Past Places

New Smyrna Beach: Art & Artist Enclave (Fall 2016)

Charleston's Most Unique Low Country Dishes (Fall 2016)

Grab a Life Vest, Helmet, and a Paddle (Fall 2016)

Upcoming Exhibitions at the North Carolina Museum of Art (Fall 2016)

The Ultimate Staycay? A Homegrown Mediterranean Get-Away (Fall 2015)

Eight Uniquely Charlotte Experiences (Fall 2015)

Hitting the High Notes of Macon's Music Scene (Fall 2015)

Florida's North Peninsula (Fall 2015)

12 Reasons to Visit Huntsville, Alabama (Fall 2015)

Alabama's Captivating Capital (Fall 2014)

Exploring South Carolina Old 96 District (Spring 2014)

Weekend Getaway to Lake Charles, La. (Spring 2014)

Exploring Northwest Florida's Natural Side (Spring 2014)

Discovering the Lake Oconee Area (Fall 2013)

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Fall 2013)

The Best of Today's Waterpark Rides (Summer 2013)


Have a Southern Houseboat House Party (Spring 2013)

Take Flight: Yes, You CAN Get a Pilot’s License (Spring 2013)

Discovering Hollywood's Backlot (Fall 2012)

Color-Fall Tennessee (Fall 2012)

NASCAR 2012: Upcoming Events Around the South (Summer 2012)

RVacations (Summer 2012)

People Go Wild for Glamping (Summer 2012)

Best Beaches for Beach Bums (Summer 2012)

Heirloom Gardens (Spring 2012)

Unforgettable Experiences Await You at Select Registry Inns in the South (Winter 2011)

Golf with a Southern Drawl (Fall 2011)

Bring Rover on Over - Hotels That Want to Pamper Your Pooch (Fall 2011)

Cabana Mania! (Summer 2011)

Time to Plan for Summer Sleepaway Camps (Spring 2011)

He Said Golf, She Said Spa (Spring 2011)

Edu-Vacation Destination: Charleston, S.C. (Spring 2011)

Getting Your Adventure on in the Mountains (Spring 2011)

Freeze Action (Winter 2010)

No Ordinary Love (Winter 2010)

Spa Spectacular: The Natural Choice (Winter 2010)

Freestyle Mountain Adventures (Winter 2010)

Time to Plan for Summer Sleepaway Camps

Your kids are special because they're your kids, but they may also need a special summer camp because they are musical, artistic, exceptionally bright, physically handicapped , mentally challenged or passionate about tennis, golf or baseball.

The range of choices is overwhelming, with activities ranging from aviation to wind surfing. Special needs are covered from ADD to vision impairment. Camps that have a major focus may offer subjects from academic study to weight loss. There are also countless camps for troubled children, from grief camp to behavior problems. Then there is location, and the decision about how you'll get your children to and from the camp.

Here's a small sampling of what's available in the Southeast for parents who will be sending children to sleepaway camp this summer.


Sports Camps

Club Med in Port St. Lucie FL will host Beachfest Events, a group that brings in multi-sport fantasy camps. Youngsters train, play and interact with professional athletes, elite fitness trainers and world-class coaches in tennis, golf, volleyball, basketball, football, swimming and soccer. In addition to the seven sports, kids enjoy land and water activities plus health and wellness programs including yoga, Pilates, weight training and nutritional guidance.

This is a family program in which other family members also stay at this all-inclusive resort and have their own activities while kids participate in the camp. (772) 398-5100, (www.) Clubmedus/com

Step It Up Basketball Camping is based in Boca Raton FL but its expert staff may be booked anywhere including your favorite camp. The concept comes from Yogev Berdugo, one-time collegiate athlete at both Hofstra and Brandeis universities who played professionally in the Israeli Premier League. He's also player development coach at American Heritage High School in Plantation FL Camps take a holistic, tough love approach in assessing each child's needs, developing individual talents and sending kids home as true athletes. http://Www.), (Www.), (888) 600-0908.

6 Points Sports Academy in Greensboro NC is operated by the nonprofit Foundation for Jewish Camp. Campers sleep in air-conditioned dorms with double or triple rooms and single beds (no bunks). Professional quality fields and facilities are provided for basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, girls softball, girls lacrosse and boys baseball. Campers choose a major sport plus electives from a list that includes fitness, tennis, kayaking, rock climbing, self defense, volleyball and flag football. (Www.), (561) 208-1650


Nature and the Environment

Adamah Adventures in Atlanta GA, is a project of the nonprofit Foundation for Jewish Camp. Teens share high adventure such as whitewater rafting, outdoor cooking and nature study on 18-day treks. Sleeping quarters are air conditioned and have bunk beds. It isn't necessary to know Hebrew or to be Jewish but daily prayers are observed and campers should be open to the Jewish experience. (Www.) (404) 297-4914

Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center in Deep Gap NC is a mountain paradise 110 miles from Charlotte and 77 miles west of Winston-Salem. Here kids connect with the earth while roughing it in tin-roofed boys' and girls' dorms, eating organic foods in a screened shelter and showering in bathhouses. Sports here include canoeing, overnight survival treks, fishing, whitewater rafting and archery. Crafts include basketry and making tools from flint.

Sessions are for ages 9 to 12 and 12 to 17. (Www.), For program information (not the camp itself), call (828) 964-1473.

Green River Preserve Summer Camp in Cedar Mountain NC is a Blue Ridge Mountain hideaway a few miles from Brevard. Adults come to fish for trout and families come to camp but there is also a summer camp program for children who are "bright, curious and creative". They needn't be labeled gifted or have top grades but they do need a good teacher reference and eagerness to learn about nature from knowledgeable outdoor educators.

Campers sleep in double-decker bunks, seven to a cabin, each with its own counselor and shared bathroom. Activities range from archery and skeet shooting to fencing, theater, dance, juggling and climbing. One-week sessions are for 4th through 6th graders, two-week sessions for grades 5 through 8 and three-week camps are for 7th through 9th grade.

Kids go on three-hour-long hikes and also help out in the sustainable farm. During meals in the dining hall, campers are exhorted by a funny character known as Ort Man who, with his sidekick Scrappy, teaches them not to be wasteful and to compost scraps. (Www.) (828) 698-8828


Special Camps for Special Interests

Boggy Creek Camp, Eustis FL is for seriously ill children ages 7 to 16. There is no cost to the family except for getting there, but it's often possible to find local groups that will take care of that too. Many conditions are accommodated and, when medical needs must be met, kids go to The Patch, a state-of-the-art facility, to get "patched up". Total emphasis is on letting kids be kids, not patients. Full-time medical staff, supplemented by volunteer medical specialists are always on hand to handle anything from bandaging a boo-boo to chemo or dialysis. (Www.), (866) 462-6449.

Camp Sertoma in Westfield NC, operated by the 4-H Center at NC State University, offers Camp Challenge for high achievers. Located in the high country near Hanging Rock State Park in western NC, the camp has week-long coed programs for ages 8 to 16 and also programs for adults, seniors and the deaf. Activities include academics, watersports, camping and outdoor living skills, climbing, hiking, horseback rides, nature study, arts and crafts, basketball and team building. (Www.), (336) 593-8057.

Camp Windhover in Crystal Springs MS features visual and performing arts residental programs lasting one to four weeks for children ages 7 to 14. Although focus is on these arts, which are taught by visiting artists, campers also participate in traditional camp fun such as archery, team sports, bicycling, fishing and swimming.

Camp Vanguard in Haines City FL (near Orlando) offers weight loss programs for children ages 7 to 19. Focus is on high energy activities, great meals and building self-esteem while peeling off pounds. That means team sports such as volleyball, kick ball, softball and soccer for those who are interested but also plenty of stress-free activities for the non-competitive camper too. Kids are kept involved from breakfast through bedtime, with emphasis less on food and more on fun from morning through evening programs.With a counselor ratio of four to one, and camps lasting two to six weeks, this ACA-accredited camp gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from both parents and kids. A sister camp is in the Poconos. (Www.), (863) 439-9135.

Embry-Riddle Summer Academy in Daytona Beach is all about careers in aviation and aerospace. Programs begin at age 12 and advanced programs for high school students carry college credit. Some programs include flying. In fact, students solo by the end of one 17-day course. An introductory course for teens explores the whole spectrum of aero careers including piloting, meteorology, airport management and flight control. (Www.) (386) 226-7945.

Lutheridge in Arden, NC is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It's located between Asheville and Asheville Regional Airport. Programs are for campers who have finished first grade and up through high school ages. Emphasis is on Christian-based activities including sports and outdoor skills. Featured are watersports, arts and crafts, camping and outdoor life, canoeing, rafting, nature study, rope challenge courses, music and religious study. Kids also play basketball, go climbing and caving, make pottery, fish and participate in performances. Because this is a year-round camp there are also snow sports in season. Special needs programs are for Down's Syndrome and mental retardation.

Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville AL is the ace of spades for children who are seriously into space. Sessions involve full-size equipment and actual missions in which students solve real-life problems. Sessions are available for children as young as 4th grade and through high school ages. Older kids get into advanced space skills including a weightless experience and using the robotic arm. Six-day camps include dorm accommodations and meals in the mess room. (Www.), (800) 637-7223.


Summer Camp Essentials

  • Early planning is crucial because many specialty camps are offered only one or two weeks a year. The more specialized your needs (e.g. canoe camp for a paraplegic teenage girl or baseball camp for a 10-year-old diabetic boy with ADD), the earlier you must reserve.
  • Getting there. If you drive in, you'll see the camp and meet staff . If the child boards a plane alone, things get more complicated. Will she be met by strangers, then transported to the camp by van or bus? Will he have a plane change? What about overweight expenses for bringing all the gear the camp requires? (Some camps require children to bring bedding in addition to other personal needs).
  • Camps that specialize in special needs usually have expert staff throughout. From kitchen and counselors to health specialists, they're trained in these specific needs. While mainstream camps may promise personal attention to special needs, but parents need to dig deeper to make sure staff are fully equipped to deal with, say, a life-threatening food allergy or a child who is subject to midnight asthma attacks.
  • Many specialty camps, especially high-intensity sports camps, are staged by private companies that put on guest programs at existing camps. To find one, do a search for Name of Sport+Camp+ Place Name (e.g.your preferred state.)
  • Choosing a sleepaway camp is so complicated , you may want a camp consultant to do the initial legwork for you. One is Sharon Alpert at (www.), (800) 879 6363. Her service is free to parents.
  • Many theme parks and zoos offer resident camps, usually starting about 5th grade and going through high school ages. Campers live at the park, work with animals and learn about animal care, marine life, nutrition and other skills including college prep work for future veterinarians. The key word here is resident camp as opposed to day volunteers or one-night sleepovers.
  • According to the American Camp Association, the average fee for sleepaway camps ranges from $325 to $780 per week, but camps with prestige locations, luxury accommodations, expensive outdoor adventure outfitting or big-name instructors can run into the thousands.
  • Many camps have scholarships available. If you think you can't afford sleepaway camp for your children, ask about financial assistance.
  • Do you want your special needs child mainstreamed or in a specialty camp? Both choices are available.
  • Don't overlook family resorts where children share parents' lodging but spend all day in a program centered on a specialty such as equestrian skills, golf, tennis, environmental studies or sailing. You don't have a settle for resort programs that are merely babysitting services.
  • While this article's focus is sleepaway camps for children, some camps listed above have simultaneous programs for adults or seniors. Other camps, by contrast, may not permit parental contact at all during some or all of the program.
  • Some camps go by a child's grade in school, some by age. Do they mean the grade just completed or grade about to be entered? No matter how bright your child or big for its age, don't try to lie your way into a different group. It isn't fair to the kids or counselors and it could void your agreement with the camp.


Useful Contacts

  • High standards and a user-friendly website make the American Camp Association an A-list resource. ACA-accredited camps meet up to 300 standards for health, safety, and quality of programs. (Www.), (800) 428-2267
  • Outward Bound is a nonprofit group offering a variety of rawboned wilderness experiences for teens. (www.), (866) 467-7651 or, for at-risk youth, (866) 467-7651. Many Southeastern locales and programs are available.
  •, is a marketing site listing paid advertisers. Search by search by state, age, gender, interests, length of program and much more. (Www.) (877) 242-9330
  • The YMCA offers sleepaway summer camps for boys and girls in all southern states. Go to (www.), (800) 872-9622


About the Author

Janet Groene is a professional travelwriter who holds a Gold Award from Parenting Publications of America.