Guiding Principles

Brainy Camps Association in a Nutshell

Brainy Camps Association (BCA) is a consortium of residential camps, family camps and retreats for children with chronic health conditions. The health conditions served include high functioning autism spectrum disorders, Tourette syndrome, neurofibromatosis, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, type 1 diabetes, heart disorders, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.  This year, we are adding a camp for children with chronic headaches and migraines and we are exploring the addition of a camp for children with hydrocephalus.  We also offer cooking classes for families with children at risk for obesity, family camps for young children with type 1 diabetes, a transitions camp for young adults, a leadership training program, and online peer counseling training and support for children with chronic health conditions.

The mission of Brainy Camps is to create supportive communities where the development of healthy and active lifestyles are encouraged, partnerships between patients and doctors are promoted, independence and self-management are fostered, education is offered and social connections are supported.  Families receive much needed respite and direct observation of their children, with immediate intervention by healthcare experts when needed. Family camps allow parents and siblings to actively participate with campers while all learn to live well.

The residential camps offer a wide range of challenging activities for campers to enjoy, ranging from the traditional (swimming, boating, fishing and hiking) to the unusual (learning to fly on a trapeze, drive a go-cart, ride a horse and perform on a stage), giving them the opportunity to test their limits and try things they never have before.  Educational seminars, led by our medical teams, increase knowledge and self-management skills and give campers an understanding of their conditions and a much needed sense of control.  Support groups allow campers to express their feelings, learn to effectively disclose, and discuss condition and age-related matters, helping them to develop skills and solutions to problems in a manner that elevates their self-esteem and increases their safety.  Through these various means, the campers begin to identify their personal strengths, resources, and goals to better manage their conditions, gain a sense of mastery, and contribute to the community.

We also offer a leadership program and online peer counseling training for older teens who are ready to take on responsibility and want to “pay it forward” to the next generation.  Those chosen for the role are taught effective behavioral management and communication techniques that will help them to successfully perform their roles as the up-and-coming camp leaders and prepare them to become advocates for themselves and others as they gain self-confidence and move on with their lives.

Presently, we offer a 6-week healthy cooking class for families with a child at risk for childhood obesity.  Classes take place in the Washington, DC area and are offered at no cost.

The long-term goals of our camp interventions are to encourage healthy lifestyles and independence, and to foster resiliency, self-advocacy and positive well-being.  It is essential for children with chronic conditions to understand their illnesses and know how to care for themselves at a young age in order to improve positive outcomes, promote resilience and further healthy living. Research is conducted to determine the overall benefit of condition specific camps and improve understanding of what helps children adapt to and effectively manage their conditions so they can live healthy lives.

A Supportive Community

The purpose of all Brainy Camps programs and services is to build a community of support in order to improve the lives of individuals with chronic health conditions. We promote a network of communities that includes partnerships with children, families, volunteers, medical staff, board members, community supporters and non-profit healthcare organizations involved in our campers’ lives.

Safety

Brainy Camps provides a safe environment to physically and emotionally challenged children, teenagers and adults to offer positive experiences for them and their families.

Empowerment

Brainy Camps inspires children, teenagers, and adults to achieve their fullest potential by fostering education, independence, coping skills, growth and leadership, Campers leave the camp empowered to face life’s obstacles with new skills and a network of emotional support.

Quality of Care

Brainy Camps is committed to excellence in everything we do. We continually work with experts in the field to try new approaches to care and evaluation to meet the needs of our children, teens, adults and families and to improve the services we provide.

Self-Advocacy

Brainy Camps encourages children and teens with chronic health conditions to learn about their disorders and establish partnerships with health care professionals while together navigating and learning ways to directly manage their conditions. When campers and medical staff work together, children learn to be more assertive and stronger self-advocates, and serve as role models for other children and peers.

Accountability

All funds raised for  Brainy Camps go directly to cover operations and camper scholarships.  Donations made to support the development and improvement of our campsite are placed in a fund created solely for that purpose.