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April 29, 2021

9 of the Best Summer Camps and Programs for Medically Complex Kids

Kids with chronic illnesses, complex conditions, or disabilities have faced and will continue to face challenges, but what offers them a better chance to just be kids than summer camp? Summer and year-round programs designed specifically with complex medical conditions in mind do exist, and they offer a respite from doctors’ offices, hospitals, and the comforting yet confining walls of their own home.

These safe and supportive environments offer unique experiences while still complying with the ins and outs of different medical challenges. Not to mention they provide a chance to make fond memories and lifelong friendships. At the end of the day, summer camp is about experiencing everything life has to offer, and it’s a reminder to our kids that they are not their diagnosis. 

The list below shows examples of camps under the umbrella of Paul Newman’s Serious Fun Camps, a nonprofit organization designed to help medically complex kids build independence and resilience. The best part? Every single camp is no-cost to families. 

9 Best Camps and Programs for Medically Complex Kids

If any of these camps and programs sound like a good match, reach out to them directly via the embedded link.

1.) Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

The series of programs offered through Hole in the Wall Gang Camp occur annually both onsite in Ashford, Connecticut and in hospitals and communities across the Northeast, free of charge. Their significant, yet unobtrusive medical presence, AKA the OK Corral, looks like a 19th century mill, which helps to tell the story of the camp itself. 

2.) Double H Ranch

The summer camp program at Double H Ranch is located at Lake Luzerne, New York in Adirondack Park. They have an indoor and outdoor pool, ropes course, archery, horseback riding and pasture, picnic and pavilion, stage area, dining hall, Arts & Crafts building, and more. Doctors and nurses are also onsite 24 hours a day.

They specifically serve kids with the following diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Hemophilia/bleeding disorders
  • HIV/immune disorders
  • Collagen vascular disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Mitochondrial disorders

3.) Camp Boggy Creek

Camp Boggy Creek, located near Orlando, Florida, gives kids the chance to fish, horse-back ride, rope climb, and more. It’s a 232-acre camp for kids between 7-16 who’ve been diagnosed with chronic or life-threatening conditions including: 

  • Severe asthma
  • Hemophilia/bleeding disorders
  • Cancer
  • Craniofacial disorders
  • Diabetes 
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart/cardiovascular 
  • Immune deficiency
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Kidney disease
  • Rheumatic disease
  • Ventilator assisted disorders
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Spina bifida
  • Transplants

4.) Flying Horse Farms

Flying Horse Farms is located in Mt. Gilead, Ohio and offers swimming, boating, fishing, high ropes, archery, arts and crafts, and more, ensuring that everyone can participate proudly and safely. It provides healing, transformative experiences for kids, teen, and young adults with the following illnesses or disabilities:

  • Cancer
  • Facial differences
  • Arthritis
  • Rare disease
  • Disorders of the heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system 

Many of their campers also face:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other mental health illnesses

5.) Camp Korey

Named after Korey Rose, a teen who lost his battle with bone cancer at 18, Camp Korey is a 200-acre property that was once home to Treacy Levine Center in Mount Vernon, Washington. Rose’s father founded Camp Korey in 2005 to honor his son and create a haven for kids and families dealing with childhood illness and serious, life-altering medical conditions. 

6.) North Star Reach

North Star Reach is a fully-accessible medical camp located in Pinckney, Michigan, bordered by two lakes. Kids who would otherwise be too sick to go to camp can experience everything that this wooded property has to offer. They say that the Observatory, a state-of-the-art health center is what sets them apart. 

7.) The Painted Turtle

The Painted Turtle, located at Lake Hughes, California, offers condition-specific, week-long sessions for kids between the ages of 7-18 in Summer, Fall, and Spring. Campers participating in Limited Family Days must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Adrenal Insufficiency 
  • Epilepsy, Rheumatic Disease
  • Skeletal Dysplasia
  • Spina Bifida
  • TPN

8.) Roundup River Ranch

Roundup River Ranch offers old-fashioned camp experiences for kids with serious illnesses and their families, offering a vacation of sorts from being “patient.” The Colorado ranch has full medical, physical, and emotional support from healthcare professionals, trained staff and dedicated volunteers, campers, and their families. 

9.) Victory Junction

Victory Junction offers camp to kids between 6-16 from all 50 states and around the world. Their Reach program works with pediatric hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses to support patient and family-centered care with year-round camp programming in North and South Carolina. 

Some of the medical conditions served there are:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Burn survivors
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral Palsy 
  • Craniofacial anomalies
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Genetic disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Immunologic disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Rheumatologic disorders
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Skin Disease
  • Spina Bifida 
  • Physical disabilities

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It’s important to note that some hospitals have their own camps for transplant or oncology kids. For example, Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh has a camp for transplant kids

Also, with COVID-19, some camps are operating at reduced capacity, or are limited to offering virtual experiences. It’s vital to check with each organization to see what changes they’ve made in light of the pandemic. 

Just like these camps, our mission at Gus Gear is to help kids have fun while staying safe, and in doing so, giving you peace of mind. If you want to talk about any of our products, call us at (724) 513-4497 or complete a form.

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