Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: County of San Diego Aging & Independence Services Offers a Camping Event for Kinship Families

Learn how a AAA collaborated with a team of diverse partners to offer an annual camping event for kinship caregivers and the children they care for.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Aging & Independence Services' Gramping: The Camping Event program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Intergenerational Programs category.
Gramping, a camping event for kinship caregivers and the children they care for, offers families the opportunity to enjoy games, a twilight hike, a glowstick dance-off, a buffet-style supper, s'mores around the campfire, and breakfast and tree planting the next morning. The annual event is the result of a collaboration between Aging & Independence Services, the County Department of Parks and Recreation and other Health and Human Services Agency departments. Adventure 16, an outdoor outfitter, donated equipment, including tents and sleeping bags, that participating families can keep after the campout.
With an increasing amount of research demonstrating the physical and mental health benefits derived from spending time outdoors, this annual event helps support families who have often experienced trauma by creating an opportunity for kinship families to strengthen family bonds while tapping into the healing power of nature. Participants are able to meet and share experiences with other families in a similar situation, with one participant sharing: “It's nice to know we are not alone in raising our grandchildren.” The partnerships forged between the participating agencies can help pave the way for future collaborations.
Families attending this annual event have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback and many have attended subsequent events. Participants enjoy the chance to be outdoors and have a camping experience without the stress of coordinating the entire activity themselves, with one participant noting: “Not needing to plan/prep anything for a weekend of fun is a huge relief.” They also get to spend quality time with family while making new friends throughout the weekend.
For AAAs interested in developing a similar program, Aging & Independence Services recommends starting where you are. Even if you do not have the capacity to create an overnight camping experience, you can still look for other ways to tap into the healing power of nature and strengthen bonds for families who have been exposed to trauma, through activities like short nature hikes in community green spaces, seed-planting activities using small pots, or trips to the local zoo. Aging & Independence Services also recommends collaborating with a diverse team of partners; planning early and making back-up plans for inclement weather; and practicing safety first by ensuring activities are not too strenuous, activities are free from potential hazards and having staff on hand to address situations if certain activities are triggering for some of the participants.
To learn more about Aging & Independence Services' Gramping: The Camping Event program, contact Pam Plimpton, Intergenerational Coordinator, at
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.
The 2020 AIA Awards nominations process is now open! Read our nominations process guide and consider submitting some of your programs for this year's awards before the March 6 deadline.



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!