Camp FAQs

What is The Painted Turtle?

The Painted Turtle is a year-round medical specialty camp for children who have serious medical conditions. All campers and their families attend free of charge.

Through our condition-specific, week-long Summer Sessions and Fall and Spring Family Weekends, children have the opportunity to learn new strategies of medical self-care, increase their self-confidence, and build supportive friendships with peers who have the same medical conditions.

What medical conditions does the camp serve?

Our campers are children ages 6 – 17 who have severe allergies, arthritis, asthma, severe burns,  cerebral palsy, colitis, Crohn’s disease, hemophilia/vonWillebrand factor, kidney disease and transplants, limb loss and deficiencies, liver disease and transplants, lupus, metabolic conditions, mucopolysaccharidosis, muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases, paraplegia, primary immunodeficiency diseases, skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism), spina bifida, and thalassemia.

Additionally, The Painted Turtle is proud to be capable of serving children with intensive-care needs, including campers requiring hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, parenteral nutrition, tube-feeding, home ventilators, tracheostomy tubes, and central venous catheters.

What do the campers find at The Painted Turtle?

Campers find a cabin village, equestrian center with a horse barn and trail rides, fishing and boating on our private lake, archery field, gymnasium, Shamu-shaped pool, rock-climbing wall, adventure ropes course (wheelchair accessible!), woodshop center, organic farm, and new friends who understand their experiences of serious illness.

We never forget that our campers come to camp to swim and fish, ride horses, sing campfire songs, and make friends that will last a lifetime. We have built an exceptional medical program which has fueled our growth and provided the safety net for our recreation programs. All of our activities are conducted with the utmost regard for safety and with close supervision. Some activities are done as a cabin group, with plenty of time for free-choice sign-ups. No camper is ever required to participate in an activity – but it’s hard not to want to join in all of the fun!

Where is the camp located?

17000 Elizabeth Lake Road, Lake Hughes, CA 93532. Click here for a map and directions.

What are Family Weekends?

Family Weekend programs provide an opportunity to share good times, peer-support and education with other families whose children have the same medical condition. Families can enjoy all of our recreational activities, and parents have the opportunity to join in discussion groups with other parents and with medical professionals. Doctors and nurses are available at The Painted Turtle all weekend to take care of any medical needs families might have while at camp. Family Weekends are for children ages 6-17 with medical conditions, and their immediate family members.

Who takes care of the campers?

Full-time staff and trained volunteers are present through every session. Every staff member and volunteer undergoes an intensive interview process and a thorough background check. Our counselors and program staff, many of them college students, come from all over the country and overseas to participate in this special summer camp experience with our campers. A two-week on-site orientation is required for all summer staff. Each summer, approximately half of the staff is returning from a previous year at The Painted Turtle. Our staffing ratio is one staff member for every two campers.

What type of medical care is provided for the campers?

The Painted Turtle has a full-time medical staff, including our Medical Director, who is a pediatrician, and a Nursing Director with many years experience in acute pediatric medical care. A physician is onsite at all times. In addition, each summer more than 140 volunteer physicians and nurses come to The Painted Turtle to care for our campers, according to their medical specialty.

Our 24-hour medical center, called the Well Shell, is equipped to handle everything from a skinned knee to hemodialysis treatments. There are two “home rooms” in the Well Shell, in case a camper does not feel well during camp and needs to be monitored by the medical staff overnight. If children are on medication, their nurses will bring the medication to them on schedule each day, whether the campers are in the Dining Hall, at an activity area, or in their cabins.

What does a typical summer day at camp look like?

Campers begin each day with breakfast in the Dining Hall at 8:30 in the morning. If campers wake up really early, there are often “sunrise activities” available such as fishing or basketball before breakfast. Each morning campers will go to a different activity area with their cabin. Lunch is served at 12:30 pm followed by rest hour or quiet time in their cabins. In the afternoon the entire camp participates in activities together. Campers enjoy dinner at 6:00 pm followed by different activities such as campfire, camp games, stage night, and carnival. Campers return to their cabins for lights out at 9:00 or 10:00 pm, depending on the campers age group.

How are meals provided?

Campers and counselors alike have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together in our beautiful Dining Hall overlooking the lake. Our food is both healthy and camper-friendly and is served family style. Snacks are available as needed; reverse-osmosis water is plentiful in every area of the camp, and counselors remind the campers to keep hydrated. Special diets can be accommodated; our Nursing Director and Chef work with parents prior to camp to assure that dietary needs and/or restrictions are met.

What do campers say about The Painted Turtle?

“You forget about medicine, clinics, and checkups. Instead, you think about fishing, canoeing, and making birdhouses. You think about laughing, singing, and magic tricks. Something magical happens when you drive up to the gate of The Painted Turtle.”

How much does camp cost?

NOTHING! We will never charge a child or family for the life-changing experience of camp. We calculate that it costs us $1,600 to provide medical care, nutritious meals, and good, old-fashioned fun for each camper for a week.

How many campers come to The Painted Turtle?

More than 2,400 children and family members come to camp every year. Since The Painted Turtle opened in 2004, thousands have joined us for this unique, life-affirming experience.

How do campers learn about The Painted Turtle?

The team in our Well Shell medical facility works closely with 16 major hospitals across the state of California as well as numerous treatment clinics to spread the word. In addition, we partner with several independent health organizations to reach more campers. Campers must receive physician approval and confirmation by our Medical Director that they qualify for camp. Applications must be complete and reviewed by our medical team for campers to attend.

What is the The Painted Turtle Outpost?

The Hospital Outpost team takes the magic of camp to kids who are staying in 12 hospitals across the state.  When kids are too sick to come to camp, we come to them!  Click here for more info.

What is the SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by Paul Newman? (Formerly the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps)

Paul Newman’s motivation and energy created the first Hole in the Wall Camp in 1988 in Ashford, CT. Since then the family of camps has grown to include 16 member camps around the world, with additional camps in development. The Painted Turtle is the sixth camp to open in the US and is the first year-round camp of its kind camp on the West Coast. In 2012, the camps were renamed to be part of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by Paul Newman. The new name reflects Paul Newman’s vision — that children with serious illnesses and life-threatening conditions deserve the chance to ditch their cares, even if for just a little while — and bask in the joy of being a child.

The SeriousFun Children’s Network is a growing global community of independently managed and financed camps and partnership programs that 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.

How much money does The Painted Turtle receive from Newman’s Own foods?

Paul Newman wanted The Painted Turtle to be strong enough to survive his legacy and that of the Newman’s Own brand. After a generous dose of seed money and abundant inspiration, The Painted Turtle became fully responsible for our own sustainability and growth. We are grateful to the many individuals, corporations, foundations, and civic organizations who support our mission with financial contributions.

But we do receive all the Newman’s Own salad dressing and popcorn that the campers can eat!