Children's National Medical Center

2012 Community Benefit Report

Brainy Camps Association

The experience of going to summer camp is one that can create memories and build friendships that last a lifetime. However, traditional camps, with long days chocked-full of activities, can be problematic for children with chronic illnesses, who may be required to take one or more medications, avoid the heat, or periodically rest. In fact, often the very actions that help them manage their illnesses also set them apart from their peers, inviting stares and resulting in social isolation.

Since 1994, Brainy Camps have been creating memories for kids in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area with chronic illnesses such as sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and epilepsy. Last year, more than 300 campers and 150 volunteers made their own Brainy Camp memories. Made up of residential summer camps, family retreats, leadership training, and transitional youth programs, Brainy Camps do more than give campers an opportunity to swim, run, and play. It also gives children the chance to be themselves around other youth — and adult counselors — dealing with the same condition and challenges. For example, at Camp Take Charge for children with diabetes, there is no need to be self-conscious or embarrassed when checking blood sugar levels or taking insulin — everyone else is doing it, too! Campers can feel free to share the achievements or milestones in their health that their peers may not fully appreciate, as well as express their worries or concerns with someone other than family. As a result, parents find that their sons and daughters return home more confident, self-reliant, and compliant. Brainy Camps equip children with the tools and skills to better understand their condition, and the strength and ability to manage their care in the future.