Partnering to Make Summer Camp More Accessible

Summer Camps With Carla

Supported by the Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fund, Access Camps seeks to help local camps become more accessible to all communities in Kent County. Camp partners use funding from Access Camps grant awards to provide scholarship and transportation assistance to their campers, which allows them to open their doors to more campers who may otherwise not be able to experience summer camp.   

In 2019, Access Camps grant partners provided a total of 3866 scholarships to campers. Moreover, 59% of those camps saw an increase in the number of youth attending overnight camp sessions, while 82% saw an increase in the racial/ethnic diversity of their campers.  

Benefits of Overnight Camp 

Summer camp programs offer children the opportunity to live a variety of positive experiences. As they connect with their adventurous side and engage in physical activity exercise through countless outdoor activities, campers develop their social skills and sense of independence. Summer camps can serve as an outlet for children's creative expression and learning by providing themed sessions and activities that connect to campers' special interests (i.e., art, sports, dance, music, science, etc.). Alongside these unique benefits, summer camp is also an opportunity for campers to unplug from technology and interact face-to-face with their peers, giving them a much-needed break after months of social distancing and virtual learning.  

Removing barriers to equity for local students 

Given the numerous benefits of summer camp for children, ensuring equitable access for all children in our community to participate in summer camp is a vital component of our commitment to racial, social and economic justice. Access Camps aims to address and reduce two significant barriers to access: affordability and transportation. The goal is to increase the number of Kent County children who get to experience and benefit from attending summer camp every year. 

Impacts of COVID-19 on Local Camps  

Many camps had to cancel their overnight camp sessions scheduled for the 2020 summer season due to safety concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the new challenges, camps were able to adapt and find ways to connect safely with their campers that summer. The alternative formats used by camps included virtual-only camps and socially distanced day camp sessions.  

While the access camps funds are typically used to provide financial and transportation assistance to campers, grant partners were given the flexibility to utilize the funds differently during 2020 if needed to continue their operations. For example, some camps used it to acquire the technology necessary to offer virtual camp sessions.   

In 2021, most camps have returned to their regular overnight camp programming, and they continue to follow guidelines and uphold their campers' safety as their top priority.  

More information 

Where can families find information about camps for their children? 
The website has an extensive list of accredited overnight camps in the area. Another resource to research day camps or summer enrichment activities is

How do families apply to receive camp scholarships?  
Each overnight camp is granted funds to offer scholarship opportunities. To apply for a scholarship, families should contact the camp directly to inquire about their scholarship process and application.  

Carla is a scholarship & education assistant at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. In this role, she supports the Community Foundation’s equitable education initiatives, including the General Scholarships Program and Challenge Scholars. Carla is also involved with the Council of Michigan Foundations. Click here to learn more about Carla.