Special Needs Camps Resources | Feature Updates | Camp News
Summer grief camps are programs designed to help children and teenagers cope with the loss of a loved one. Such camps offer a supportive & understanding environment where campers may engage in therapeutic activities, as well as talk about their grief with others who have experienced similar losses. They aim to help children process their emotions and begin to heal through a combination of play, creativity, and peer support. Some grief summer camps may incorporate grief education, nature activities, and fun leisure activities to promote overall well-being; as well as a respite from the daily stress of grief.
Find grief / bereavement summer camps and programs on VerySpecialCamps.com.
Children may have limited life experience and may not fully understand the finality of death, making the grieving process challenging for them. They may also feel overwhelmed by intense emotions & confusion, especially if they have not received clear information about what happened. Children may also struggle with feelings of guilt, anger, and abandonment.
Grief camps may offer numerous benefits to children / teenagers who have experienced the loss of a loved one:
- Peer support: providing a safe / supportive environment where children and teenagers can connect with others who have also experienced loss. This can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Healing through play: engaging in fun activities such as games, arts and crafts, and nature activities can help children begin to process their grief and heal.
- Normalization of emotions: children / teenagers may feel overwhelmed by their emotions after a loss; at a grief summer camp, they can see that their experiences are normal and that others have had similar feelings.
- Education about grief: offering education about the grieving process and provide strategies for coping with loss.
- Opportunity for reflection: spending time in a supportive environment away from their daily routines can provide children / teenagers with the space and time to reflect on their experiences and emotions.
Overall, grief summer camps can help children / teenagers begin to heal and find hope after a loss.
Directors: Reminder To Update Your Camp’s Listing
It is time to plan for the summer of 2023 and update your listing. Camp directors are encouraged to update your camp’s listing(s) on VerySpecialCamps.com in regard to any time-sensitive information such as:
- Session dates
- Rates / cost
- Changes in camp programming
- New facilities
- Covid-19 policies
- Virtual (online) programming options
- More recent photos or video (if applicable)
Click here in order to modify your listing. You are welcome to update your information and media elements as often as necessary.
Earlier this year, we had also released a new feature update to allow camps to include six photos (previously two) within a Multi-Media Listing; allowing potential campers / families to better visualize and become aware of all of the fun and unique experiences offered at your camp! If you already have a Multi-Media Listing, simply visit the link above to add more photos.
If you currently have a free listing, you may upgrade to a Multi-Media Listing ($99/yr. – 12 consecutive months); providing a higher ranking and the ability to to display a logo, 6 photos, map, and an embedded video.
If you are a prospective camper or parent seeking a summer camp for the summer of 2023, please keep in mind that many camps have yet to provide their updated information for next summer. It is always recommended that you contact a summer camp directly for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Camp Directors: Covid-19 Related Info
Update your camp’s listing accordingly. We are also accepting publication submissions regarding experiences of camps that operated during the summer of 2020.
Update Your Listing
Two new covid related fields have been added. The first provides your camp with the ability to indicate whether you offer a virtual program. A second new field allows you to include your camp’s Covid-19 policy and/or information about possible contingencies your camp might be facing pertaining to Covid-19. To update your listing, visit the following:
Call For Chronicles of Summer 2020
If your camp operated in any capacity during the summer of 2020, please contact us to discuss the possibility of publicly sharing your experiences and insights in the form of a dedicated blog post on VerySpecialCamps.com.
Our objective is to disseminate general approaches, protocols, and outcomes pertaining to Covid-19; for the benefit of camp families, camp professionals, and the public at large.
Along with the publication of your account, we would be happy to provide credit and a link to your camp’s website.
Keeping Campers Safe and Healthy in the Midst of a Global Pandemic
Camp Sequoia opened and had a healthy and successful summer in 2020. But it wasn’t easy. As news of increased case counts of COVID-19 made the news and different states developed different benchmarks for opening, threading the needle to meet local and state regulations for the summer of 2020 was a challenge to say the least. Many good camps weren’t willing or able to open this summer. Recognizing the value of camping, we want to share with the greater camping community what worked for us.
Running a COVID free residential camp where kids could thrive in summer 2020 was our goal– and we succeeded. Our kids were safe and 100% COVID free. Our staff was safe and 100% COVID free. Our approaches may not make sense for others, but the results speak for themselves.
What looked different about Camp Sequoia this summer?
First and foremost, let me be very clear. Camp Sequoia operated this summer in a new location. We made several meaningful structural changes to allow our kids to thrive. We made significant programmatic changes, radically changed certain health and staff-related procedures, added sanitizing foggers, enhanced handwashing and greatly increased education and mentorship of kids on appropriate places and spaces to make this summer a success. What we did worked for us. It kept campers and staff at Camp Sequoia safe.
How did the community come together? Camp Sequoia followed a multi-pronged approach to opening up COVID free. Camp Sequoia tested all staff and all campers prior to kids arriving on site. We retained Vault Health for COVID screening and its saliva-based test, developed at Rutgers, could be done at home and didn’t involve invasive nasal swabs. This saliva test, administered three days before the camper or staff member was supposed to arrive at camp, worked well for us – it excluded asymptomatic individuals from joining our community–which was the point really.
All members of our camp community also kept a daily signed health log for two weeks before arriving at camp. Our staff further quarantined together during staff training for two weeks at camp before campers arrived at the site.
Camper arrivals on site were staggered and communal transportation was reduced and operated at 50% normal passenger capacity. These transportation adjustments further reduced risks.
Luggage arrived separately from campers and was fogged upon arrival before it entered camper accommodations. We used EPA N-List chemicals for all of our fogging. Please feel free to contact us for additional details on specific cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection procedures.
What about food service? Meals were staggered, involved increased natural air ventilation, and clustered campers by bunk with 10 foot spaces between unlike ages. Children were monitored to use hand sanitizer within 45 seconds of receiving their food (served by on-site, COVID screened dining hall staff). Children were served by age group. Our staff performed all food receiving, storage, prep and service according to updated ServSafe COVID guidelines.
How did you handle bathroom and shower use? We limited bathroom use in public areas (accessible to multiple age groups) and encouraged bunk specific bathroom use. The dining hall was fogged (see note above) before and after each meal. Bunk bathrooms were fogged daily and common shared spaces were fogged multiple times per day.
Did you do any trips? We did not take our campers off site to any place where they could interact outside of our bubble. This is not to say that kids didn’t have excursions this summer. We did blueberry picking, horseback riding etc. where we could take the bubble with us and not break a 6 foot contact barrier with anyone outside of our community.
With regard to staff, during off hours, we provided enhanced staff recreational opportunities on site and limited staff movement off campus. With regard to camp’s ongoing and not always foreseeable need for materials, we obviously preferred to have needed items shipped to camp rather than go to the store but that was not always possible. For those rare occasions where we had to pick up, we had one dedicated staff person for each age group and each specialty to do all necessary curbside pickups for supplies for that group. These staff members went into town wearing masks and gloves and did not live with campers.
How did your staff support your mission? Our medical team did daily health screenings for the first 14 days of camp (given the known incubation period of COVID) with both campers and staff and an in-depth medical assessment each week and if there was any need so to do. We found that these screenings, done at breakfast, were non-invasive and were well received and accepted by our community. While we asked a lot of our staff, they delivered well. We had no fevers (regardless of cause) this summer. We had no colds, nor did we need to go to a hospital or urgent care with ANY cold, flu or COVID symptoms for any member of our community, camper or staff.
For questions or details about our approach, methods and successes in 2020, please feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com or give us a call at 610-771-0111.
Brian Lux, is the owner/director of Sequoia programs, serving ADHD, gifted and twice-exceptional young men. Details on his research based approaches can be found @ www.camp-sequoia.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in the article above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Camp Channel, Inc.
This article has been published to provide a first-hand account of one camp’s efforts and experience operating in the midst of Covid-19 during the summer of 2020; for the benefit of camp families, camp professionals, and the public at large. What may “work” for one camp might not for another. We believe safety is of paramount importance and urge those seeking to attend a camp in 2021 use due diligence and contact a camp directly about their systems, protocols, and outcomes.
If you operated a camp or program during the summer of 2020, please contact us to discuss the possibility of sharing your experiences and insights on VerySpecialCamps.com.
Allergies, Camper Health, and Foodservice @ Camp: An overview for parents
Foodservice at Camp
What comes to mind when you think about ‘camp food’? Hotdogs and marshmallows roasting over a fire? Burgers on the grill? Perhaps even brown mush on a standard-issue cafeteria tray? How do camp dining options reflect the growing number of food allergies in Children (up 50% in recent years) When looking at finding an appropriate camp for your child, it is important to know that the foodservice offerings reflect the allergen needs of your child. Does the Camp have a ServeSafe food allergen certified staff member to coordinate allergy needs and concerns?
“Broccoli? Gross!” Sound familiar in your home? As many parents are aware, it can sometimes be difficult to get a child to try new things, and many campers struggle with sensory aversions to specific foods. However, camp should help campers take a culinary adventure and try new things by making food fun and positively reinforcing adventurous food options: even if it’s just a bite of something new! If you haven’t heard of the Rainbow Challenge, campers strive to get (and try!) more colorful foods on their plates to win the challenge. Having regular snack times to accommodate campers whose medications sometimes make it difficult to eat on a regular meal schedule is an important kid-friendly consideration.
Between basketball, gaga, archery, outdoor skills, soccer, and hot summer days, it is important that the summer program you choose has a hydration plan. This acknowledges that staying hydrated is vital for our active campers to stay happy and healthy while enjoying their summer experience. In addition to water coolers, and water bottles while out and about at their activities, what procedures are in place to make sure that kids are property hydrated at each meal. This helps with both hydration for the sake of replacing fluids, but also because many of the medications that kids take work better. Check out this research published by the NIH.
Research shows that additives in junk food have the potential to negatively impact our campers and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions, so it is important that Dining Hall staff are camp collaborators to provide numerous healthy and nutritious options for campers during the summer. Having available plums, apples, oranges, and even mangoes regularly available, along with the open salad and soup bar can help kids make better food choices. When combined with protein-rich entrees, every meal provides well balanced dining experience. Interested in a sample camp menu that models this? This sample menu provides a key variety of offerings at camp. Variety is important in every diet, as studies have shown. With deli, salad bar, buffet options, breakfast spread, fruit selections, and grill line, every camper can get a balanced and nutritious meal during their summer experience to set them up for success well beyond the walls of the dining hall.
Have a camper with vegan, vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergy-specific, or other dietary restricted diet? Be sure to communicate this with the Camp Director, Dining Hall supervisor and medical staff before enrolling in a camp to make sure that they are realistically set up for your child to be successful. Can you bring special food to accommodate dietary needs? Are there allergen alerts for common food allergens posted with all menu items? Can your child find a variety of options that meet their needs at each meal, or will specialized dietary needs lead to limited and repetitive choices? A good camp dining hall is prepared to accommodate dietary needs for all campers.
–Brian Lux and Reema Dixon
Brian is the owner/director of Camp Sequoia whose work has been presented at the World Gifted Conference. He is a licensed K-12 gifted educator dedicated to the whole person growth and support of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by phone at 610-771-0111. Reema Dixon is the associate director at Camp Sequoia and the ServSafe Allergen liaison for camp.
Support Special Olympics
VerySpecialCamps.com encourages you to help ensure the existing baseline level of federal government funding remains in tact for Special Olympics; a program that benefits the lives of countless individuals in ways that are immeasurable. Let your voice be heard now:
An excerpt from a news release from SpecialOlympics.org:
Special Olympics is a nonpartisan organization that strongly supports policies, legislation and practices that guarantee the rights, full participation, and integration of people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics recognizes the progress that has been made around the country in eliminating the stigma, stereotypes, isolation, and discrimination that people with intellectual disabilities face—most importantly around access to sport, health, and education opportunities and services.
We ask federal, state and local governments to join Special Olympics in remaining vigilant against any erosion of provisions that have made a substantial difference in the lives of people with ID. U.S. Government funding for our education programming is critical to protecting and increasing access to services for people with intellectual disabilities.
Read full article:
Learn more about Special Olympics:
Mindfulness and Meditation at Camp
I can still recall the babbling brook and the ancient oak that provided a perfect back rest at the first camp I attended. Since then, campers (and staff) have seen a technological revolution boggles the mind. According to NASA even the now outdated iPhone 5 has 240,000 times the memory than was on Voyager I, the first human made craft to enter interstellar space. Suffice it to say, the world that campers today face is substantially different from the one of my youth. From school systems pushing digital conversation and American children (on average) having their first smart phone before age 11, perhaps there is some wisdom in Bill Gates indicating to USA Today that his children were 14 before they had that level of connectivity. What does this mean for camps?
The research supports that meaningful social skills connections happen with authentic face to face interactions and not through superficial screen time. An authentic camp experience can scaffold the opportunity for social success without a 21st century security blanket of a phone or smart device. Camp can and should be a place to develop smart and socially resilient children in a nurturing and fun environment. Mindfulness and meditation are two strategies that give children back the tools of the awesome power of quietude. Over the last several years, Camp Sequoia has intentionally incorporated mindfulness and meditation training into our staff orientation, established places and systems for our campers to be able to recapture the serenity of a babbling brook, and conscious self-reflection. These programs add to a wide array of traditional camp activities and recognize the value and importance of teaching and modeling a level of personal reflection as we empower our campers to become the best version of themselves.
Specifically, we’ve identified two meditation garden locations, a bench under a majestic pin oak and a “rustic retreat” experience that allows our campers the time to develop the naturalistic intelligence and peace that comes from meaningful interactions with nature. We’ve found that although there is oft some initial resistance to missing an Instagram post or a Facebook needs feed in our unplugged camp community, these experiences give our campers the opportunity, permission, and staff support to relax. Camper and family end of summer feedback to having these experiences has been as positive as the reviews of our STEM program or excitement about our weekly trips. We look forward to continuing these types of programs in 2019 and beyond.
Brian is the owner/director of Camp Sequoia whose work with has been presented at the World Gifted Conference, the ACA tri-states conference and numerous regional venues for parent and educators. A 20-year veteran of camping, he is a licensed K-12 gifted educator dedicated to the meaningful growth of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by phone at 610-771-0111.
Recent Website Improvements
We’ve recently implemented several advancements designed to improve navigation on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
In particular, visitors are now presented with a fixed horizontal secondary navigational menu at the top of all camp listing profiles; as well as on pages that display listing results (mobile/tablet only).
Ultimately, the goal is provide all pertinent information to visitors as efficiently as possible; and whenever possible, minimize the need to scroll.
Please note: if you are experiencing issues viewing the website, please clear your web browser’s cache (delete temporary internet files) and reload VerySpecialCamps.com
We always welcome your input and encourage you to contact us with your thoughts and ideas.
New Website Interface Released
We are pleased to announce the implementation of a new website interface to improve navigation and functionality on both mobile and desktop platforms.
The new navigational format includes a fixed horizontal menu bar at the top of all pages; allowing visitors to quickly navigate the VerySpecialCamps.com website from any page location.
All individual camp listing pages will be rendered as a fixed width on all desktop screen resolutions; providing greater readability and consistency.
Site-Wide SSL Security Implemented
We are pleased to announce the recent implementation of SSL security to the entirety of the veryspecialcamps.com domain, as well as our other camp related directories located at the following URL’s:
https://www.campchannel.com (All types of camps / camp jobs)
https://www.CampRentalChannel.com (Camp Rentals)
While VerySpecialCamps.com does not gather or retain sensitive information from visitors seeking a camp (such as credit card or social security data), we believe an encrypted & secure site-wide interface provides an increased level of security & trust for all website activity and engagement.
Online since 2003, VerySpecialCamps.com strives to maintain its position and reputation as a leader in camp search for individuals with special needs.