The Lasting Impacts of SeriousFun Camp Study

Camp Alumni Perceptions of Outcomes and Experiences

The SeriousFun Children’s Network was founded by Paul Newman in 1988 on the simple idea that camp can give all young people with serious illnesses the chance to escape the fear and isolation of their medical conditions and “raise a little hell.” SeriousFun camps are designed to “create opportunities for children and their families to reach beyond serious illness and discover joy, confidence, and a new world of possibilities, always free of charge.” SeriousFun camp aims to influence a variety of outcomes for attending youth, including helping children who are living with serious illnesses develop confidence, resilience, and social skills and try new things.

In 2020, AIR was contracted by the SeriousFun Children’s Network to conduct a descriptive study to examine:

  • The personal, social, and medical outcomes that alumni reported were influenced by SeriousFun camps;
  • Differences in alumni's belief that camps' influenced them on those outcomes based on demographic characteristics and attendance; and
  • Key elements of camp and other experiences that alumni reported influenced their outcomes.

Key Findings

AIR analyzed survey data collected by SeriousFun between January 2021 and March 2021 from more than 2,200 alumni, 17–30 years of age, representing 16 SeriousFun camps. Key findings include:

  • Alumni reported that camp influenced their development of various outcomes that SeriousFun identified as central to their mission, including willingness to try new things, appreciation of diversity, self-identity, empathy and compassion, self-confidence, perseverance, and friendship skills.
  • Alumni from diverse backgrounds reported that they benefited from SeriousFun camps. Demographic characteristics, such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, employment status, and medical diagnosis, had no or minimal bearing on alumni beliefs about how camp influenced their outcomes.
  • Alumni reported that several camp elements were important to their experiences, including feeling accepted and not judged, feeling a sense of freedom, feeling a sense of possibility, and trying new things.
Image of Leah Brown
Senior Researcher