moments of frustration and daringly embrace a risk or two. We believe that breakthroughs blossom from a nurturing blend of encouragement and newfound confidence, and that's exactly what we aim to provide.
Campers begin to embrace their inner pro, feeling a surge of accomplishment. Our counselors have been there through every high and low, guiding your child to this moment of triumph. Now, it's time for them to harness their newfound confidence and set off on an exciting journey of further discovery and achievements!
After a week filled with imaginative adventures and creative expression at DEAN Adventure Camps, we're excited for your child to showcase the incredible marvels they've discovered within themselves. By nurturing a love for the journey of adventure, we're helping shape leaders at DEAN, equipping them with lifelong skills that will guide and inspire them at every turn.
At DEAN Adventure Camps, we're dedicated to fostering a kind and inclusive community where everyone feels valued and respected. Embracing diversity in all forms, we ensure that kindness is more than a value; it's a practice embedded in our camp culture.
Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is reflected in everything we do, from inclusive hiring practices to comprehensive staff training. Every member of our team, from leadership to counselors, is equipped to support and celebrate campers from diverse backgrounds, ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all.
We continuously strive to create a space of belonging, honoring each individual’s unique identity and fostering a community where every voice is heard and celebrated.
MEET THE DEAN TEAM
Laura Pfeiffer Kelly is the CEO and Founder of DEAN Adventure Camps. Described as an innovator, Laura has devoted her career to enriching the lives of young learners through creative and engaging hands-on activities.
Before merging into DEAN Adventure Camps, Laura founded The Handwork Studio in 2001. What began at her kitchen table, alongside her children, blossomed into a nationwide brand celebrated for its unique approach to crafting and creativity. Her journey from a grassroots initiative to a leader in educational entrepreneurship showcases her dedication to quality in children's programming.
Laura's commitment to education extends beyond her entrepreneurial ventures. She is a lifelong learner currently pursuing a master's degree in Organization Development and Leadership and is a doctoral candidate in the school of education at Saint Joseph’s University where she is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu. Laura also works as a SJU community partner with the Philadelphia School District at Gompers Elementary School running a K-8 children’s health and wellness recess program.
Throughout her career, Laura has actively participated in entrepreneurial and educational communities, contributing her expertise and insights to nurture the next generation of leaders and was selected as 2018 Women on the Move in Main Line Today. Her work has not only impacted countless children but has also set a benchmark for excellence in the summer camp and educational services industry.
Laura's influence has been recognized through numerous collaborations and media appearances, including projects with Comcast’s On-Demand/ActivityTV and licensing partnership with Simplicity Pattern Company as a content creator. Her initiatives have been featured on PBS Sprout, The 10! Show, All That and More, and Mom’s on the Move. Further cementing her legacy, Laura has received multiple accolades, such as Nickelodeon’s Best Big Kid’s Program, highlighting her significant contributions to children's education and entertainment.
Laura, deeply invested in her local community, chaired the 2004/2005 Lemon Ball, raising $1.6 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in memory of her friend Alex Scott.
Residing on the Main Line with her husband and partner, John Kelly, for over 30 years, Laura is a proud parent of two adult children, Ryan and Devon, and three chihuahuas.
Her personal and professional life is a testament to her passion for education, creativity, and community service, making her a respected figure in both the entrepreneurial and educational spheres.
As DEAN’s CFO, John provides financial management to include budget planning, ongoing income and expense analysis, forecasting, and cashflow review. Additional responsibilities include oversight of risk management (insurance), legal compliance, HR (employee benefits) and strategizing with the CEO and President on policies and improvements. Prior to DEAN, John spent 30 years in commercial real estate overseeing a wide portfolio of urban and suburban properties in Philadelphia and the western suburbs. Additional experience included working at an internet startup where he oversaw the development and management of internet co-location facilities in PA, TX, NY, and CA.
John has previously participated in numerous triathlons while fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a member in their “Team in Training” program. He has also served on the executive committee of LLS’s annual “Red & White Ball”. John formerly served on the boards of the (Ben Franklin) “Parkway Council Foundation”, the “Jun 5 th Memorial Park”, CFEVA (Center for Emerging Visual Arts), and Drexel University’s Real Estate Management and Development Advisory Board. And he served his local community as the Democratic Committeeperson for ward 6–1 in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, PA. Additionally, John and his wife Laura earlier served as two-time Chairpersons of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s “Lemon Ball”; a black-tie fundraiser held annually in Philadelphia.
It all began with a conversation about making a quilt for Alex's Lemonade Stand way back in 2006. Julia just moved back to her hometown right outside of Philadelphia after graduating with her BFA from a small liberal Arts school in VT and was looking for her next venture. Through that one conversation, she began her 16-year journey to grow and evolve The Handwork Studio alongside CEO and Founder Laura Kelly, to what it is today.
Julia has dedicated her career to bringing the importance of learning by making to youth through running summer camps, workshops, trainings, artist-in-residence programs, developing curricula, writing patterns, filming tutorials, and leading talks on the importance of handwork programming.
One of Julia's fondest memories of working at The Handwork Studio was in the summers of 2011 and 2012. Julia traveled the country for The Handwork Studio in a Button Mobile with Miss Alisha and Sheepy. They drove, camped, and popped up in schools across the US to teach children the joys and importance of creating. Still, to this day, nothing brings Julia greater joy than watching kids have that "aha" moment when they discover what they are capable of.
Today, Julia has hunkered down in the suburbs of Philadelphia and on the road less, but the adventure is never far away. Julia still loads up the family for an impromptu road trip with her son Asher, rescue pup Onyx, and husband Dave.
Rachel is a Theatre Director, Deviser, and Educator who endeavors to create artistic opportunities through an educational lens to foster social and emotional competency, stretch perspectives on social disparity, and encourage joy.
Her ‘Handwork’ background began with a love of DIY from her multi-talented fiber arts grandmother and her 8-plus years of technical theater background in prop making, set construction, and costume construction. She has over 15 years of experience in theatre including directing, devising, curriculum development, technical theater, administration, and performance working alongside organizations such as Charleston Stage, Emerson College, DreamBig Performing Arts Workshop, Bluebird Arts, and Quintessence Theatre Group. Beyond her work in Theatre Arts, Rachel has worked in the camp world for over 10 years as a CIT, Counselor, and Program Director for organizations such as the Charleston Jewish Federation, JCC Chicago, and Lake Dillion Theater Company. Rachel received her Bachelor’s in Theater Education: Acting from Emerson College.
Rachel’s Handwork project at the moment is her bead-weaving jewelry making she sometimes (emphasis sometimes) sells through her company ‘Humdinger’.
Sol is one of the Associate Directors at the Handwork Studio and the site director at our Sidwell Friends School partner location. Since childhood, he has always believed in the impact that summer camp experience can have on a camper and has spent his career working in various summer camp leadership role to provide camp to kids. He has lived in the DMV area for two years and joined the Handwork Studio team in 2022. He holds a degree in International Political Science and Arabic from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
Sol’s Handwork project at the moment is working on his Arabic calligraphy and mastering laminated dough.
Mike was hired as a summer Site Director for The Handwork Studio in 2022. He was overjoyed to become a full-time staff member in early 2023. Mike has always loved art, handwork, and working with children! In addition, Mike has worked in various academic settings: afterschool tutoring, managing student lead volunteer events, mentoring high school students, and substitute teaching for an elementary school.
Mike learned his handwork from his Grandmother Katherine or Nana. She taught him machine/hand sewing, embroidery, cooking, baking, and painting. Mike finds a deep connection with his Nana through the programming at The Handwork Studio. Mike hopes to encourage staff and campers to be experimental and pursue that creativity every summer!
Mike’s Handwork project at the moment is stitching on some embroidery wheel designs and sewing costumes for the 2023 Taylor Swift Eras Tour!
Christina grew up in Reading, PA and comes from a family of artists and makers. Having always appreciated the arts, she earned a degree in music theory from Muhlenberg College and understands firsthand the value of creative exploration in a young person’s life. Christina joined The Handwork Studio in January 2022 and as operations coordinator, provides administrative support and facilitates communication between families and the Handwork Studio team. When you call or email The Handwork Studio, she will ensure you get the help you need.
Always on the go, Christina is not working on any handwork projects at the moment. She can often be found running, walking dogs, and exploring new and interesting places in the Philadelphia area.