25+ years of experience

Growing from 30 to over 400 campers and counselors every summer, we've been building friendships and breaking down barriers.

Located within St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in historic San Juan Capistrano, Special Camp was founded by Father Mike Wallens in 1992 to address the scarcity of resources for school-age children with disabilities in the community. Over 29 years later, his one-to-one ratio designed with the help of parents of children with disabilities and experts in the field of special education continues to be the foundational basis and catalyst for the Special Camp Family.

Each year, our counselor staff continues to grow in age and experience and represents some of the brightest, most talented and compassionate young young adults in the nation, making an impact that reaches far beyond Southern California. With service, opportunity, and love, we will continue to work toward inspiring future generations to eliminate the stigma associated with this beautiful community.

Fun With Purpose

Special Camp consists of four, one-week sessions along with additional days devoted to counselor training seminars and meetings. Campers blossom through the magic of the camper-counselor relationship. However, it is not only campers who benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Counselors are given the chance to work in a positive, nurturing environment that fosters an educational atmosphere of opportunities to explore the intricacies and the needs of this community with a focus on:

Learning Abilities

When counselors are comfortable with a wider range of individual learning abilities, they can help meet campers where they are. This brings a special unity to our group and ensures that no one feels left behind.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are a two-way street—it’s not something we’re just teaching our campers. Our counselors use clear and positive language to help campers participate, feel heard, and have more engaging experiences while at camp.

Emotional Well-Being

A camper’s emotional well-being can affect them far beyond their experience at Special Camp. That’s why we place special care in fostering healthier self-esteem so campers have a positive summer camp experience to take home with them.

Social Development

Social development is a big part of what makes summer camp fun, so our counselors nurture skills that help campers relate to others in a constructive way. This means they not only having a great time making friends at camp, but also gain a sense of who they are and grow as individuals.


We have decades of combined experience working with special needs of all types. Below are a few of the more common abilities we’re pros at caring for, but our team is equipped to welcome children and young adults of all abilities.

Our Leaders

Meet the people who help make the Special Camp vision a reality.


“Special Camp has had such a positive impact on my family. The support, acceptance and opportunity for growth that my daughter Kira is given each summer is truly incredible!”

Mikail R. — Camper Parent

“I love Special Camp and I continue to come back because they are like family to me!”

Javier S. — Camper

“I have built the best friendships with so many of the kids and I am so grateful I am a part of their lives just as much as they are a part of mine!”

Mathew Josephs — past Counselor and Staff Member


Special Camp is a fun experience for campers of all ages and backgrounds. Join us!


At Special Camp, you bring joy to kids’ lives and discover strengths you never knew you had.

News & Updates

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2023 Applications

2023 Camper and Counselor Applications are NOW available!  Important documents: Camper Information Pages 2023 Counselor Information Pages 2023 Informed Consent...