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Why You Should Work at a Special Needs Camp

Many people think you would require a qualification of some sort to be able to work at a Special Needs Camp for the summer. Believe me, working at a special needs camp is like earning a qualification in itself.

Meet Camp Counselor Rachael!

For the past three summers, I have worked at Wisconsin Badger Camp (two summers as a counselor and one as leadership staff). WBC is a summer camp which provides recreational outdoor experiences for adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Nobody will ever be turned away from WBC, regardless of the severity of their disability. A  special needs camp is a place of belonging, where campers feel loved, cared for and accepted for who they are.

From the moment campers leave at the end of their week-long session, they are already eagerly awaiting their return the following summer. For many campers, it is the one week of the year where they leave their parents/caregivers/care home. All staff at special needs camps strive to make this one week, the best week of the campers’ lives.

Typical Camp Day

So you may wonder what a typical day at a summer camp is like, let alone a special needs summer camp where programmes may need to be adapted. Typically the day went somewhat like this:

7:15 am: wake up (or if you are like me in the mornings and require a little encouragement it could be later).
7:45-8:15: Morning meds (you accompany your camper group to the med window)
8:15-9 am: Breakfast
9-9:50: Pictures/Session 1
10-10:50: Session 2
11-11:50: Session 3
12-12:15: Noon Meds
12:15-1pm: Lunch
1-2 pm: Noon rest
2-2:50pm: Session 4
3-3:50pm: Session 5
4-4:50pm: Session 6
5-5:15: Dinner meds
5:15-6 pm: Dinner
6:30-8 pm: Evening activity
8 pm: Evening meds
9 pm: Lights out

This was the structure for my camp, however, all camps will differ in terms of a typical daily routine. Daily activities included arts and crafts, swimming, nature, recreation, music, camping excursions, hiking, water carnival, ice-cream social and talent shows. Evening activities consisted of director’s night, counselor’s night, Badger Olympics and Badger Ball. Depending on the day, the weather and your camper group, activities might not always go to plan, so it’s important for counselors to be flexible and creative in these situations.

My Personal Experience as a Camp Counselor

As a counselor for two years, it was incredible to work with such a diverse range of campers with varying levels of ability, behaviours and needs on a weekly basis. My campers were as young as 10 and as old as 90. It was so interesting to get to know each camper individually and always accommodate them. At the beginning of the summer, the prospect of personal care frightened me a lot as I wasn’t used to it. However, after three years of getting used to toileting, showering and feeding at camp, personal care is now amongst my strongest points.

Camp will really help your overall mindset to change and you really begin to see the world and everyone around you differently. Something that is also amazing about camp is the amount of support that is available. Whether you are struggling with your campers, are feeling homesick or just need a chat, there is always someone who you can talk to. Everyone is in the same boat at camp and all staff will become your 2nd family.

For my third summer at camp, I was part of the leadership staff team as Camper Coordinator. Instead of being responsible for a group of campers, I was in charge of all counselors and their campers. I helped to assist them with personal care and behaviour management, as well as being an overall support model.

Why You Should Work at a Special Needs Camp

If I had to describe a special needs summer camp in three words they would be: rewarding, life-changing and happiness. The bonds you form not only with the staff but also with your campers are like no other. At the end of a session, every counselor is holding back the tears saying goodbye to their camper groups.  These reasons are why I recommend new counselors to work at a Special Needs Camp.

Whether you love it or hate it, everyone is in the same area for three months and all staff will become your family. I am lucky to say that many of my closest friends are the ones I have made at camp over my three summers. Anyone considering to work at a Special Needs Camp, I could not recommend it enough.  You will gain so much experience, form unforgettable bonds and have the best summer(s) of your life – Long Live Adventure!

If you’re ready to make a difference next summer, apply here to start your application.

Racheal Power
Racheal Power
Hey! My name is Rachael and this is my second year on the USA Summer Camp National Support Team. I love being able to meet with applicants and share my knowledge, experience and love of camp with them!
Call now +44 (0)121 411 9165

Are You Ready to Return to Camp?

Capturing the perfect shot while at camp often comes naturally during your stay. However, sometimes you need a little inspiration and a few tips! Make sure to check out our yearly photo competition to be in with the chance of winning some great prizes after camp.

Whether you’re a total beginner or you have mastered the art of photography, you’re bound to get some creative shots. Likewise, you don’t need to shell out on any fancy camera equipment. Your phone will do fine!

Check out our 2019 Photo Competition here!

Lights, Camera, Action!

group picture while at camp

Capturing the perfect shot often comes at moments you least expect. In other words, don’t force the moment. Forget having fancy lighting and photography equipment, the magic of camp is in the unexpected. Phone cameras can work wonders nowadays and are sometimes even better than a fancy DSLR. If you can’t have your phone on you while working at camp, there’s still plenty of opportunities while travelling as well as on your days off.


The More the Merrier

travelling with views after summer camp

You’ve met some great people while on your travels. More importantly, you might want to record your memories with them. A group shot together always brings the memories flooding back. Moreover, you might also want to recreate the shot at your camps reunion! You’ll find that the people make the place and you’ll want to be able to put faces to your memorable summer. A fun group snap at the Golden Gate Bridge or gathered around your camp sign will be a memory you will treasure forever. In addition, you can save on your travelling with Contiki or TrekAmerica!


A Photo Finish

summer camp olympics

While at camp there’ll be a whole summer jam-packed of different sports events. From Color War to Camp Olympics, you’ll be representing and competing as a team. You’ll find these events truly capture camps spirit and there’s no better time to snap a shot. You might be covered head to toe in paint and this will be a memory you’ll want to remember! Whether your team won or lost, there won’t be many opportunities to take a picture of a shower of powdered paint back at home.


Here’s to Adventure

travelling with camp tshirts

After Summer Camp comes to an end, you have 30 days of travel time to explore. You don’t have to use the whole 30 days but a good week or two allows you time to travel. You might be the outdoorsy kind and hitting up Americas National Parks. Alternatively, you might be more into your theme parks and heading straight to Florida. You’ll be able to capture some great shots of the outdoors and sometimes even the indoors! There are loads of discoveries to be made while travelling so make sure to capture your best moments.


Order Up

milkshakes after summer camp

Do you even have Instagram if you’re not taking a quick pick when you get your meal? While travelling, you’ll discover amazing eateries, food stalls and markets. A cheeky pic with your snack is a great way to document the tasty treats you picked up while in America and will look great on your Insta feed. The food you’ll get while in the states is on another level and you’re going to want to remember the time you ate a burger sandwiched between two doughnuts!



Ever wondered what a day in the life of a Camp Counselor involves?


Meet Camp Counselor Summer!

Hey! I’m Summer and I was a Camp Counselor in my two summers at camp. I spent a year working at French Woods Festival of Performing Arts in Upstate New York. French Woods is a specialist camp with all the traditional camp activities. Not only are there traditional activities but there are also four theatres, a circus and a magic department! Specifically, French Woods is a sleep-away camp, which means that campers spend the nights sleeping in cabins. There can be up to about fourteen children in each cabin.

Above all, summer camp is one of those places where you fully immerse yourself in a camp bubble. Every day is different and you’re always inspiring and influencing your campers. In addition to all of this, you get paid! You are also adding top skills to your CV. Ready to find out more? Keep reading below to find out what a typical day in the life of a Camp Counselor is like!


Mornings at Camp!

The first task of the day as a Camp Counselor is to get the kids up and excited for the day ahead! In order to do this, I and my co-counselors find that the best way to do this is to get some top tunes on. Getting them up and dancing is a great way to start the day. This motivates the kids for the day ahead.

The dancing doesn’t stop there either! Mealtimes at camp (breakfast included) are filled with singing, dancing and banging the tables. All of your typical table manners go out the window! If it’s someone’s birthday then the dining hall becomes a buzz of hundreds of campers and counselors singing, clapping and celebrating. It’s SO fun and one of the best parts of a day in the life of a camp counselor!



After breakfast and a quick cabin clean-up, it’s time to head to activities. At French Woods, the kids choose their own schedule made up of Majors and Minors. Major activities are things the kids would do every day and maybe work towards a project. These can be things like taking part in a musical, being part of a sports team or circus show. Minor activities are things that they chose every day such as activities like swimming, rock climbing or mountain biking.

This is where specialists counselors would head off to teach their activities. Now although you’re ‘teaching’ a skill, this doesn’t mean you’re cooped up in a classroom, you organise your activities any way you see fit! A typical day for myself is usually spent in the Theatre teaching Sound and Lighting skills. Getting kids to create crazy sound effects to use in performances often means heading around camp and looking at how we can record sound effects.




Every day you get a period off, which can be used to get stuck into all the activities. For instance, on a day I was feeling lazy, I could chill in the cabin or by the waterfront. The different activities on offer meant that you could learn a new skill or try something different every day! I tried everything camp had to offer, even daring to go on the flying trapeze in the circus!

Evening Activities

After dinner and some chill time for kids and counselors, it’s time for evening activities! This is my favourite time of the day. Every evening is something different as well as a time to get stuck into activities.

We would spend our evenings watching shows and performances by the campers and taking part in games like Color Wars, Capture-the-flag and sing-a-longs. We also had ice cream socials, campfires and themed discos.




Nights at Camp

After evening activities, everyone is worn out from a busy day! At my camp, counselors work on a rota in the evenings. One counselor and a CIT (Counselor in Training) take care of the kids and settle them for the evening. The other two counselors are able to take the evening off. To sum it all up, one thing I loved about camp on my evenings off was sitting by the waterfront on warm summer evenings and watching the stars, I’d never seen so many it was absolutely spectacular.

Days at camp are active, exciting and busy. Every day is different but every day is fun! You’ll never find a summer job which pays you to have a great time more than being a camp counselor.




Become a Camp Counselor!

Do it, you won’t regret it! Click here to start your Camp Counselor application and experience being a Camp Counselor for yourself. 

Are You Ready to Return to Camp?

You may have just finished your first summer at camp. Maybe you’re ready to return for your third summer or more! As soon as you’ve received your offer, you’re ready to return to camp. Summer may be quite a while away yet but as a returner, it is essential to get started with your application ASAP. Find out more about the steps to return to camp and getting started with your application.

2nd Year Returner

If you’re returning for a second summer at camp, that makes you a 2nd-year returner. If you are returning to the same camp you will need to get an offer of return from your camp. Camps will start their hiring process around September/October time. Make sure to speak with your camp as early as possible to secure your place for the upcoming season. In addition to reaching out to camp yourself, you will also negotiate your salary. As well as your salary, it is important to know your role at camp.

When you are ready to start your application to return to camp, log into your profile. From here, you will be able to select the option to create an application for the future season ahead. The Department of State often has limits on the number of returners that can be sent back to camp, because of this, it is important to start your applications as soon as possible. To fully secure your place you will need to pay your £99 deposit. You can do this either on the phone or on your profile. Find out more about returner fees here.

3rd Year Returner

For those returning for their 3rd summer or more, it is ESSENTIAL to get started with your application as soon as you have received your offer. The Department of State limits the number of visas for 3rd year+ returners which means late applications will not be eligible for a visa. The Department of State insists that only 10% of total visa allocations are available for 3rd year+ returners. This is offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

To start your returner application, log into your profile. From here you will be able to create an application for next season. You will then need to pay your £99 deposit. This secures your place on the program to return to camp for the upcoming season. Find out more about returner fees here.

Returning to a New Camp

You may have decided that you’d like to head back to camp but this time, you’d like to head to a new camp. If this is the case, you are classed as a first-timer. Everything is the same as when you first decided to head to camp, including the option of choosing your flight options. However, you will need to get a reference from your old camp to return to a new camp. You can get started with your brand new application here.


We can’t wait to help you get back out to camp and continue your summer journey. Remember to keep up to date with us throughout the year as well as the summer for exclusive news and competitions!


Angeliqua Goodwin
Angeliqua Goodwin
Angeliqua is the Creative Designer at USA Summer Camp with a passion for traveling!