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There’s a host of benefits children derive from attending camp, but for kids with special needs, those benefits are amplified, says Sandy Cameron, editor of the Camping Magazine. “Traditional camps do a great job mainstreaming special needs’ children into their programs, but a special needs camp lets them be with other kids who have similar disabilities. The programs are pretty much the same but may be altered to meet the children’s needs.
Here are some of the many camps in the Bay Area and throughout California for children with special needs.


Camp Sunburst This week-long residential summer camp helps children with HIV/AIDS and their families enjoy being around others without the social stigma and isolation associated with the disease. 916-440-0889. .
Camp Superstuff Asthma Camp Breath California offers a week-long day camp in San Jose for children ages 6-12 who have asthma. 916-440-0889. 
Camp Hope This free weekend-long camp in Livermore is for children ages 6 to 17 who have lost a significant loved one. It provides a safe environment for grieving kids and teens to share memories, make new friends and have fun. [email protected]
Today’s Youth Matter This week-long, residential camp provides a transformational experience tailored for urban youth, immersing them in a community of adults who foster each camper’s spiritual, character and leadership growth. 408-719-9125.
Blindness & Visually Impaired
The Lighthouse Despite extensive damage from wild fires to its family and sleep-away camps in Napa, it is still planning to offer these camps to blind, visually impaired, deaf-blind and multi-disabled children. It needs donations to rebuild Enchanted Hills Camp. 415-431-1481. [email protected].
Camp Kesem Children affected by a parent’s cancer get the opportunity to just be kids in fun week-long, residential summer camp activities. There are locations around the Bay Area, including Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz.
Camp Okizu Offers camps for families affected by childhood cancer in the outdoor setting of Berry Creek. 415-382-9083. 
Crohn’s Disease
Camp Oasis This residential camp program at Mountain Center in Southern California enriches the lives of children living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by providing a safe and supportive camp community. 
Developmental & Learning Disabilities
Camp Krem It serves children and adults who have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism or other developmental disabilities in a traditional, residential camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There’s also an Outdoor Adventure camp and travel programs. 831-338-3210.
Camp Paivaka Ability First offers overnight summer programs for children and adults with disabilities in the San Bernardino National Forest. 626-396-1010; toll free: 877-768-4600.
Camp Ronald McDonald This camp at Eagle Lake is a fully-accessible residential summer camp for children with a variety of special needs, economic hardship and/or emotional, developmental or physical disabilities. 916-734-4230. .
Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) The center sometimes offers activity camps for children with autism. 408-551-0312.
Quest Therapeutic Camp This day camp in Danville is for children with behavior, emotional and social difficulties. 925-743-1370.
The Sensation Nation The Sensation Nation Summer Sports Camps in San Jose offer opportunities to children with special needs to participate in week-long day camps. 866-292-5290.
Via Services It provides year-round camping experiences for boys and girls with social cognitive challenges including verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger syndrome and autism. 408-243-7861. 
Diabetic Youth Foundation It offers camps in the Bay Area and High Sierra for children with diabetes and their families throughout the year. 925-680-4994. 
Coelho Epilepsy Youth Summer Camp For one week, children ages 9-17 with epilepsy get to enjoy the outdoors and meet friends at a residential camp located in Occidental. Physicians and nurses who specialize in epilepsy are at the camp around the clock. 800-632-3532, 510-922-8687. [email protected]. .
Camp Hemotion This is a week-long residential summer camp for youth ages 7-20 who are living with bleeding disorders, are known carriers and their siblings. It’s at Camp Oakhurst in Coarsegold. 510-658-3324.

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