Camp Paivika

600 Playground Dr
Crestline, CA 92325
All bookings are free!
Camp Price:
/ per session
Camp Category: ACA Accredited, Arts&Crafts, Disabilities, Horseback Riding, Nature Exposure, Special Needs, Sports, Swimming
Camp Prices 2020
Session dates and prices will be annonced closer to the start of new season.

Want to be notified? Fill out the form!

About Camp Paivika

As one of the first fully accessible camps in the United States, Camp Paivika operates under a special use permit granted by the San Bernardino National Forest. The camp offers overnight summer programs for children and adults with mild to severe developmental and physical disabilities such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and Down syndrome. It is fully accredited by the American Camp Association. Camp Paivika's first group of campers chose its name. In the language of the Cahuilla Native Americans, the word "paivika" (pronounced pi-vee-ka) means "dawn." The name is appropriate, as it reflects a new dawn of welcome, acceptance and inclusion.

Camp Paivika offers children, teens and adults with disabilities a traditional camp experience delivered with nurturing support and, above all, an emphasis on fun!
Camp overview
As one of the first fully accessible camps in the United States, Camp Paivika operates under a special use permit granted by the San Bernardino National Forest. The camp offers overnight summer programs for children and adults with mild to severe developmental and physical disabilities such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and Down syndrome. It is fully accredited by the American Camp Association. Camp Paivika's first group of campers chose its name. In the language of the Cahuilla Native Americans, the word "paivika" (pronounced pi-vee-ka) means "dawn." The name is appropriate, as it reflects a new dawn of welcome, acceptance and inclusion.

Camp Paivika offers children, teens and adults with disabilities a traditional camp experience delivered with nurturing support and, above all, an emphasis on fun. Days here are filled with well-regulated, morning-to-night activities that are creatively adapted to enable fun and encourage participation. We are guided by "can," not "can't" – and no one is left out.

Our programs allow campers to make friends, try new things and become more confident. Families are often surprised to find loved ones returning home with a new, can-do spirit, independently choosing clothes for the day, tying their shoes or brushing their teeth without assistance. And, of course, families appreciate the respite they can take from the rigors and challenges of providing 24/7 care.

Camp Paivika is completely accessible and capable of accommodating individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers or other adaptive devices. Staff are trained and prepared to provide personal care as needed including caring for individuals who are incontinent and who require assistance with transferring, bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding and other personal care.

According to a 2018 post-session survey of campers and their families:

  • 94% of campers surveyed gained confidence to make new friends at camp
  • 99% of camper families surveyed felt that having their camper attend Camp Paivika has made a positive difference in their lives
  • 100% of camper families surveyed would recommend Camp Paivika to family or friend
The camp is located in Crestline in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest
Campers are grouped with peers and assigned to specific schedules. Each day brings new opportunities to play, share interests, make new friends and meet challenges.


  • Custom warm water pool specially designed with our campers in mind. Features two hoyer lifts and safe entry ramp.
  • Supervised by American Red Cross Certified lifeguards
  • Non-instructional program
  • One-on-one, in-pool support is available for campers who need it
Horseback Riding
  • Experienced gentle horses led and walked by trained staff
  • Riders protected by helmets and safety belt and supported on either side by staff
  • Inclusive program accommodates non-ambulatory campers requiring extra support
  • Those who are unable or prefer not to ride can still safely pet, feed and groom horses in modified corral areas
Adaptive Sports and Recreation
  • Designed to improve physical coordination and strength: archery, baseball, bowling, obstacle courses, broom hockey and frisbee golf.
  • Designed to enhance concentration and promote socialization: Bingo, board games, card games
  • Activities adapted for accessibility and for different age groups according to ability levels
  • Tie-dye and beading projects, ceramics, painting and other traditional camp crafts
  • Campers explore their artistic side and experience a sense of accomplishment with activities encouraging self-expression and hand-eye coordination
Performing Arts
  • Creative movement, acting games and music making
  • Staged musicals are performed in outdoor amphitheater with entire camp in attendance
  • Grand finale of each session is the camp talent show where campers have the opportunity to share their talents on stage!
Nature Studies
  • Games and crafts incorporate elements of the beautiful surrounding mountain and forest environment
  • Activities take place in the forest environment and include outdoor exploration accessible to all.
  • Explored themes of wildlife, trees and conservation give campers a deeper appreciation for nature
Evening Program
  • Brings full camp together
  • Activities include campfires, Game Show Night, carnivals, dances, karaoke, scavenger hunts for children, casino nights for adults
Summer Session Schedule
2019 Open House – Saturday, June 8th 12pm-3pm

Session One (Adults)

5 Night Option: June 9-June 14

Session Two (Adults)
7 Night Option: June 17-June 24

Session Three (Youth 9-17)
5 Night Option: June 28-July 33 Night Option: June 28-July 1

Session Four (Teen-Young Adults 16-25)
7 Night Option: July 6-July 13

Session Five (Youth 9-17)

5 Night Option: July 17-July 223 Night Option: July 17-July 20

Session Six (Adults)
9 Night Option: July 25-Aug 3

Session Seven (Adults)
5 Night Option: Aug 7-Aug 12

Session Eight (Adults)*
5 Night Option: Aug 15-Aug 20

*one-to-one staffing not available for this session
Year-Round Activities
Off-site Camping Trip
Join us for off-site fun!
September 2019– 3 nights at a nearby lake or beach destination. Dates and location to be determined. We will be tent camping and sleeping on the ground! Activities will vary but will include hiking, camp fire cooking, outdoor games and crafts. Cost is $450 – all inclusive! Campers must be at least 18 years of age and have minimal hygiene and medical care needs.

Mom's Retreat
Weekend getaway! April 12-14, 2019
Uplifting, restorative respite for women who care for family members with disabilities Activities will vary year to year but will include a mix of fun and relaxing programs such as yoga and crafts, to choose from. All participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a professional therapeutic massage, delicious food and good company! Workshop presentations by experts who will address issues affecting individuals with disabilities and provide participants with tools for stress management and support

Skiing in Big Bear

Sunday, Jan. 27 – Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2019
We will be skiing, bowling, having fun and (of course) roasting marshmallows! Cost is $450 all inclusive! Space is limited so give us a call at (909) 338-1102 ext. 5003 to reserve your spot today! Ski instruction will be provided by the US Adaptive Recreation Center Located at Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Big Bear.
Facilities + Amenities
Camp amenities include:
  • Wi-Fi access
  • Heated Swimming pool (seasonal)
  • Dining hall with 195 maximum occupancy
  • 130 beds for overnight accommodations
  • Full food service
  • 5 heated and carpeted cabins with a cozy living room and fireplace
  • Fully accessible bathrooms and showers
  • Washer and dryer
  • Large recreation room with television, DVD/VCR, pool table, and ping pong and foosball table
  • Health care center
  • Program building
  • Outdoor Amphitheate
Camper Medical Care
Our comfortable healthcare center is staffed by registered nurses who provide medication management and other medical care regimes for campers who would not otherwise be able to enjoy the full Camp Paivika experience.
Kelly Kunsek, Camp Director
Kelly began working for the camping program of AbilityFirst as a high school student and has held many positions at both Camp Paivika and Camp Joan Mier (no longer in operation) over the years. She has been Camp Paivika's on-site director since 1995. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts. In addition to her work at AbilityFirst, Kelly has worked in the field of special education for the Los Angeles School District and spent over two years in rural Paraguay working with individuals with special needs as a Peace Corps volunteer. Kelly resides at Camp Paivika year round with her husband Kenny, who is the camp Facilities Manager, and their daughter Sydney.

Lauren Wilson, Program Director

Lauren and her family moved to the mountain community of Crestline in 2013. She has a daughter who was born with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome which has caused both developmental delays and physical disabilities. Lauren has a blast creating new activities for campers and staff training. She embraces the challenge of trying to make each summer better than the last through creativity, adaptability and always putting the camper experience first. In her free time, Lauren coaches the AYSO VIP soccer team for players with special needs. Lauren is very passionate about empowering individuals with disabilities to live life to the fullest, while focusing on their abilities.

Tina Ronning-Fraynd, Camper Services Coordinator
Tina has been a member of the Camp Paivika team for a few summers now. Her role in helping campers prepare for their visit to our mountain retreat is one that she enjoys immensely. She considers the opportunity to assist families and caregivers with their camper's preparations for a fun-filled visit to camp very rewarding. Tina continues to forge new friendships while working to ensure that each camper is ready for a great time at Camp Paivika!

Seasonal Summer Staff

Our staff come from across the country and even internationally for the opportunity to spend a summer at Camp Paivika. The majority of our staff are college students who are studying a related field or are recent college graduates ready to begin their careers working with individuals with special needs. AbilityFirst works with exchange programs to offer a select few international college students the experience of a lifetime by spending a summer working in the U.S. at Camp Paivika.

Camp Paivika believes that every participant has the right to a healthy and safe camp experience. All of our seasonal summer staff are interviewed by our Camp Director Kelly Kunsek. Once considered for a position, background and reference checks, criminal background checks and drug screens are conducted. Staff then participate in an extensive, six-day training to prepare them in their roles working with our campers. Training includes all of the fun aspects of camp like campfires and programming, but it also covers providing for the special needs of our campers. Staff are trained in:
  • Lifting
  • Transferring
  • Feeding
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Brushing teeth
  • Toileting/Incontinent Care
  • And more
They also learn about different types of disabilities, how to handle challenging behaviors, non-verbal communication and even how to "tuck in" a first-time camper on their first night of camp!

Many of our staff return for multiple summers as they just cannot get enough of what we refer to as the "Paivika Spirit."
How do children and adults with disabilities benefit from Camp Paivika?

Through a broad range of activities – including swimming, horseback riding, adaptive sports and recreation, creative arts and crafts, performing arts and nature studies in the summer as well as outdoor adventures and group ski trips in the winter and spring – campers develop social skills as well as independence and confidence. During their stay children have that lights-out giggle so typical of our experience growing up, and when they return many parents are surprised at what they can do, from independently choosing their clothes for the day to tying their shoes or brushing their teeth without assistance.

What specific disabilities is Camp Paivika equipped to address?

We are staffed and equipped for those with special needs including, but not limited to:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down's Syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing Impairment/Deaf
  • Developmental Delay
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Speech/Communication Impairment
  • Spina Bifida
  • Visual Impairment/Blind

What level of medical care do you provide and what are your staff qualifications that provide such care?

We have licensed nurses that reside on site when summer camp is in session. The nurses provide the following medical care:

  • All medication management: administering medications and record keeping
  • Diabetic care
  • Catheter/Ostomy care
  • G-tube feedings
  • Trache care
  • Breathing treatments
  • Emergency medical care if required

My child requires a great deal of personal care. Can you handle that?

Our staff are trained and competent in providing the following types of care:

  • Lifting and transferring
  • Dressing
  • Bathing: We have secure shower chairs that wheel into our "roll in" showers. The showers have handheld shower heads to facilitate assisted bathing.
  • Toileting and diapering for children and adults
  • Dressing
  • Daily hygiene such as combing hair and brushing teeth
  • Feeding

What is the staff-to-camper ratio?

Campers must be able to function safely in a group environment. Staff-to-camper ratios are 1 to 3 during most times of the day.

Do you provide 1 to 1 counselor care?

We have limited 1 to 1 counselor care available for individuals that require extra supervision or assistance. There is an additional fee for 1 to 1 care. This option is designed for campers who may have a difficult time remaining in the larger group environment or who require extensive 1 to 1 personal care. Please keep in mind that all staff sleep when campers sleep and we are not equipped to provide 1 to 1 supervision during nighttime hours. 1 to 1 counselor care is not available for individuals who exhibit any of challenging behaviors listed in the next Q/A.

Are there any behavioral challenges that could prevent someone from being accepted into your camp programs?

The following behavioral challenges may not be considered appropriate for acceptance into camp programs:

  • Individuals who are abusive to self, others or property
  • Individuals with a history of "running off"
  • Physical or sexual aggression
  • Individuals who do not sleep through the night, may wander at night or who require routine assistance through the night (frequent toileting, turning, etc.)
Failure to communicate any of the above behaviors/needs may jeopardize the safety of the applicant as well as others at camp. Individuals whose needs and/or behavioral challenges are beyond the scope of the camp to safely accommodate will be sent home immediately.

Acceptance will be determined based on overall camper care required and staff ability to meet individual needs in a safe and appropriate manner.

What does a typical day at camp look like?

Here's a sample schedule for a typical day at Camp Paivika during the summer:
8 am Dressing, bathing and preparing for the day
9 am Breakfast
9:45 am Cabin clean‐up, teeth‐brushing, sunscreen application
10:30 am Activities
11:30 am Early Eaters
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Rest Period (quiet activities and naps in cabins)
3:45 pm Activities
4:45 pm Activities
5:30 pm "All Camp Activity"
6 pm Dinner
6:45 pm Evening Program preparation
7:15 pm Evening Program
8:45 pm Bedtime preparation
9:30 pm Cabin quiet time and lights out

Can I visit my camper while he/she is at camp?

Families may visit whenever they like. However, we do encourage families to allow their camper to experience the camp program independently so as to enhance their social experience. Families may call to check in on their camper whenever they like

What can I do to help make my camper's first visit to Camp Paivika a success?

Transitioning into new experiences can be a challenge for all of us. At Camp Paivika, we have several opportunities to help with this:
  • You may call to schedule a personal tour and visit to Camp Paivika with our Camp Director.
  • We offer a Mom's Retreat weekend in April to women who are raising and/or caring for loved ones with special needs. This is a great way to learn more about us and talk to other moms whose children attend our programs.
  • Our Open House takes place in June of each year and is our official kickoff for the summer season. This day is fun for the whole family and is designed for first time campers and their families, although all are welcome. In addition to a BBQ lunch and fun traditional camp activities, our Camp Director gives an orientation and answers all questions. The day ends with the opportunity to take a tour of the camp. Seasonal summer staff are also in attendance during this day so you have the opportunity to meet all of our amazing summer staff!
If you have done all of this, your camper (and you!) should be ready for a session at Camp Paivika. Please be sure that your camper has had a successful overnight experience away from you prior to sending them for a full session at camp. Remember, we all want this to be a positive and successful experience for you and your camper.

What if my camper does not like camp or become homesick?

Camp can be an overwhelming transition for many first time campers. If your camper is homesick or unhappy we will call to speak with you about the situation. We will ask you for guidance on how to support your camper so that they can get through the initial transition of camp and hopefully remain for the full session. If a camper becomes overly agitated, attempts to run off, or refuses to eat, drink or take prescribed medications, we may decide that it is in the best interest of the camper to not remain at camp. We will be in communication with you throughout the process as our goal is for each camper to have a positive experience at Camp Paivika.

How do the families of campers with disabilities benefit from Camp Paivika?

As campers enjoy their Paivika experience, families can take a respite from the rigors and challenges of providing 24/7 care, knowing that their disabled loved ones are safe, cared for and occupied with a full slate of fun. In addition, since many of our campers are away from parents and home for the first time, the Camp Paivika staff responds with sensitivity, encouragement and support to help both campers and their families succeed in making this very important transition.

Is the quality of the camp recognized by a third party?

Camp Paivika is fully accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). ACA has verified that Camp Paivika provides sound risk management training and ongoing program assessment and improvement with staff. We also encourage families to visit for expert advice and resources on camper safety and preparing for the camp experience.

What does the application process entail?

We encourage you to register for camp directly through our website. Please contact us if you need assistance with this process. All forms must be completed and returned to us to complete your registration. A non-refundable deposit is required when you register for camp. First time campers will receive a follow up phone call from our Program Director to review the application and care needs of each camper and to answer any questions. The camp fee may be paid in installments, but must be paid in full prior to camp arrival.

Is the camp available for retreats and other speacial events?

Yes, from January through May. One of Southern California's most beautiful and historic camp rental locations, Camp Paivika offers the ultimate experience. Trails surrounding the camp allow for hikes and outdoor activities, the amphitheater is an intimate spot for campfires, and the modern lodging and program building are great for group activities and events. Only 30 minutes from the high desert, and 20 minutes from San Bernardino, the Inland Empire and Lake Arrowhead, Camp Paivika is the ultimate camp rental location.

What is employment like at Camp Paivika, and what opportunities are available?

Employment at Camp Paivika offers an exceptional, often life-changing experience. We look for dynamic adults with a love of the outdoors and a sincere interest in working with special needs people.

Hiring for our summer session begins in the fall of the previous year and continues until positions are filled. In addition to professional staff, we recruit from among college students, age 18 and older, across the country.

References are thoroughly checked. All potential employees must pass a criminal background check and pre-employment drug screen. New employees receive six days of intensive training. Staff members live on site while camp is in session and many become regulars, developing strong bonds with returning campers over the years.

How do volunteers contribute to the camp experience, and how can I apply to volunteer?

Enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers, working under the supervision of staff, help keep our facility running smoothly and become valued members of our Camp Paivika family. Volunteers may provide one-on-one assistance to campers, encourage participation, keep activities going, and of course, have fun! Volunteers are also essential in assisting us with fundraising activities and events. Without people who give of themselves, their time and their talents, we simply would not be able to provide the outstanding programs and services that make such a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities.

We accept volunteers through an application and interview process.

Volunteers who stay overnight at camp must be at least 18 years old.

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Price included:
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Price not included:
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