As the holiday season fills the air with scents of cinnamon, pine, or freshly baked cookies, it might seem unusual to start thinking about upcoming summer camp experiences. But believe it or not, the time to plan and register for these enriching opportunities is now!
And just as the holiday season has its distinctive traditions, summer camps also offer a unique atmosphere of adventure and the opportunity to create lasting memories, all while embracing inclusivity and accessibility for children with diverse abilities and medical complexities. Whether you’re considering day camps, overnight adventures, or camps for your child, their siblings, or the whole family, take heart in the fact that inclusive and accessible camps exist and are experienced in providing enriching opportunities for all involved.
How to Get Started
Wondering how to get started or where to look? Here are some valuable steps to consider:
Define your Goals: Before starting your camp search, clarify your objectives. Are you interested in finding a camp for your child, their sibling, or the whole family? Are you looking for a day camp or an overnight experience? Are you looking to foster independence, support, connectedness, or a combination of the three? Would you like the camp experience tailored to a specific need, interest, or medical impact of HIE?
Determine the Importance of Inclusivity and Choice: Camp-goers have unique needs and interests, so don’t be afraid to research a camp’s beliefs around the level of choice, flexibility, and ownership they give its participants when selecting and engaging in their programs and activities.
Think about Communication and Advocacy: Planning creates a positive camp experience! Explore how the camp facilitates advocacy for campers and their families. Don’t hesitate to engage with the camp staff in advance to communicate your camp-goer’s or your family’s needs and develop a plan for how trust can be fostered among all participants.
These organizations and websites serve as great starting points for parents looking for reputable camps:
American Camp Association (ACA): The ACA website is a valuable resource that empowers parents to search for camps tailored to their specific criteria. You can filter your search based on camp types, goals, organizational affiliations, disabilities and other special needs, cost, and more.
Very Special Camps: This comprehensive online directory and search engine is dedicated to helping families find inclusive and specialized camps for children with disabilities or medical complexities across the United States. You can search for camps based on location, type of disability, age group, and specific activities.
With the help of Hope for HIE’s child life specialist, Annie, we have found some camp choices all over the country that cater to a variety of HIE outcomes, impacts, and journeys. This is not a comprehensive list, as there are many more opportunities out there, but take a look and see if any of these seem like a good fit:
Camps for Children with Disabilities or Medical Complexities [and guests!]
These specialized camps are tailored for children with disabilities or medical complexities, offering a nurturing and inclusive atmosphere. Additionally, many of these camps extend a warm invitation to siblings and close family members to promote shared experiences and a sense of togetherness.
Double H Ranch- A Serious Fun Camp Lake Luzerne, NY The Double H Ranch, situated in the Adirondack Park of New York, has provided services to more than 80,000 children facing life-threatening illnesses, drawing participants from across the globe. As the second establishment in the “Hole in the Wall Camp” network, it contributes to the broader mission of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, a global nonprofit offering recreational and therapeutic experiences to children with severe illnesses.
Deliver the Dream Fort Lauderdale, FL Deliver the Dream helps families experiencing a serious illness or crisis by organizing monthly three-day, two-night retreats. Each family that attends has a family member – a sibling or parent – living with an illness/crisis.
Camp Holiday Trails Charlottesville, VA CHT is a year-round nonprofit camp in a natural setting at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its campers, ages 7-17, are welcomed from throughout the United States. Camp Holiday Trails does allow siblings to attend camp alongside the camp-goer.
Harbor Haven West Orange, NJ Harbor Haven provides an experience that connects one school year to the next. It is an ideal summer destination for many children with diverse abilities to prevent regression and nurture growth across all areas. Siblings (ages 5-15) of enrolled Harbor Haven campers are also welcome to join.
FieldStone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center Camp Chagrin Falls, OH Fieldstone Farm’s mission is to engage the therapeutic power of horses to discover and nurture the special abilities of individuals, families, and communities. Fieldstone Farm is a welcoming community with a tradition of inclusivity to those of all ages, races, genders, economic backgrounds, and abilities.
CampCAMP Center Point, TX Camp CAMP offers a series of immersive 6-day/5-night summer sessions designed for individuals ranging from 5 to 55 years old. These sessions are specifically tailored to accommodate a wide range of medical conditions and disabilities, including those of a medical, physical, intellectual, or developmental nature. Notably, the camp extends its warm welcome to siblings aged 5-13 years who do not have a medical condition or disability.
National Ability Center Park City, UT Camp programs at this organization offer campers the opportunity for campers to uncover their abilities and acquire valuable life skills while bonding with their fellow campers. These inclusive programs bring together individuals both with and without disabilities to engage in a wide range of sports, recreational, and camp activities. Many camps are open to siblings or family members, as well.
Camp Blessing Brenham, TX This is a Christian camp designated for individuals ages seven and up with a primary diagnosis of a physical, developmental, or intellectual disability. There are also selective sessions for campers ages 25+. In addition, camper siblings ages 8-13 are invited to join the fun during their Sibling Weeks, and siblings ages 14 and above have Siblings ages 14+ have the opportunity to serve at camp as volunteers.
Camps for Siblings of Children with Disabilities or Medical Complexities
These are just a few of the camps that extend their warm embrace to siblings of children with disabilities or medical complexities, providing them with enriching and inclusive experiences. Through a wide range of activities and a supportive environment, these camps ensure that siblings have opportunities to create cherished memories while celebrating the unique bond they share with their brothers and sisters.
WisconSibs Plamann Park, WI Operating for more than 22 years, WisconSibs has offered SibDays as a day-camp-style program for children ages 6-12 who have siblings with disabilities, long-term illnesses, or mental health conditions. This high-energy day camp includes games, arts and crafts, hikes and hunts, a carnival, playground fun, swimming, and other adventures. It gives its campers opportunities to make new friends and celebrate the challenges and joys of being a sibling.
Camp Starfish Ringe, NH Camp Starfish’s “Sibling Camp” is a nurturing and supportive program designed to provide a unique and memorable experience for siblings of children with medical complexities. Campers at Sibling Camp can look forward to various exciting adventures, team-building activities, and opportunities for personal growth. It is an invaluable opportunity for siblings to embrace their unique roles and celebrate their love and connection with their brothers and sisters.
Camp Yakety Yak Lake Oswego, OR Camp Yakety Yak offers many camp opportunities, but they have a designated camp for neurotypical siblings of those with disabilities or medical complexities. They can enjoy weekly themed activities in recess stations, science, building, indoor and outdoor games, camp songs, daily talent shows, and more.
Camps for the Whole Family
Family camps offer a special retreat for families with children who have disabilities or medical complexities. These camps provide a space for families to come together, bond, and create lasting memories while enjoying inclusive activities tailored to accommodate all members.
Boggy Creek Eustis, FL Boggy Creek offers Family Retreat Weekends, where families can connect away from home and participate in some favorite Boggy Creek traditions, including cheering, singing, dancing, trying new things, and sharing kindness. Families can choose their own adventures by visiting various activities, including boating and fishing, archery, woodshop, miniature golf, and relaxing on the dining hall porch.
Camp Prime Time Naches, WA Since 1986, Camp Prime Time has served families with a seriously/terminally ill or developmentally disabled child(ren) in the Cascade Mountains just west of Naches, Washington. It provides a camping experience in the great outdoors where families can enjoy themselves in a supportive atmosphere at no cost to the family.
Tuolumne Trails Groveland, CA Family Camp is an excellent option for families who may have campers who are too young for our individual camper programs, who have never attended a camp program before, or who may have care needs that their caregivers are more comfortable handling themselves, such as nighttime care. This also is an opportunity for families to spend some much-needed time together in a safe and accessible camp setting the whole family can enjoy. All families or caregivers who have a camper with a disability or special need are welcome to attend!
Camp Beausite Northwest Chimicum, WA Their mission is to provide an inclusive camp experience for people with special needs and their families. Camp Beausite distinguishes itself as an inclusive place where all campgoers have the opportunity to maximize their potential.
Camp FOCUS [Family Overnight Camp and Sibling Day Camp] Atlanta, GA Camp FOCUS understands that families with children with medical or physical needs must plan every outing, vacation, and trip very carefully. So, twice a year, FOCUS Family Camps take families to Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, GA, and Camp Twin Lakes Will-A-Way in Winder, GA, to give them a space to enjoy inclusive and accessible activities, including swimming, boating, putt-putt, archery, and more.
Hole in the Wall Gang Ashford & New Haven, CT Nestled in the heart of Connecticut, this camp provides multiple programs for children and families facing serious illnesses with a life-changing summer experience. Through a wide variety of activities, from arts and crafts to outdoor adventures, campers forge lifelong friendships and find respite from the challenges they face.
The Center for Courageous Kids Scottsville, KY At The Center for Courageous Kids, Family Retreat Weekends are designed to provide respite, recreation, and support programs for families with a child with a chronic or life-threatening illness. Family weekends provide similar experiences as summer camp, as well as the opportunity for parents to gather together and share similar life experiences.
The Painted Turtle Lake Hughes, CA Throughout the spring, winter, and fall, The Painted Turtle invites families living with the challenges of a medical condition to experience a weekend at camp. In addition to fun activities, the family camp offers the chance to form friendships with families facing similar challenges.
Mt Hood Kiwanis Camp Portland, OR Family Camp allows campers to explore camp life in a safe and supportive environment with their parents, caregivers, and/or siblings present. Parents, caregivers, siblings, and campers alike jump into a packed-full schedule for 3 days/2 nights.
Roundup River Ranch Gypsum, CO Roundup River Ranch offers old-fashioned camp experiences for kids with serious illness and their families, offering a vacation from being the “patient.” The Colorado ranch has full medical, physical, and emotional support from healthcare professionals, trained staff, and dedicated volunteers, campers, and their families.
Camp Korey- A Serious Fun Camp Mount Vernon, WA Tim Rose founded Camp Korey in honor of his son, Korey Rose. Camp Korey offers children and families week-long summer camp sessions, year-round Camp to You, family weekends, young adult retreats, and more. Camp Korey is 100% free to all campers and families.
Sibling Grief Camps
The Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) Foundation’s Sibling Grief Camps website provides a supportive and compassionate platform for families dealing with the profound loss of a sibling. These specialized camps offer a safe space for siblings to connect with others with similar experiences and emotions. Through therapeutic activities and shared camaraderie, participants can navigate their grief journey while honoring the memory of their lost sibling.
While the camp options listed above are a helpful starting point for research, it’s important to note that this list is not comprehensive, and there may be many more wonderful camp experiences available. Families are encouraged to explore these options as a beginning step in their quest to find the perfect summer camp and other camp-like experiences for their children.
Families can reach out to Hope for HIE’s child life specialist — Annie Gunning — for personalized guidance in finding a curated camp experience that suits their unique needs and preferences by clicking the link below. Hope for HIE also hosted a Q&A with summer camp expert — Franki Bagdade — providing a helpful overview of how to start a search and what questions to ask along the way.
PO Box 250472
West Bloomfield Township
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