Some would say overnight camp is a rite of childhood. And thankfully that rite is becoming more accessible to all children regardless of their needs, whether physical, financial, or otherwise. While it can be hard to let go and trust someone else to take care of our kids for a night or an entire week, many parents who send their child with Down syndrome off to camp for the first time find that the experience is wonderful for both caregiver and camper! In the words of Devon Adelman, a young adult with Down syndrome: “Going to overnight camps, having those experiences away from home can lead to more independence and having more responsibility to DREAM BIG for themselves.” More than one mom has expressed how great it feels when their child waves and with a big, confident smile, says “Bye Mom!”
Where can we give our kids this vision and a chance to let their abilities shine independently? Here are a few ideas from members of our community:
“Jill’s House is a remarkable organization and our daughter loves their camps! The volunteer to camper ratio is outstanding, and the activities and care given to the kids make this a favorite every time. Best part: it’s always Friday-Sunday so it’s a great weekend respite!” – Kirby Winfield, dad to camper Kate.
This unique experience happens every other month in the form of a weekend respite for parents and a weekend adventure at Miracle Ranch for campers. The intake process takes time and includes a visit from the local coordinator, Dani Zorn, who is fabulous to work with. They also take DDA funds.
Stanley Stamm Camp
“You know your child loved his week at Stamm camp when he arrives at the parent pickup location upset to see you and fussing about having to go home! Even though I would have loved a warm greeting, I think I loved even more knowing that he had a great time on his own. That helps me relax and enjoy my time away from him too.” – Alison Burchett, mom to camper Timothy.
Dr. Stanley Stamm’s vision of providing a typical summer camp experience for children with chronic medical needs has continued for over 50 years, funded by philanthropy! With camp themes like Zootopia, Monster’s Inc., and this year’s Moana – kids can’t help but have a great time at camp. Since the camp is run by Seattle Children’s Hospital, parents can take comfort knowing their child’s medical history and care from the hospital goes with them to camp. Ursala Schwenn, the clinical coordinator is super helpful with questions and applications. Camp is for ages 6-14.
Applications are already being accepted for this favorite summer camp for kids ages 7-16. Overnight camp runs for 8 weeks. Last year marked the first year that Camp Korey offered a week for siblings to attend. It was incredibly popular and is being offered again this year. Camper applications are reviewed once all of the paperwork is in, on a first come, first served basis – so apply quickly to avoid a waitlist. Any questions will gladly be answered by Beth Faller.
“Faith has attended Camp Long through the Seattle Parks and Recreation Specialized Programs for a number of years now and she really enjoys it. The staff running the camp is made up of a number of familiar faces since she also attends numerous Seattle Parks and Recreation programs. Knowing the staff puts not only her at ease but it also helps me feel more comfortable about leaving her at an overnight camp. We coordinate the camps with a number of Faith’s friends so they share a cabin making it like one big and extended sleepover! Each week of camp has a theme and on the Thursday evening of camp, they invite the parents to watch the campers perform. Afterwards, kids are happy to spend their last night at camp while the parents go home.” – Maura Dunn, mom of camper Faith.
Seattle Parks and Recreation Specialized Programs’ Camp Long is conveniently located in West Seattle. This can make it a great option to try an overnight camp and the staff are willing to work with families to meet the camper’s needs. Kyle Bywater and Jill Ellison are responsive whether you call or email. The cost of camp is $115 per week and Seattle Parks accepts DDA funds and has lots of scholarship money this year. Registration for each of this year’s 4 weeks of overnight camp opens early February and is via phone.
More info on page 15 of the brochure:
“I went to Camp Sealth and it was really fun! I had friends with me there. We did a late-night walk to the beach to look at the creatures there!” – Helen Nash, camper, now an adult, reflecting on her experience as a youth at camp.
Camp Sealth on Vashon island is committed to an inclusive camp experience with an on staff inclusion specialist during all of their programs. With an open house in the spring, families can visit the facility and meet the staff. Registration for summer overnight camps opened in November and spaces are filling up. Financial assistance is available, and the camp also accepts DDA funds.
When they were teenagers, both Devon Adelman and Helen Nash attended YMCA Summer Camp Orkila. Devon’s reflection on her experience captures the best in what our children can experience in overnight camp: “My favorite part was camping on Satellite Island and being able to look up at the stars. I also went to Leadership camp. I got to play this game before we went home where we all sat down in a circle and one by one went around tapping peoples heads, giving categories to them. One category was being a natural born leader and I got tapped for that one! It was great to be recognized for that, it felt amazing.”
Jacqueline Baker, mom of camper Madeline sums up the experience for many of our families who’ve benefited from these amazing overnight programs: “With the weekend respite or the week-long camp at Stanley Stamm, it’s nice to have such a consecutive chunk of hours…The overnights also allow us to have a couple retreat or allow for relaxed conversations or certain activities with our son that would be hard to make happen any other way. And for her, being able to go somewhere, on her own, without me always near or involved, is as much a good-feel as it is to me, seeing her have the opportunity to feel that way and explore more independently; It’s a feel good, for both of us.”
Where else can I go for camp information?
Parent Map wrote an article in 2016 about summer camps for kids with special needs: https://www.parentmap.com/article/summer-camps-for-kids-with-special-needs
Seattle Children’s maintained a searchable directory of camps that was current until they lost funding after summer 2018. It can still be searched, but camps should be contacted directly for 2019 programming: