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Unlocking Summer Joy: 6 Tips to Maximizing Our Campership Scholarship Program

Title page reading, "Unlocking Summer Joy: 6 Tips to Maximizing our Campership Scholarship", including a picture with a young girl on a wheelchair and a camp counselor smiling

It’s Camp Selection time! 

Are you ready to make this summer truly special for your child with disabilities? At Progressive Center for Independent Living, we believe that every child deserves an unforgettable summer filled with fun, adventure, and new friendships. That's why we are thrilled to offer a Summer Campership Scholarship Program, providing financial assistance specifically for kids with disabilities to attend summer camps that they select!


Embarking on the journey of selecting a summer activity for your child can feel like navigating a maze of options and considerations. To ease your path and ensure your child's summer is filled with joy and growth, PCIL presents these invaluable tips for choosing the perfect summer experience!

The names used in this post have been changed from their original names in order to protect the privacy of our clients.

Children at summer camp together

1. Start Early and Stay Informed:

As summer approaches, it’s crucial to begin your summer planning early! By starting your search early, you can take advantage of early-bird discounts and secure a spot in popular camps before they fill up. Keep yourself informed about the types of camps available, whether it's day camps, sleepaway camps, or specialized programs. Additionally, consider the accessibility of the camp for your child, ensuring that their specific needs are met.

Emily, a passionate young girl with mobility challenges, and her family were apprehensive about finding a camp that could accommodate her disability. Through dedicated research and collaboration with PCIL, Emily's family discovered a local camp in Mercer county called “Inclusion Sports Performance Training.” This camp not only boasted accessible facilities but also embraced inclusivity as a core value. Excited by the prospect of Emily being able to fully participate in the summer fun, they eagerly enrolled her in the camp. Emily had not only discovered a summer camp but also a community where she could thrive, regardless of any obstacles in her path. PCIL serves as a resource for parents with children with disabilities, and aims to provide information and tips needed to give your child a fulfilling summer. 

2. Follow Your Child's Passions:

Summer experiences can be about more than just a fun time; they're also about learning and growth. Consider your child's interests and obsessions when selecting a summer activity. Whether your child is captivated by the wonders of science, the creativity of the arts, the thrill of sports, or the tranquility of nature, there's a camp tailored to their interests. Opting for a camp that resonates with your child's passions ensures they'll be fully engaged and motivated to participate in the activities offered. This enthusiastic involvement not only enhances their enjoyment of the summer but also facilitates meaningful learning experiences that extend beyond the campgrounds.

By selecting an experience that aligns with your child's interests, you provide them with an enriching summer experience that stimulates their curiosity, fosters personal growth, and lays the foundation for lifelong passions. So, when considering summer options, remember to prioritize your child's interests and obsessions for a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience.

3. Think Outside the Box: 

When thinking about summer plans, consider venturing beyond the conventional options and exploring activities outside the box. PCIL's financial assistance empowers individuals with disabilities to access a diverse array of programs and experiences. By thinking creatively about summer activities, you can unlock opportunities that cater to unique interests and needs. Whether it's a specialized camp, an adventurous road trip, or a new hobby, embracing unconventional approaches can lead to unforgettable summer adventures. So, when planning your summer itinerary, it might be good to think differently and discover the endless possibilities that lie beyond the ordinary.

This was a testimonial shared to PCIL by a mother in 2023: 

Catherine and her mother in the swimming pool

“This year’s camp program entailed having Catherine go on a road trip. Catherine loves going on rides in her handicap accessible van.  Her camp program 'adventure' started 7/2 and ended 7/7. She traveled out to the far end of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh and saw some of the rural sights. Also her trip consisted of going down into West Virginia where we saw some of the state parks and then through Virginia, Maryland and back to Lancaster, PA. She spent one day touring the Antietam Civil war park. Every day Catherine swam in either an outdoor or indoor pool at the hotels where she stayed. I have enclosed photos showing some of the fun she had. A typical camp program would not work for her. If you look in the past camp programs she attended she really liked doing these outings. She needs one on one care which we provided for her to keep her safe.Thank you in advance for having this opportunity available for someone like Catherine and allowing her to attend a program ‘out of the box’.” 

Catherine and her mother in front of canons from their road trip

Catherine and her parents worried that a typical camp wouldn’t work for Catherine due to her disability. PCIL gave Catherine’s parents the reassurance that there will always be ways to accommodate a child with a disability. PCIL granted Catherine an award for a camp program, which opened the door for many opportunities of summer activities that were “out of the box” that she also enjoys. Catherine was able to travel out of Mercer county, around through different areas of Pennsylvania and back. Catherine and her parents were so grateful that she was able to experience these creative summer activities with the support of PCIL. 

4. Focus on New Experiences:

Summer time offers the perfect opportunity for children to step outside their comfort zones and explore new activities and topics. Encourage your child to try something different, whether it's outdoor adventures, STEM workshops, or creative arts. By embracing new experiences, they'll broaden their horizons and develop valuable skills.

Encouraging your child to try something different fosters resilience, adaptability, and a sense of adventure. A child who may be initially hesitant about venturing into the wilderness for a camping trip may discover a newfound love for nature and outdoor exploration. Similarly, a child who immerses themselves in STEM workshops may unearth a passion for innovation and discovery, sparking an interest in future academic or career pursuits.

PCIL has a list of camps that we work closely with and recommend, since we have been able to see the positive impact being made on children and families. PCIL Green Wood Library hosts summer camps and assists low-income families in need who aren’t able to afford their camp. Inclusion Sports Performance Training is a camp that has historically been very accommodating to all children’s needs. Creative Change Counseling has a variety of summer activities and events that are very inclusive. Lastly, another summer camp that is very popular is YMCA, which has focused on healthy living as well as youth development. Since PCIL serves Mercer county, Hunterdon county, and Somerset county, many of our resources transpire from these locations, however, the Campership Scholarship grant is made possible through the County of Mercer.

A young girl and a coach, both on wheel chairs fist bumping.

5. Prioritize Safety and Well-being:

Above all else, prioritize your child's safety and well-being when choosing a summer activity or camp. If choosing a camp, research the camp's accreditation, safety protocols, and staff qualifications to ensure a secure environment for your child. Additionally, communicate any specific needs or medical requirements your child may have to the camp staff for proper care and support.

Start by checking if the camp is accredited by reputable organizations such as the American Camp Association (ACA). Accredited camps adhere to stringent standards for health, safety, and program quality, ensuring that your child will be in a secure and well-supervised environment. This information can be found on ACA’s website: or even by reaching out to a summer camp directly and inquiring about their accreditation status. 

Next, inquire about the organization's safety protocols and emergency procedures. Ensure that they have comprehensive measures in place to address potential risks and emergencies, including first aid training for staff, emergency response plans, and supervision protocols. Additionally, verify that the organization maintains appropriate ratios of staff to participants to ensure adequate supervision and support.

6. Stay Connected and Engaged:

Establish open communication with the organizers from the outset, sharing any concerns or requirements your child may have. By staying connected and engaged, you can ensure that your child's needs are met, and any issues that arise can be addressed promptly. Additionally, inquire about discounts, scholarships, and additional costs to make informed decisions about camp expenses.

By sharing any concerns or specific requirements your child may have, such as dietary restrictions, medical needs, or accessibility accommodations, you enable the staff to adequately prepare and make necessary arrangements. Inquiring about discounts, scholarships, and additional costs is also important for making informed decisions about camp expenses. Summer activities can be a significant financial investment, and understanding the available financial assistance options can help alleviate financial strain. By asking about discounts, scholarships, and any potential additional costs upfront, you can budget accordingly and ensure that your child can participate in the camp experience without undue financial burden.

Overall, establishing open communication, staying connected, and inquiring about financial assistance options are essential steps in ensuring that your child has a positive and fulfilling camp experience. These actions demonstrate your commitment to your child's well-being and enable you to make informed decisions that support their participation in camp activities.

Olivia's family faced financial challenges but didn't want her to miss out on the camp experience. With PCIL's assistance, they explored scholarship opportunities and secured financial aid, allowing Olivia to attend Green Wood Library camp, which tailored to her interests without placing a strain on their budget.

A kid on a wheelchair sitting and smiling while on a camp ground

Choosing the right summer activities for your child is a significant decision that can shape their summer and beyond. By following these tips and leaning on the support of organizations like PCIL, you can ensure that your child's summer is filled with adventure, learning, and unforgettable memories.

The Campership Scholarship program provides supplemental funding for youth ages 4 - 25 living with disability to enjoy summer activities. Awards range from $85 to $400. This program is made possible by a grant from the County of Mercer. Applications and approval are required and are processed by PCIL on a first come first serve basis. Funds are limited.

For more information on PCIL’s Summer Camp Scholarship Program, click here: 


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