S'mores oozing with melted chocolate; warm evenings spent singing around the roaring campfire; long afternoons floating in the cool, murky river. There is little doubt that the excitement of summer is only made better by the promise of another fun-filled camp experience. But for many families, plans of summer camp are not as assured. What if your child is coping with a chronic illness? What if you prefer for your child to have a more socially-conscious camp experience? What if the thought of camp overwhelms your child with feelings of homesickness?

Over the past several years, camps have spent considerable time and resources crafting more specialized camp programs. As reported by the American Camp Association, the $15 million camp industry has recognized the growing need to expand camp options to include campers that may have previously been unable to participate. So before you dismiss camp as an impossibility for your child, why not consider one of these unique programs? After all, every child should be able to share a story beginning with the phrase, "This one time at camp … "

Camp for Children with Chronic Illnesses

For a child struggling with a chronic illness, camp is most likely the last way he imagines spending his summer. But as the American Camp Association suggests, summer camp can provide an ideal retreat from the routine of doctors and diagnosis. Ann Gillard, Ph.D., maintains in her 2014 report, "Campers with Serious Illnesses," children who experience significant health issues can face overwhelming feelings of isolation and struggle socially. She finds that camp provides an ideal space for these children to feel supported by peers who share a similar experience.

These were the issues Sandra Cushner Weinstein, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at The George Washington University School of Medicine, hoped to remedy when she founded the Brainy Camps Association. Since 1994, Brainy Camps has welcomed children with chronic illnesses to partake in an unforgettable summer camp experience. Originally founded as a camp for children with epilepsy, the program now offers specialized weeks for children diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, heart disorders, type 1 diabetes and other health conditions.

A subsidiary of Children's National Health Systems, Weinstein has found that over the last 20 years Brainy Camps has done more than allow children to experience bunk beds and rope courses. She says, "[The children] learn how to better manage and cope with their health conditions from medical professionals and peers facing similar challenges in a safe and fun environment." Along with a stronger sense of purpose and community, Weinstein has seen time and time again the moment of relief children experience when they realize, often for the first time in their lives, that they are not alone in their diagnosis. She says, "They feel understood and supported like every other child in the world."

To learn more about the programs offered at Brainy Camps visit their, website hrefbrainycamps.com

Sustainable Farming Camp

School districts across the U.S. have worked to help children answer the question, "Where does our food come from." Nowhere is this more present than in the D.C. metro area. According to the 2014 D.C. Healthy Schools Act report, 50 percent of PS/PK and K-5 schools in the District have their own school garden. Growing their own fruits and vegetables does more than provide children with an eco-friendly activity. As reported by the Western Growers Foundation, children who have a better understanding of their foods' origins make better long-term nutritional and lifestyle decisions. But the lessons in sustainable farming don't have to be limited to the school year.

As Morgan Maloney, farm education director of Arcadia Farms explains, sustainable farming camps teach children that food doesn't just magically appear at the grocery store. She says, "We teach children that they can have sovereignty over their food." Since 2012, Maloney and her team have created a day camp experience where children can explore and foster a deeper appreciation for the environmentally critical work of community gardens. She says, "We facilitate spaces where kids can dive in and experience the farm." Tending to the child-friendly Groundhog Garden, campers are taught the fundamentals of sustainable farming, including composting, gardening, farm animals and the importance of seasonal eating. Building upon their community programs, including a mobile market, the program is especially focused on reaching underserved communities, with 25 percent of camp participants receiving full or partial scholarships.

While Arcadia Farms continues to expand their reach in the D.C. metro area, their work builds upon the community garden programs advocated by First Lady Michelle Obama. Community gardens are an opportunity to foster a deeper appreciation for the importance of having a green thumb, providing children a better understanding of this beloved American tradition. As Mrs. Obama explained in a 2012 NPR interview, community gardens have played a substantial role in the lives of American families. With their surge in popularity, Mrs. Obama says, "We hope to see people reconnecting to that part of their heritage."

To learn more about Arcadia Farms, visit arcadiafood.org. For a larger list of farm-education networks, visit farmbasededucation.org.

Family Camps

Why do kids get to have all the summer fun? This year start a new tradition with a stay at a family summer camp. Much like the camp experience beloved by children, family camps invite parents to come along. Even better, family camps are often a more affordable alternative to a typical family vacation. As reported by Family Vacation Critic, family camp costs range from $500-$2,000 per adult, with rates substantially cheaper for children. This cost is even more affordable when you consider that many family camps provide an all-inclusive experience.

This family-orientated experience is exactly what Cris Higginbotham and his team seek to provide at Camp Friendship. Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, the leaders believe that attending camp allows an unparalleled opportunity to focus on spending time together. As the camp director, Higginbotham has witnessed the lasting memories families make as they partake in traditional camp activities, such as athletics, canoeing and horseback riding. Moreover, as reported by a 2011 American Camp Association report, "Family Camp Impacts Research Project," families indicated that spending time together was one of the most positive results of their camp experience. Higginbotham explains that attending family camp provides an experience unlike any other. He says, "The many traditions of camp, and the many families that have made camp their home away from home over the years, is what makes it a unique experience."

For more information about the family programs offered, visit campfriendship.com .