For many people, summer brings to mind scenes straight out of Norman Rockwell. Hiking in the woods … swimming in a lake … learning to paddle a canoe … toasting marshmallows over an open fire … short-sheeting the counselor's bed.
Each summer, multitudes of children attend camp. And each summer, thousands of nonprofit organizations make camping available to individuals who otherwise could not go.
Many of these nonprofits are chapters of national organizations dedicated to helping the nation's youth develop into happy, healthy, productive adults. Throughout the country, the Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, Inc., and the YMCA provide opportunities for youngsters to expe
rience the great outdoors.
Other charities focus on campers with special needs. Some make camping available to children (and sometimes adults) with a range of disabilities. A number of nonprofits focus on individuals who face specific challenges, such as vision or hearing impairment, developmental disabilities, or emotional or behavioral problems.
A variety of organizations make it possible for children with particular illnesses, including AIDS, asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, or sickle cell disease, to enjoy camping. Surrounded by others with the same condition, the young campers have the chance just to be kids while receiving the medical attention they need.
Other charities sponsor bereavement camps to help individuals coping with a family member's illness or death.
Nonprofit organizations do not limit their efforts to these groups, however. Charities throughout the country reach out to children at risk, giving disadvantaged youngsters the chance to enjoy new experiences, master new challenges, and interact with caring mentors in a safe environment.
Churches and other religious organizations offer camps where children—and sometimes adults—can learn and play in a spiritual environment. Other nonprofits have expanded the definition of camp by sponsoring camps where children can learn about such topics as the environment, conservation, science, technology, history, and the weather or develop their musical, theatrical, and artistic abilities.
Whether a facility is located in the woods or in an urban theater, whether the participants are critically ill children or adults seeking a spiritual experience, one thing is clear: nonprofit organizations are helping people expand their horizons by sending them to camp.
This report was based on information in the GuideStar database.
The preceding post is by Suzanne E. Coffman, with research assistance by Stephanie Wilt.