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A Free Inclusive Summer Camp for Children with and without Disabilities

"...serves an equal number of children with and without disabilities so that all children can play, learn and interact..."

Photo of Heather
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What problem does your idea solve?

Camp Shriver is a summer camp that already exists in two communities in the Boston area that can be expanded to other communities, as well. Camp Shriver is creating inclusive communities by promoting motor and social development for children with and without disabilities.

Explain your idea

The model and evaluation from the organization's website is as follows.
Camp Shriver, a no-cost fully inclusive camp, takes place over four weeks in July on the UMass Boston campus, giving campers access to the University athletic facilities, including soccer and softball fields, a gym, an Olympic-sized pool and several air-conditioned multi-purpose rooms. All programming is subsidized and the $25 registration fee is waived on request of a family member or teacher.
Camp Shriver is based on 40 years of CSDE research and evaluation. To accomplish the mission of Camp Shriver, the CSDE model of inclusion has a few unique features:
    50% of participants have a disability.
    Trained staff—in a low 4:1 camper-to-staff ratio—are “need-blind.” In other words, only the Camp Director and Inclusion Specialist know each child’s disability status. Staff are trained in inclusive recreation methods and adapt activities and behavior management strategies that focus on each child’s skills and abilities—not on a particular label.
    All activities are inclusive and social skill development is promoted by modelling and encouraging appropriate pro-social behavior among campers. One important reason why Camp Shriver focuses on development of social skills is because they are the building blocks to making and keeping friends.
Camp Shriver is creating inclusive communities by promoting motor and social development for children w/and w/o disabilites.

Who benefits?

Both children with and without disabilities.

How is your idea unique?

This camp is unique in that it offers the programs for both an equal amount of children with disabilities and without. This is a concept that is currently in use and successful. It could be expanded to other communities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Julin

I love the idea. It is good to help kids feel involved in kids' day-to-day activities regardless of having any disability.
Whose kids are targeted by the program, though? Children of UMass Boston's students, children of UMass Boston employees, or is it open to the public?

Photo of Heather

It is open to the public, which makes it even better!

Photo of management 0481

Grt idea. One needs to have business model how one may get money to run these camps. It may be grants, sponsorships or cross-subsidy.

Photo of Childline Zimbabwe

a good idea. i am thinking we can learn from you as we have only recently started doing camps.

Photo of Heather

Best of luck with your camps. Definitely check out Camp Shriver's website.

Photo of Courtney

I love this idea! I see some similarities between this camp idea and Camp Kesem (providing a week of camp to under-served children who have a parent with cancer, Having gone to an undergraduate university that supported a Camp Kesem, I know that undergraduate students were very passionate about both fundraising for the camp at the university and also volunteering there over the summer. I believe that Camp Shriver has the opportunity to grow at the rate that Camp Kesem has (see: for growth) if organizers can successfully mobilize these passionate undergraduate students. Additionally, given that the camp is serving disabled children, I believe that there would be great interest from those pursuing a profession in teaching or medicine.

Photo of Heather

Thanks for sharing info about Camp Kesem. What a wonderful organization. Camp Shriver is on the University of Massachusetts Boston's campus, it's a great idea for students to be more involved.

Photo of Trust Mutekwa

This camp is unique and noble. It is rare to have programs for children with disabilities and without on equal amounts. I had a dream to work with children with disabilities but I never had a chance to meet them until after my sixth year in the teaching field. If we had interactions at childhood, nobody would stop or delay me.

Photo of Heather

I agree, Trust. People should be exposed to their peers that have different abilities at a young age.

Photo of jackie galvin

This is a great idea, does the university/ professor give credit to students who participate during the summer courses or take it as a class depending on your major?

Photo of Heather

Camp Shriver is staffed by a camp director, counselors, interns, adaptive physical educators, special educators, and staff from the UMass Boston Center for Social Development and Education and University Health Services. Volunteers are drawn from the surrounding community and the UMass Boston campus. Members of the staff are familiar with the needs of campers with disabilities and are trained to instruct all campers in the sports offered. I dont believe it is part of a course credit, but perhaps would be something they may be interested in.

Photo of Heather Gasper

Great post! So glad to hear about this!

Regarding the point: Camp Shriver is creating inclusive communities by promoting motor and social development for children w/and w/o disabilities. Is there data available to show the impact?

Photo of Heather

Great question, Heather. A program evaluation is conducted each year by research staff from the Center for Social Development and Education to assess whether Camp Shriver is successful at its mission: to bring children with and without disabilities together to provide opportunities to promote social and motor development, while also fostering positive peer relationships. Assessment instruments and methods are drawn from the scientific literature and adapted to measure campers’ social relationships, social skills and motor skills through individual camper in
terviews, observations and staff assessments.
Over the past decade, Camp Shriver has consistently demonstrated positive impact on our campers and the documented successes have been published in scientific journals, psychology magazines, encyclopedias, camping magazines and on NPR’s It’s Only a Game. From the 2016 evaluation, we learned:
Camp Shriver’s model creates a community in which all campers feel included and supported To successfully help campers develop social and motor skills, Camp Shriver must first create an environment
where campers feel included and supported through the CSDE model of inclusion (page 4). This supportive structure creates a sense of belonging among all campers: in 2016, almost all campers (93%) felt proud of belonging to their team and felt included in activities (83%). Even more indicative of the inclusive environment established at Camp Shriver, campers felt like part of their team (84%) and that their teammates liked them the way they are (82%) and this percentage was similar for campers with and campers without disabilities. This
supportive environment paves the way for campers to feel comfortable to attempt and practice new social and motor skills. Camp Shriver improves the social skills of campers Once campers feel supported on their teams, Camp Shriver staff promote the development of social skills by modeling, monitoring, and encouraging appropriate pro-social behavior among campers. For some social skills, the majority of campers are already applying these skills when they enter camp. For example, 70% of campers entered camp interacting well with other campers. The 30% of campers who were not strong in this skill at the beginning of camp showed improvement, so that by the end of camp, all campers (98%) interacted well with other campers.
More at :

Photo of Nick

How anticipate covering your overhead long term?

Photo of Heather

Camp Shriver is a financially stable program, comprising support from the Center for Social Develop
ment and Education (administration and fundraising) and the University of Massachusetts Boston (facilities and transportation). Additionally Camp Shriver has been awarded multi-year grants from the Cummings Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England, as well as a long-term partnership with Boston Athletic Association as an Official Charity Partner of the Boston Marathon. We continue to actively solicit new and varied funding opportunities each year.