MDA Summer Camp Celebrates 60 Years of Changing Lives

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Barrier-free, weeklong camp for kids with neuromuscular disease offers ‘Awesome Adventures’.

“For the past 60 years, MDA has created a world specifically designed for kids fighting neuromuscular diseases, where they can bond with others for a week and share experiences with those who understand what it means to live with muscle disease."

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is set to kick off another season of summer camp. Now in its 60th year, MDA summer camp supports families by hosting thousands of kids fighting muscular dystrophy and other life-threatening diseases that severely limit strength and mobility. MDA summer camp helps kids build confidence and offers them freedom and independence — all at no cost to their families. Camp season begins Tuesday, May 26 with the first camp opening in Roach, Mo., and will go through the end of August. This summer, MDA expects to have more than 3,500 kids attend nearly 75 camps across the country.

“For the past 60 years, MDA has created a world specifically designed for kids fighting neuromuscular diseases, where they can bond with others for a week and share experiences with those who understand what it means to live with muscle disease,” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “Our donors and sponsors have helped us deliver very special camp sessions to children whose abilities to stand, walk, run, hug and even breathe are limited, and we have benefited from hundreds of thousands of camp volunteers providing one-on-one support.”

The national theme of the 2015 camp season is “Awesome Adventures” because MDA summer camp offers a fun and safe outdoor experience, along with opportunities to engage in a variety of activities such as horseback riding, swimming, adaptive sports, arts and crafts, camp dances and much more.

“I love MDA summer camp, and I can’t wait until I get to go this summer and see my friends,” said MDA's 2015 National Goodwill Ambassador Reagan Imhoff. “At camp, I learned how to be more independent and to teach other people besides my mom how to help take care of me. My favorite memory from camp is the time we made the boys dress up like girls and do the ‘Chicken Dance’ because they got caught playing pranks on us!”

For families, MDA summer camp provides a brief break from their roles of caregiver for a child with neuromuscular disease. Parents can send their children for a week of summer fun and 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 campers’ siblings.

“Once a year I leave Reagan in the capable hands of MDA’s camp staff, knowing that she has the support she needs to have fun and thrive,” added Reagan’s mother, Jenny Imhoff. “While Reagan is away this year, I plan to use the time to have a few date nights with my husband, maybe see a non-kids movie, get a massage and sleep in every morning! It helps me to rejuvenate and be a better mom and caretaker for Reagan. Come Thursday night, I can't wait for the next morning to see her again and go pick her up. My favorite is the car ride home where we get to hear about all the fun she had!"

In addition to 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; permit someone other than their parents to provide any personal care needed; and make new friends.

“Camp is a very special place that brings together the best of our humanity in volunteerism, as well as fun mixed with important life lessons for all who participate,” added Derks. “When I talk to MDA campers, they are just as eager to talk about swimming, high ropes courses, arts and crafts and singing around the camp fire as they are about friendships with fellow camper and counselors.”

About MDA Summer Camp: 60 Years of Impact

MDA summer camps have been a unique and life-changing experience for 60 years, ever since the first camp debuted as an experiment in 1955 with 16 campers with neuromuscular disease. Six decades later, MDA hosts camp sessions each year, from May through August, in which youngsters, age 6 to 17 with neuromuscular diseases, experience a fun-filled week where anything is possible.

The week comes at no cost to the campers’ families, as MDA covers the $800 cost per child. And according to those campers and nearly 5,000 volunteers, sponsors and camp administration staff, the return on investment is priceless.

The success of MDA summer camp is driven by the invaluable national and local corporate partners that support MDA research, health care services, advocacy and education programs, including MDA summer camp. Among MDA’s largest sponsors: International Association of Fire Fighters, CITGO Petroleum Corp., Lowe’s Home Improvement, Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Jiffy Lube International, The Kroger Company, 7-Eleven, National Association of Letter Carriers, Casey’s General Stores, Price Chopper Supermarkets and Acosta Sales and Marketing.

Video: MDA National Summer Camp Video

To learn more about MDA summer camp visit mda.org/summer-camp and share why MDA camp is so special to you via email to mycampstory(at)mdausa(dot)org.

About MDA

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to saving and improving the lives of kids and adults with muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and other related diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research to find treatments and cures; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and hometown engagement.

Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews.

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Editor’s Note: For more information on the camp near your reporting area or to be connected to a local family, please email publicrelations(at)mdausa(dot)org.

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Claire Orphan
Muscular Dystrophy Association
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