MDA Summer Camp provides thousands of kids with muscular dystrophy and related muscle-debilitating diseases "the best week of the year." At MDA Summer Camp, kids are living beyond limits in a place where anything is possible. It's a week where they’re free to enjoy adventures like horseback riding, swimming and fishing, develop lifelong friendships, and build self-confidence and independence.
Our nearly 75 weeklong summer camps — offered at no charge to families thanks to our supporters who fund the camps — give kids with limited muscle strength and mobility a life-changing experience in an environment without barriers.
MDA Summer Camp offers a fun and safe outdoor experience, along with opportunities to engage in a variety of activities such as adaptive sports, arts and crafts, camp dances and much more. In addition to all of the fun and friendship it offers, MDA Summer Camp enables campers to stretch their comfort zones and grow in independence as they spend a week away from home and permit someone other than their parents to provide personal care. Sure, there’s an abundance of fun and games at camp, but if you talk to MDA campers, they’ll tell you the real benefits come in a much subtler form — the lifelong friendships, the increased self-esteem and confidence, and the chance to spend at least one week of the year in a place where physical disabilities are the norm rather than the exception.
For parents and guardians, MDA camp provides a brief break from their roles of caregiver for a child with neuromuscular disease. It's a place where parents know they can send their children for a week of summer fun and, at the same time, be assured that their child’s medical and physical needs will be met by a team of dedicated health professionals and trained camp volunteers. MDA staff and volunteers assume all camper care, including physical and emotional support, allowing parents much-needed time to attend to their own needs and, in some cases, spend some special time with the camper’s siblings.
To find an MDA Summer Camp near you, enter your ZIP code below to contact your local MDA office for more information.
If you’re a camper, parent, volunteer or sponsor, please share with us your thoughts on why MDA Summer Camp is so special. Send your MDA summer camp story by clicking the button below.
If you’re 16 or older, you’re invited to apply and join the MDA team as a summer camp volunteer. At most MDA camps, volunteer counselors work one-on-one with campers, providing the around-the-clock care, close supervision and the attention that children with muscular dystrophy and related muscle-debilitating diseases need. Counselors push wheelchairs, meet the daily needs of each child and become a youngster’s friend for a week. MDA especially is in need of male camp volunteers; however, female camp volunteers also are needed. We need your help — contact your local MDA office if you're interested in volunteering today!
1. How do I sign up my child for MDA summer camp?
Youngsters ages 6-17 who have any of the neuromuscular diseases in MDA's program and who are registered with MDA are eligible to apply to attend MDA Summer Camp. There is no fee to attend camp, and all camp costs are covered by MDA. Acceptance to camp is contingent upon evaluation of your child’s application by MDA staff and MDA's medical advisers, including the camp health staff and care team. Because space at some camps may be limited, applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis and all application deadlines must be met. To learn more about how your child can attend, contact your local MDA office. You can obtain the contact information via the Find MDA in Your Community ZIP code locator tool.
2. Who will take care of my child’s medical needs during the camp week?
MDA camps are staffed by medical teams that can include physicians, nurses, and respiratory or physical therapists. The camp medical team will review your child’s medical needs prior to camp and meet with you to discuss your child’s needs on the first day of camp. During the camp week, the medical team dispenses medications, takes care of injured or ill campers, provides first aid, and monitors the overall health of all camp participants.
3. What kinds of activities will my child participate in at MDA Summer Camp, and how do I know my child will be safe?
MDA Summer Camp goes beyond limits and offers offers a wide range of activities specially designed for youngsters who have neuromuscular diseases that take away muscle strength and mobility. At camp, barriers simply don’t exist and a child with a disability can just be a child among friends. Although each camp is unique, some common activities include: swimming; adaptive sports such as hockey, baseball, soccer and football; boating; horseback riding; fishing; music; arts and crafts; dances; talent shows; Harley-Davidson motorcycle sidecar rides; visits from fire fighters; and much more. Adaptations are made so that children of all abilities can participate in every MDA Summer Camp activity.
Camp activities happen in an environment that promotes self-exploration, interaction with peers, making new friends, and engaging in an exciting and safe summer camp experience with age-appropriate boundaries and supervision. Safety is MDA’s first priority. Camp staff and volunteers receive training about the special needs of children with neuromuscular diseases. All activities are closely monitored, overseen by qualified personnel, and designed to accommodate campers' individual needs and abilities.
4. What is the camper-to-counselor ratio? How are volunteer counselors selected for camp? What duties do they perform?
Whether it’s in Alabama, Alaska, California or Florida, MDA Summer Camp promises a week of fun, friendship and freedom for kids with neuromuscular diseases. But campers are guaranteed to find something else at every camp — a team of tireless volunteers who are the key to making a memorable, safe and fun week for kids with neuromuscular disease.
At MDA camps, volunteer counselors work with campers around the clock, providing the care, close supervision and attention that children with neuromuscular diseases need. Counselors push wheelchairs, lift and transfer youngsters. But above all, they become the camper’s friend for a week, and sometimes a lifetime.
Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and of sufficient strength and size to lift and care for campers and assist with campers’ personal care needs. Campers’ parents are not eligible to be volunteers at the same camp where their child is in attendance. Siblings and other family members are welcome to apply to serve as volunteers, but we typically do not pair a camper with a family member. MDA Summer Camp is an opportunity for the child to learn that others are there to help meet their needs.
Parents can be assured that camp volunteers are thoroughly screened in a process that includes: a formal application, criminal background check, health and reference checks, and a personal interview with MDA staff. MDA follows all state mandates for volunteers who work with children. Volunteers receive training in the special needs of children with neuromuscular diseases.
5. What if a camper wants to come home midweek?
Sometimes children are reluctant to attend camp, due to fear of homesickness, having a new individual provide their personal care, being a first-time camper or other reasons. For those campers who experience homesickness, in most cases it quickly passes as the camper becomes busy with activities and making new camp friends. However, sometimes homesickness does not pass or a child may not be ready to attend a full week of overnight summer camp.
While campers should come to camp with the intention of spending the entire week, should your child experience any of these situations, please be assured that MDA and camp medical staff will contact you from camp and provide you with the most up-to-date information on your child’s medical, emotional or behavioral needs. Together, we’ll discuss a plan on how to best respond to the situation at hand.
6. May my child and I visit the camp first to see if we like it?
Prospective campers and their parents are welcome to make a day visit to their local MDA Summer Camp to see if they would like to apply for the following year's session. If you and your child would like to visit camp before making a decision about next year’s camp session, please contact your local MDA office. You can obtain the contact information via the Find MDA in Your Community ZIP code locator tool.
7. How can I encourage my reluctant child to attend camp?
Children with and without disabilities often are nervous about going to sleep-away camp for the first time. They may need a little parental encouragement to take that first step, which may include:
8. Is transportation provided to MDA Summer Camp?
MDA does not provide transportation to summer camp. However, if transportation is a problem for your family, we’ll make every effort to help your child get to camp and explore all possible solutions to assist your family.
Our trained specialists are here to provide one-on-one support for every part of your journey. Send a message below or call us at 800-572-1717. If you live outside the U.S., we may be able to connect you to muscular dystrophy groups in your area, but MDA services are only available in the U.S.