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Camp Kaleidoscope

A Life-Changing Experience

About Camp Kaleidoscope

Sailing, swimming and sleeping outdoors are normal childhood rituals at summer camp, but serious illness keeps some children from joining the fun. A special camp run by Duke Children's Hospital provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids who would, otherwise, be unable to attend camp for reasons related to their illness.


"Camp was a turning point in my quality of life as a child. . .It instilled in me the idea that maybe I can have a normal life. It taught me that I could play outside as long as I take care of myself and am aware of my surroundings.” --Jonathan Van Hoose

Camp K is a residential camp for children treated at Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center. More than 1,000 children and teens with chronic and terminal illnesses--such as brain tumors, leukemia, heart disease, asthma, and lupus--have attended Camp K since it opened in 1979.
The camp is located on one of the four separate campsites at Camp Graham, which is owned by the Girl Scouts - NC Coastal Pines, and situated on Kerr Lake. The camp lasts three weeks in July; each week is targeted to a different age group. Attending Camp K is free and is funded through donations to Duke Children's.

Many of the kids at Camp K are away from their homes and parents for the first time. They learn to swim, play sports, and practice arts and crafts in addition to being entertained by clowns, magicians, singers, and celebrity guests. The camp also provides a respite for parents who may become overwhelmed by the complex medical needs of their sick child.

“I was scared at first, leaving home for the first time. But within about 24 hours I was in love with camp. I felt normal. I met a girl with a brain tumor who was bald and had scars like me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so self-conscious about my own scars.”  --Stephanie Leser

Our Staff

The directors and counselors at Camp K are professionals and volunteers associated with Duke University Medical Center, including physicians, nurses, physician associates, social workers, development staff, child life specialists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, medical students, and hospital volunteers. In addition, seven former campers who are at least 17 years old are invited to serve as assistant counselors. Camp Graham also hires a staff of counselors who serve as lifeguards and instructors at the waterfront.


Our Campers

Our campers are between the ages of 7 and 16 years old and are recommended to attend Camp K by their medical teams at Duke.  Parents or legal guardians may also initiate the process by asking one of their child's medical providers to make a recommendation.  The program director and medical director then assess each child's ability to enjoy the experience and effectively participate in camp activities. The camp is currently equipped to serve 35 campers per week.


Camp Kaleidoscope
Judy Panella, Director
Box 3417
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC 27710
Tel: 919.668.4205

Camp Kaleidoscope was founded by Tom Kinney, MD, the late Brandy McDaniel and Kathy Merritt, MD. Kinney, now a Wilburt C. Davison Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, was then a new faculty member in pediatrics. McDaniel was head of the pediatric social work program, and Merritt was director of Duke Children's Hospital's Child Life Program.