Spirit Camp

Spirit Camp

July 28 - August 3, 2024

While the dates have been scheduled for each camp, please note that these are subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any changes to these dates will be communicated to all campers and their families.

Since 1990, Spirit Camp has provided a supportive and educational camp experience for children diagnosed with spina bifida.

The camp is designed to help kids develop their self-confidence, improve independence and have fun – all with other kids who share their diagnosis.

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Spirit Camp Activities

Your child can participate in classic camp activities, such as:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Camp songs and skits
  • Fishing
  • Game night
  • Horseback riding
  • Nightly campfires
  • Olympic games
  • Sharpshooting
  • Singing and dancing
  • Sports
  • Swimming
  • Themed dinners
  • “Turtle time”
  • Wheelchair basketball

Our Medically Trained Team

You can rest easy knowing your child is having fun while never being far from the care they need.

Our Spirit Camp team includes doctors and nurses who are specially trained to work with children with spina bifida. We can meet all our campers’ medical needs.

Medical supervision is available 24 hours a day. If more medical attention is needed for our campers, the Sanford Health Watertown Clinic is 15 minutes from camp.

How to Register

Registration for 2024 begins February 5 and closes May 13.

Register Here

Sanford Children’s Camp Programs requires all campers to have a physical exam by your primary licensed medical provider within six months prior to attending camp. Please print the medical evaluation document, have it completed and signed by your physician, and return it to Sanford Children’s Camps.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Tristan Hargens, our camp coordinator. Contact him at (605) 328-7157 or tristan.hargens@sanfordhealth.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who’s eligible to attend Spirit Camp? What do parents need to do?

All children diagnosed with spina bifida between the ages of 7 and 17 are eligible.

After a camper is deemed eligible, they must have the following information submitted before the communicated deadlines:

  • A camper registration form, including our camper code of conduct
  • A physical exam by a licensed provider within six months of the camp’s starting date
  • A physician report signed by the licensed provider giving the physical exam

Registration will close once we hit our capacity of 48 campers. Campers who attended Spirit Camp the year before are given preference. Any remaining spots will be given to those on our waitlist. Due to our limited capacity, we can’t guarantee that a child on the waitlist will get the opportunity to attend camp before they surpass the camp’s age range.

Where is Spirit Camp located?

We’re located at Joy Ranch. It’s about eight miles northwest of Watertown, South Dakota.

Learn more about Joy Ranch.

Who’s on the Spirit Camp team?

We recruit people who demonstrate responsibility, compassion, accountability and maturity. We also screen our team members through applications, interviews and background checks. Many of our hires are professional educators.

We keep our staff to camper ratio to around 1:8. At night, we require each cabin to always have a trained team member present.

All our programs are staffed by trained and licensed medical professionals. Our medical team includes a medical director and camp nurses.

Our medical staff to camper ratio is about 1:15.

What will campers do at camp?

Each day of camp is filled with activities ranging from archery and paintball to swimming and fishing. We even offer horseback rides, camp dances and educational opportunities.

Every day will end with songs, skits and companionship around a traditional campfire.

We also offer meals tailored to each camper’s specific diet and allergies.

What should campers bring to camp?

Campers should bring everything they need for a full week of overnight camp.

We recommend bringing hygiene products, clothing, swimwear, towels, bedding, a pillow and all of their medical equipment and medications. We ask that campers bring medications in the original bottles they received them in from their doctor or pharmacist.

View our full camp packing list.

How can families stay in touch with their campers?

We understand it may be difficult for parents and campers to be away from each other, especially if this is a camper’s first time away from home. We recommend parents and guardians write letters to their campers. This helps campers stay excited about camp and decreases their chances of homesickness.

From experience, we know that one of the best ways to manage homesickness is to prohibit cell phones at camp. No cell phones are allowed at camp.

If there are any concerns or emergencies at camp, our team will reach out to the contact we have on file as soon as possible. If families need to communicate with their camper, they can call the camp at (605) 328-7157 or after hours at (605) 328-0088.

We don’t allow visitors at camp except during emergencies. In such cases, parents or guardians must first contact our camp coordinator before their arrival.

The only exception to our visitor rule is a special parent program scheduled on the last day of camp for families of graduating senior campers. This program is a ceremony to celebrate our graduating campers’ achievements.