Bucks County families benefit from new youth center in Neshaminy Mall

Bucks County families are happy to see a revival of sorts for Neshaminy Mall as a new youth center opens inside.

Once a vibrant places to shop, many malls have become deserted, as retail moved out and online shopping took hold.

"It’s a little bit of a haven. A safe place for kids to come out, to feel safe, socialize and get positive mentoring from good people in the community," Tim Morton, Kamp for Kids Founder, said.

Morton and his wife, Penni, run the Bucks County non-profit Kamp for Kids. They’ve previously used space in Neshaminy Mall to collect and distribute for Toys for Tots. They’ve been given free mall space for a youth center, open Fridays and weekends, for kids and teens 6th to 12th grades.

"For my son, the bonding experience and because he has autism, doesn’t mean he’s not human," parent Jamial Owens, stated. "They are sponges. They are kids and we had a great time bonding with other children."

Owens is a family coordinator for autism research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His teen son is on the spectrum and has had a positive experience at the mall youth center. "To see him flourish around other children, to break out of his mold, you can’t put a price tag on that."

Tim and Penni say the center is a good fit for kids and teens with special needs, but all are welcome to drop in and spend time playing a game or socializing. Youth mentors will also be on hand. At a time when some malls have limited access for unsupervised teens, the youth center is different.

"Being able to come here, at a place like Neshaminy Mall, and actually connect with other kids their own age and learn from mentors, it’s a great story and a great program," Steve Seufert, with the Bucks County Commissioner’s Office, said.