Brainy Camps Association: A subsidiary of Children’s National Medical Center

Brainy Camps Association is a non-profit organization that provides residential summer camps, family retreats, leadership training and transitional youth programs for children with severe chronic health conditions. We began our mission in 1994 with a camp for children with epilepsy.  Twenty years later, we have expanded to include camps for youngsters with Asperger’s syndrome, Tourette syndrome, neurofibromatosis, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, heart disease, Down syndrome and hemiplegic/diplegic cerebral palsey.  In 2013, we are added family camps for diabetes and childhood obesity.  Our camps are run in collaboration with many of the healthcare organizations connected to the conditions served. Transportation is available for many of our camps.

Our Camp Program

We offer our campers a safe, fun experience where they can meet others like themselves, often for the first time in their lives.  Not only do they swim, dance and play, they gain knowledge about their conditions from medical experts in the field and learn to be independent, self-reliant, and effective partners with their medical providers in the management of their health.

Campers can choose from a myriad of activities including swimming, fishing, boating, archery, arts & crafts, pottery, team sports, challenge course and camp Olympics.  Support groups and educational programs promote knowledge, skill development and interpersonal connections.   Through their time at Brainy Camps, campers gain a sense of who they are, what they have to offer and where they want to go in the future.

Teen Leadership Training Program for Counselors in Training (CITs)

Brainy Camps Teen Leadership Program is designed for 16-17 year olds who are interested in becoming future counselors. Many are past campers who want to “pay it forward” by helping to guide younger children through the challenges that living with a chronic health condition present.   The focus of our Leadership Training Program is to develop interpersonal and communication skills while gaining experience in planning, instructing and executing activities for younger children. CITs receive hands-on experience working with campers while under the direct supervision of experienced counselors. They meet nightly with the directors of camp (a clinical social worker and psychologist) who provide group supervision and leadership training for the participants.

Next Step: Our transitions program for young adults

Ten percent of young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 have difficulty making a smooth transition to adulthood.  They face many barriers in trying to become successful and independent and are at risk for a number of negative outcomes, including unemployment, feelings of failure and an inability to make appropriate future-oriented decisions.

Our Next Step program is designed to assist young adults in overcoming their personal obstacles and make a successful transition to adulthood. This strength-based program provides opportunity for each young person to pursue their individual goals in the areas of education, vocation, living situation, and personal skills. Helping them to become productive and emotionally stable individuals produces enormous social benefits for the young adult, as well as the society at large.

Camp Staff

Each condition-specific camp is staffed 24 hours a day by medical doctors and nurses who are experts in the field.  Additional professionals include a social worker, physical therapist and a psychologist, as well as other medical personnel who volunteer their time and expertise at the various camps.  The counselors are carefully selected for their genuine interest in children and  receive special training to deal with each unique population.  Many have the identified condition and have gone through our Leadership Training Program to become role models for our campers.

Please contact us for more information.

In the spirit of Brainy Camps,
Sandra Cushner Weinstein, PT, LCSW-C

Susan Mehlman, Ph.D. 
Assistant Director