Planning for Summer Camp

Ohio has no shortage of camps, facilities and programs to meet the varied interests and needs of our children and families! Camps and programs may be day or overnight/residential, short or long sessions, topic or population specific. They may be traditional, highly specialized, or offer inclusive activities that accommodate kids with special challenges alongside typically developing children. As a parent, it can seem overwhelming just to think about your child participating in a camp or other summer experience, let alone how to find a good fit or how to pay for it.

Red Treehouse can help with answers to questions such as:

How can I find camps and learn about what they offer?

  • The American Camp Association's (ACA) website is a comprehensive summer camp resource for families—offering expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, child and youth development, and includes a searchable national database.
  • Many of Ohio's State Support Teams, associations and community agencies compile directories of local options for day and residential camp programs, including traditional and specialty camps. We add the directories to Red Treehouse as they become available.
  • Many specialized camps have profiles on Red Treehouse. Just a few examples include Camp Ho Mita Koda for diabetes, Camp Joy for kids affected by various special circumstances and medical conditions, Camp Quality for children with cancer, Good Grief at Camp Frederick for children that have experienced the loss of a loved one, and Akron Rotary Camp for children with disabilities.

What questions should I ask? How can I prepare my child for the experience? Red Treehouse links you to resources:

  • Kidshealth.org - to help you plan your research, with questions to ask and more.
  • Discover Camp - considerations for those sending your child with a disability to camp for the first time.
  • An essential consideration is the camp's quality. Is it ACA-accredited? This means it has been reviewed and meets ACA standards for programs, facilities, hiring and safety policies. A camp may still be high-quality if not accredited, but you will want to ask more questions.

How do I really know the camp is right for my child?

  • Involve your child in the process as much as you can. Ideally, you and your child can evaluate options together, with access to tools to help in the decision-making process.
  • Visit. Many camps host open houses that are posted in the Red Treehouse events section or on the camp's websites. Most will offer tours or newcomer visits.
  • If you can't visit in person, other tools are videos, brochures and phone discussions with the camp director. Ask if they can connect you to other families/campers willing to talk about their experiences.

How can I afford camp? Is there financial help available?

  • Don't assume it will be unaffordable! Check to see if the camp offers scholarships, early registration discounts, has a financial need policy or a sliding scale for fees. They may also be able to refer you to other funding sources. Some camps, particularly specialized camps, are offered at no or minimal charge to the family due to their fundraising or foundation support.
  • Many nonprofits, civic groups, faith-based organizations and charitable foundations offer individuals funding in the form of grants and scholarships. Check with organizations and advocacy groups in your area, including those aligned with your child's diagnosis or needs. Many link families to applicable resources and information.
  • Day camps generally fall under the same tax guidelines as daycare, so if you pay for daycare with a dependent care flexible spending account, or write off these expenses on your taxes, you may be able to do the same for day camp.
  • Check to see if the program, especially if it involves therapeutic or respite care, can be considered a qualified expense under other funding sources/programs (e.g., health insurance, Medicaid, waivers, STABLE accounts).

The benefits of camp experiences, both for the child and the family, are well-documented. Empower yourself and your child with tools to discover and plan for summer experiences that are enriching, inspiring, memorable and most of all - FUN!

Bryan Buchko