What is Camp Hope?

Camp Hope is a five-day recreational and residential summer camp in the Chicago area for children, teenagers, and young adults who are challenged by developmental disabilities. Campers range in age from 11-30. Camp Hope offers typical summer camp activities such as swimming, dancing, singing, arts and crafts, adaptive sports, cookouts, a magic show, and a carnival. Horseback riding and rock climbing have recently been added. 

All activities are adapted for special needs participants and are adapted for safety. 

It sounds great, but my child has never been away from home for an extended period of time. How do we know if we are ready?

Several of our campers’ first overnight experience is at Camp Hope. Our Camp Directors and Buddies understand what a milestone this is! During the application process the Camp Director will contact you to discuss your child’s readiness for camp. Our first priority is your child’s welfare both emotionally and physically. The Camp Director will never talk you into something you are not comfortable with.

During camp week the Camp Nurse and Camp Director are in contact with many of our families as situations arise and more information may be needed regarding a camper. At any time you may call the Camp Director regarding your child. We ask, however, that you do not visit your child during the week. This can be disruptive to the camper and the separation at the end of a visit can be difficult.

Who are the campers?

Camp Hope accepts 20-22 campers for each of its one week sessions. Persons of varying disability and functionality are encouraged to apply. Typical camper disabilities include, but are not limited to, the following: Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, ADHD, muscular dystrophy, secondary emotional disorder, intellectual disability, cri-di-chat, deaf/hearing impaired, blind/visually impaired.

Please tell me more about the camp staff.

Our staff at Camp Hope is made up of volunteers. All volunteers are trained in protocols to serve the special needs of our campers. The Buddy to Camper ratio is 1:1. Each camper has a buddy/caregiver who is with them 24 hours each day for the entire week of Camp. Buddies are high school seniors or college students who have been trained in protocols of safety, security, seizure management, swimming, adaptive equipment handling, lifting and transferring of campers, positioning. 

Camp Hope has an on-site registered nurse 24 hours each day for the entire camp. Medications or other daily medical needs are administered by the nurse. Any emergency situations are immediately referred to 911 Emergency personnel. 

Camp is directed by a Camp Director and two Group Leaders. All volunteers are interviewed, screened and receive an independent background check.

How are campers supervised?

All campers are with their buddies 24 hours each day, for a 1:1 care ratio. The only exception is from 9:00pm – 12:00 am each night when buddies attend camp administrative meetings and have personal time to shower and attend to other needs.  During this time each sleeping dormitory has a chaperone to ensure that campers remain sleeping or restful in their beds. There are no situations in which campers are permitted to be alone, with another camper alone, wander the grounds or leave the camp unattended. 

In addition to Buddies, Camp Hope has floater Buddies who provide assistance. Camp Directors and Group Leaders also are on hand to aid where necessary.

Are personal care services provided?

The majority of our campers are very independent and require minimal assistance. Depending upon the camper’s abilities, Buddies are trained in lifting, positioning, bathing, dressing, diapering, and feeding. Medical needs (medication, site changes, feeding tubes) are handled by the nurse.

What if my child has a food allergy? Can I pack special foods or snacks?

Food and other allergies are indicated on the camper application, and reviewed with the kitchen staff at check-in. If your child has special dietary needs, specific foods can be brought from home if they are medically required and approved by the Camp Director. “Favorite” foods or snacks are not allowed to be brought in.

Dietary restrictions are handled by our volunteer kitchen staff. All meals are prepared specifically for Camp Hope. Campers with allergies or other dietary restrictions receive special meals tailored to their needs. The kitchen staff works with parents ahead of time to ensure that the meals are appropriate.

How will my child receive his/her medication?

The nurse will review all medication and treatments at camper check-in on Sunday evening. Medications are routinely distributed at meal times (8:00, 12:00 and 6:00, bedtime if necessary). All medications are kept in a securely locked medical cabinet out of reach of campers or buddies.

Can my child have his cell phone at camp? Can I call or visit during the week?

Cell phones are not allowed at camp and should be left at home. Family visits are not allowed when camp is in session. The activities schedule is designed to keep campers engaged and active. Visits from family members can disrupt the flow of the week. Parents may contact the Camp Director with specific questions about their child. If a family emergency arises during the week, parents should call the Camp Director and discuss how this will affect their child’s stay.

Where do the campers sleep?

Campers and their Buddies sleep in cabins, dormitory style. Most cabins accommodate 16 – 20 persons. Campers requiring wheelchair accommodations sleep in wheelchair accessible dormitories, with their Buddies. These sleeping rooms accommodate 6-8 persons. All dormitories are single sex dorms.

What if my child is on the waitlist?

Camp Hope is able to accept 10-12 female and 10-12 male campers for each session. There are instances when campers are placed on a waitlist. If a position opens up, you will be notified by email or phone of your child’s acceptance. Applications are processed on a first-come basis so it is important to return the completed camper application and supplemental forms as efficiently as possible. 

What are arrival and pick-up procedures?

Transportation to and from the camp is the responsibility of the parent or guardian. Campers arrive to camp on Sunday evening between 7-7:30 pm. The drop off period allows parents to meet the staff. The camper and Buddy can become acquainted. Parents can spend time with the Buddy and provide any additional information about their child’s interests, and daily routine. Check-in is provided to review and confirm medication requirements, dietary requirements and other special needs their child has. Pick-up is Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm.  Prompt pick-up is required.

Can I arrive early?

Campers are scheduled to arrive on Sunday evening between 7-7:30 pm. Early arrivals are rare and must have pre-approval by the Camp Director.

Is Camp Hope affiliated with any religious organization or church?

Camp Hope is not affiliated with any one religion, however its origin is based on the principles of Christianity.  Persons of all faith backgrounds are encouraged to get involved, thereby resulting in ecumenical harmony. Camp Hope supports volunteers working together for the good of others and upholds a tradition of strong moral values and selfless service among the community.