Frequently Asked Questions about Special Days Camp

Will my child be safe?

Yes! We have a full medical staff at campduring each camp session. They may be the same doctors and nurses who care for your child at the hospital! They can dispense your child’s meds and we’ll make sure they stay hydrated and get enough rest. In case of any emergency there is an ER just “next door” in Fremont, less than 20 miles away.

Where is Special Days Held?

For Summer Camp, Special Days rents facilities from YMCA Camp Pendalouan, north of Muskegon, Michigan.

For Winter Camp, Special Days rents facilities from YMCA Camp Copneconic near Fenton, Michigan.

Camp addresses and driving directions are available here.

Is transportation available to camp?

Yes! Special Days Camps provides charter buses to each camp session. We have pick-up / drop-off locations in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing. 

What type of camping program is Special Days?

A week-long residential children’s camp. Children with cancer and siblings each have a separate week. There is a teen leadership program for older campers.

  • We sometimes hold a day camp for young children who are not yet ready for an entire week or for a sleepover camp.
  • In the winter, we hold a three-day ‘long weekend’, which children from both Days and Partners (cancer and sibling camps) attend together.

Where are the campers from?

Most of the children come from the state of Michigan and northern Ohio; some come from as far away as Chicago or southern Indiana, but we accept children from anywhere.

How old are the campers?

Children attending camp range in age from 5 to 17.

What do I need to send with my child?

Approximately two weeks prior to your scheduled session, we’ll send you a confirmation packet with a packing list. Please label all of your child’s clothing with a permanent laundry marker. We ask that you do not send any valuable items to camp with your child (expensive cameras, entertainment electronics or cell phones). Despite efforts to keep track of belongings, movement between activities may result in lost or broken items; Special Days Camps is not responsible for any damages.

Do I need to send money with my child?

 During the summer camp programs, you are encouraged to send a small amount of money so your child can make purchases at our canteen. Items include snacks, t-shirts and sweatshirts, hats, jackets, stuffed animals, disposable cameras, etc. Money that is sent will be collected at check-in and placed in a camp bank for your child. Any money left over at the end of the session may be returned to you, or you can donate it to camp. Campers should not bring cash to camp, as it may become lost or stolen.

May I phone to check on my child?

You are welcome to call the camp phone, 866-448-4710, at any time. Cell phone reception is not strong at camp, so you may need to leave a message. Our staff checks for messages several times a day and will return your call as soon as we see it. Campers may only make phone calls with the permission of the camp director. Please do not send cell phones to camp with your child.

Where do the children sleep?

Campers stay in one of the cabins on the property of YMCA Camp Pendalouan. Cabin sizes vary; they hold between 8 – 16 people, and cabin leaders stay in the same cabins as campers. Two of the cabins on the camp property have bathrooms with showers in them and all others are near one of two centrally-located bathroom / shower facilities.

What and where do campers eat?

Everyone at camp eats together in the main lodge for each of three meals a day. Large round tables create a community atmosphere. There is plenty of nutritious food, and it is served family style. Vegetarian, gluten and dairy free options are available at each meal for staff and campers. Please let us know about other dietary needs in advance, and we will do our best to accommodate your child.

How many children participate at camp?

In recent years, Special Days has had an average attendance of 300 or more campers each year. Since the beginning of camp we have served over 10,000 children with cancer and their siblings.

Who works at camp?

Over 75 volunteers work at camp every summer, from medical staff to cabin leaders. Many are former campers or cancer survivors. Our first priority at Special Days Camps is the safety and well-being of each camper. All prospective staff members participate in an extensive application and interview process, and must agree to allow Special Days Camps to run both a criminal background checks and a central registry check.

What is the Camper-to-staff ratio?

 Special Days Camps meets all requirements set by the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for camps.

  • For campers ages 5 – 9, there will be at least one staff for every five campers.
  • For campers ages 10 – 15 there will be at least one staff for every eight campers.
  • For campers ages 16 and older, there will be one staff for every ten campers.
  • There is always a minimum of two staff members that sleep in a cabin at night, and by adding in our resource staff the ratio of campers to staff is almost 2:1.
  • If we have a clear idea of your child’s specific needs before they arrive at camp, we can provide one-on-one supervision, if needed.

Can parents stay and volunteer when kids are there?

 From time to time, a few parents may serve as health staff or on our program team; they occasionally stay at camp if space allows, but this is not typical. Camp is an opportunity for kids to make friends and have a traditional summer camp experience, independent of their families… and parents enjoy some well-deserved rest, too!

What is the cost for my child to attend Special Days?

Families are asked to contribute a registration fee of $75 per week per camper, but cancer can be a financial burden on families. No child is turned away; 100% of our campers attend on at least a partial scholarship.

Does it really only cost $75 to send a child to camp?

No; the actual cost to send a child to camp for one week is over $1,000.

Where does the money come from?

Private donations, memorials, foundations, our own fundraisers, and grants. Many clubs and organizations also hold fundraisers for Special Days.

What medical support exists at camp?

Our health center is staffed with medical professionals, often pediatric oncology nurses and doctors from area hospitals who spend their personal vacation time to volunteer at camp. They review medical information about each camper so that they are able to provide the best possible care. Our medical staff is able to provide advanced treatment and will contact you during camp about any serious issues. The goal of our medical staff is to provide first-rate care to your child without interfering with their daily activities at camp.

What if my child is currently receiving treatment for their cancer?

Special Days has a complete medical staff of oncology nurses and doctors on site who can give chemotherapy, administer medications and perform blood tests.

Will my child be made fun of for the way they look?

No. These kids have seen, and been through, just about every kind of treatment imaginable. They know how hard it can be to fight this disease, or to be teased for how they look while going through treatment. At Special Days, bullying and name-calling are not acceptable; we leave the attitude at the door. Life-long friendships are formed here.

Are the kids who attend camp 'sickly'?

NO! A few may have amputations, some are bald, and there is the occasional wheelchair, but all have loads of fun and make a lot of noise! They may be dealing with unique problems, but they are normal children.

What if the kids are in remission or are cured?

Any child who has had cancer can come to camp; many children at camp are off treatment. They are a source of hope and inspiration for others.

Do the children receive any counseling at camp?

 No. Children are at camp to have fun and form friendships with others who understand them and share similar needs.

When did Special Days Camps Start?

Our summer camp program for children with cancer started in 1979.

We started holding winter camp reunions in 1981.

Partners camp (for siblings of children with cancer) started in 1984.

Special Days’ teen leadership program started in 1996.

Special Days is the second-longest running camp for children with cancer in the world!

Who started Special Days Camps?

Dr. George Royer, Pediatric Oncologist from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Bob Lemieux, a father of a child with cancer. (That “child” is Nikki Lemieux-Smith, former Executive Director and Board Member of Special Days, who now has children and grandchildren of her own!)

Is Special Days Camps affiliated with or run by any other organizations?

 No. Special Days is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

What are Special Days' plans for the future?

We would like to add a family weekend camp, reinstate our international exchange program, and improve and expand our teen leadership program.

How do I apply?

Applications are available on our website under “Resources for Parents” or call us at 866-448-4710. We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible as there is often a wait list for many of our camp programs.

Why is there a program for siblings?

When a child has cancer, their siblings may feel left out or that they are not getting enough attention, but at the same time feel guilty for having those feelings! Their sibling with cancer may have passed away, which can be very traumatic to the surviving child. They have unique and often unmet emotional needs, and they thrive on spending time with others like themselves who already understand what they are going through.

What do the kids do at camp?

Swim, sail, canoe, hike, arts & crafts, ride horses, sports, ropes courses, the climbing tower, have campfires, dance, play games, make friends, laugh, giggle, sing songs, take off-site trips… and many, many other traditional camp activities.