Our condition-specific camps have proven to be a successful way for children to learn, in a collaborative and supportive environment. They learn from peers and adult volunteers who live productively with the same health conditions and are thus offered hope for the future. The camps help the children to live well and develop adaptive behaviors to cope with their disorders.
Brainy Camps allow children ages 7 to 16 to:
- Establish positive and long-lasting social connections
- Draw emotional support from others with the same condition (children & adults)
- Learn to understand their disorder and manage it effectively
- Build self-advocacy skills, improve their self-worth and gain independence
Brainy Camps aspires to help build a supportive community for its children, teens, adults and families and strives to reduce the stigma and isolation that is often associated with neurological disorders and chronic health conditions. Additionally, the camps provide an opportunity for medical staff to see the child behind the illness, opening up new therapeutic options.
Campers choose from many activities including team sports, hiking, arts and crafts, canoeing, tennis, horseback riding, go-carting, trapezing, pottery, archery, camp olympics, swimming, yoga, and drama. Support groups and educational programs promote knowledge, skill development and social connections.
The camps also provide parents with peace of mind and respite.
The Value of a Condition-Specific Camp Experience
Scientific literature suggests that chronic illnesses and disabilities in childhood can have a negative impact on quality of life, encouraging greater dependencies and a reduced sense of internal control. The value of a condition-specific camp experience includes improving social skills, daily functioning, self-concept and quality of life.
A recent three-year study conducted by Children’s National Medical Center, demonstrates the benefits of condition-specific camps. The overall trend for return campers suggests a positive cumulative impact of continued camp participation, with improvements in the domains of social interaction, responsibility, and communication.
The majority of research related to condition-specific camps examines four primary benefits:
- Expanded knowledge about the condition and better self-management;
- Increased self-esteem and self-concept;
- Positive changes in attitude toward the illness;
- Increased adaptive coping skills and improved quality of life.
In conclusion, condition-specific camps can improve adaptive behaviors and social interactions. Overall net gains appear to increase over time, suggesting additional benefits for return campers. Since it is clear that one-week camp can make a significant difference for a child, it is conceivable that more opportunities throughout the year would strengthen the benefits gained during the week of camp.
Serving Local and National Youth
Because there are a minimal number of condition-specific camps serving certain chronic health disorders, some of our camps serve children from across the U.S. (i.e., Camp New Friends) and along the East Coast (Camp Connect). The majority of Washington Metropolitan area’s children with special needs and serious illnesses reside within a 90-mile radius of Washington, DC. This fact sparks the proposition that having a deeper impact requires geographic proximity.
Best estimates place the number of children with chronic illnesses and health conditions in the Washington Metropolitan area to be at least 15.5% (2006 statistics suggest 18-20% of children 6-11 years and 17-18% of children 12-17 years).
The actual numbers from the 2005/2006 National Survey of children with special needs are 12,604 in DC, 237,124 in Virginia, and 171,417 in Maryland or a total of 421,145 children between the ages of 6-17 years with special health care needs. Brainy Camps have served approximately 1,500 children. Less than 1% of these children have been served due to limited space and a lack of an available campsite.
Request a Camp Registration Packet. Please include your name, mailing address and preference of how you would like to receive the packet, electronically or by mail.