Camp Sunshine stole my heart. This summer was my first time volunteering, and I can see why so many people return year after year. I know I will be from now on. It is an incredible environment filled with incredible people. It was touching how much work went into making these families happy. The volunteers were wonderful, the staff was appreciative and kind, and the families I will never forget. Camp Sunshine is such a special place. I think back to the week I spent there constantly and cannot, absolutely cannot!!, wait to go back. Camp Sunshine is like no other.
Last year was our first experience at Camp Sunshine! Before arriving we had no idea what to expect but just knew that this was our first getaway since treatment which totaled 3.5 years. Our only son was diagnosed at age 9 with a rare form of leukemia called Philadelphia + ALL. Like many, treatment was brutal, long, exhausting (mentally and physically) and we knew we desperately needed a break and to getaway! Once learning about Camp Sunshine we immediately applied and were accepted right away. We had no idea what we were in for. Once arriving to camp we were totally taken away...away from the sickness, away from stress, away from fear, away from the hospital and away from confinement. We were instead now at a place of serenity, fun, joy, peace, understanding and had our every need taken care of. We needed this more than words can express!! Camp Sunshine is a Camp filled with light and if you've never experienced this incredible place please trust me you will not regret it. This isn't camping in tents, eating outside over fire pits and worrying if big creatures will attack at night....this is a resort of sorts where you have a spacious family suite, 3 meals in the meal hall, parent time while your kids are enjoying a full camp experience with every outdoor and indoor activity you can think of, family time, entertainment every evening, parent discussion groups, sibling group and volunteers that are beyond exceptional that care for yours and you children's every need!!! I can't say enough. I thank you Camp Sunshine for not only bringing my family joy and peace but to all the families you service every year....we are forever grateful.
At the age of two our son Banning began complaining that his stomach was hurting. As new parents we immediately thought his stomach might have been upset and his discomfort would pass by the next day. As the next morning arrived, Banning woke up in severe pain and was curled up into a ball and crying in pain. This concerned us greatly and we raced Banning to his pediatrician to find answers. Leaving the office we were convinced the discomfort would pass and was an isolated incident. The days and months that passed saw Banning’s pain intensify and his discomfort was so great he was refusing to eat and drink. Without proper nutrition he began to lose weight. Working with our pediatrician we made appointment with specialists in the areas of gastroenterology and infectious disease to find answers. While the stomach pain continued Banning began to have fevers which would spike in a matter of minutes to an alarming 104.5. The fevers were unfazed by Tylenol and Ibuprofen and we were unable to reduce his temperature without a visit to the Emergency Room. Banning was also prone to becoming sick with frequent colds, ear infections and even a rare case of giardia (normally found in third world countries). While illness in children is common, Banning was unable to fight off the illnesses quickly and took weeks to recover from a simply cold.
The months that followed were some of the most difficult and stressful my husband and I have ever experienced. Banning was now averaging 4 doctor’s visits and two trips the Emergency Room each month. Still no answers to why he was experiencing these severe episodes of stomach pain and cyclical fevers every twenty one days. His Gastroenterologist performed an exploratory scope of Banning abdomen to determine if there were any abnormalities. The scope raised concerns in Banning’s pancreas and the specialists spoke with us about the possibility that our son may have Cystic Fibrosis or Schwachman Diamond Syndrome, both debilitating diseases which attack the body’s vital organs. Banning was immediately placed on Creon, a drug used in cystic fibrosis patients, to help absorb the nutrients of the food he was eating. As there are no generics available for this drug, the prescription costs exceeded $800.00 for a month supply. This was a financial strain on our family, but the cost was minimal in contrast to our son’s continued health.
The episodes of stomach pain continued, although less frequent in the months that followed. It became apparent that this illness would not be diagnosed without seeking the help of a pediatric specialist outside of Orlando. After many long hours of research we were directed to the University of Florida Shands Children’s Hospital Hematology and Oncology Department.
After a six week period in which Banning’s blood was drawn twice a week, we had collected data which lead to a diagnosis on neutropenia, an abnormal reading of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell whose function is to fight off infections by destroying bacteria). While this was encouraging and seemed to explain the frequent illnesses, it did not explain the frequent stomach pains Banning was continuing to experience. The Hematologist recommended we seek the guidance of the Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Shands.
We were placed under the care of Dr. Christopher Jolley, Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Banning was given an MRI of the abdomen (pancreas) to determine if it was functioning properly with manipulation. Following these results it was determined that, in fact, Banning’s pancreas was not absorbing the nutrients of the food he was consuming and a diagnosis of pancreatic insufficiency was recorded.
We have been given a clinical diagnosis of Shwachman Diamond Syndrome. Immediately I contacted Camp Sunshine because we had heard of the SDS week. There we met families with similar stories to ours. Also, it was great to be able to connect with those families who "understood" our situation. Our family has made forever friends through Camp Sunshine. We cant say enough about Camp Sunshine's positive impact on our lives. We are forever grateful.
My family went to camp with my brother while he was sick and we have continued going to bereavement sessions since his passing. Recently my parents have become volunteers and I look forward to doing the same when I'm old enough. Camp is an amazing place that has done so much for my family, and I have made friendships with both the other teens and volunteers that will last a life time.
I have had the great pleasure of being involved with Camp Sunshine for the last 28 years. I first went to camp as a patient with my family in 1988 and the experience was so unbelievable, we went back for years as counselors. Everyone from the Drs. to the kitchen staff, Anna Gould, Mike Katz, etc...do an awesome job and treat everyone with respect and it makes you want to go back year after year. To see the difference between the first day families get there and the last night singing "That's what friends are for" is amazing and I hope to get back to volunteer again soon. Try volunteering just once and you will fall in love with Camp Sunshine!!
Camp Sunshine is spectacular, has a caring staff, amazing volunteers and was a wonderful experience for our family this summer. It was our first visit and we hope for many more. Here is our Millie with Meghan and Kim, two volunteers that made our week memorable.
Camp Sunshine is an amazing place for our family! It is a place filled with joy and happiness. Our children forget their illness and play with other kids that completely understand them. I get to be with parents and doctors that support me in our journey. Camp Sunshine is our home away from home!
I've volunteered at this amazing place the past two summers and based on my experience, I can easily say this is the greatest place in the world. People say Disney is the most magical place on earth, but spending just hours at Camp Sunshine, there is no question this place beats Disney. Camp Sunshine has changed my life as a volunteer, for the better, but the impact it has had on me, is because of the families it serves. These families who have struggled through the impossible challenges of having an extremely ill child, deserve every little and special aspect this place has to offer. It is truly a safe haven for parents, siblings, and most importantly patients.
Our family has been volunteering at this AMAZING place for families who have a child going through a life threatening disease since our son Carter turned 16 and could give back and volunteer as a counselor.
This camp is a respite for the whole family! Cancer truly impacts the entire family and this beautiful place in Maine understand how to bring love and support, fun, laughs and lots of entertainment for all campers!
Hands up Camp Sunshine:) You have cultivated a beautiful experience filled with hope and love - keep it up!!
Camp Sunshine is the most amazing place on earth!!! Kids and families get a break and have a blast while gaining support from each other!!! Our family started as campers and now we volunteer several weeks a year!!
I started volunteering there in college and I've continued throughout medical school. The relationships you build with the families are invaluable and the perspective the whole experience gives you is extremely unique. I'll continue to volunteer there as often as I can and I highly recommend it to everyone.
My daughter and I were blessed to be chosen as a family to visit Camp Sunshine. Thank you doesn't even begin to express the amazing week they gave us. The smiles, the laughs, the bonds of friendship we made. For my daughter she got to be with other kids who have been in her shoes. She got to play, and have fun, and just be a kid.
For me, I got to see and meet some awesome mom and dads that do what I do every day. Give our kids the best life possible. Some days are harder than others and Camp Sunshine let us just live with no stress !!!
We met some of the most amazing young adults that were the volunteers that gave us their time and let us be part of their lives for our time at camp, as well as brighten our lives forever.
My daughter is still talking about camp and cannot wait to go back next year.
Thank you to all!!!!
I have volunteered at Camp Sunshine for the past 12 years. Volunteering during different weeks and weekends in different areas. The opportunity that Camp Sunshine gives to families going through a difficult medical issue with their child is awesome. To bring fun, joy, knowledge, sharing etc, to parents and children has brought joy to my life each time I volunteered. Each week or weekend is special for all involved and have special memories. Some of my favorite memories are:
1). The smiling face of a 6 year old making a craft for their parent or sibling.
2).The toddlers having a "parade" with Musical instruments.
3). The teens winning the "Love Cup"
4). The ice cream soda dessert and little kids watching the foam rise.
One can go on and on about the wonderful loving experience Camp Sunshine families and volunteers provides. It surely is a special place!
I started volunteering at Camp Sunshine 10 years ago as a chaperone for our high school group. I have bought about a dozen students each year to volunteer each summer at Camp Sunshine. I have also recruited my husband to volunteer. We have even volunteered on other weeks and weekends without having to chaperone my high school students because we believe in the program that Camp Sunshine offers the families in attendance. The connections you make with the families, other volunteers, and Camp staff are special.
We can't say enough about how much we LOVE Camp Sunshine. Camp gives us the opportunity to feel normal and speak freely. It has allowed both our child to feel special, not just our brain tumor child. Camp has helped our family tremendously. GO CAMP SUNSHINE!
Have been volunteering for years. I work as a pediatric critical care nurse so Camp Sunshine is absolutely astonishing to me. The very best place for ALL kids to be kids. Not patients, not a sibling of a sick kid. Camp Sunshine is filled with huge hearts and understanding minds.
Being able to attend camp has changed the course of our son's treatment. Being able to connect with others that have a similar journey and sharing information, love and laughter has been a gift during some uncertain days. As parents we never fully realized the impact a medical journey has on the entire family. More specifically the impact on the siblings. Camp is a place where we can let down our guard and not have to explain that things will never be "fixed" or "cured". Camp is a place to smile and have hope and optimism. We are greatful for the experiences, especially our one on one volunteers that are now part of our family!
Our 5th child was born with hypoplastic Left Heart and Hypoplastic Kidneys. In his first 2 years of life he required 3 life saving open heart surgeries. Our nephrologist recommended us to Camp Sunshine for our family. The vacation was an experience like no other. We had been wary of heart transplants, deciding that God would guide us and our decisions. We had gone for their kidney week and was surprised when we got there that due to a maintenance issue solid organ transplant week was joining us. The first 2 families we met were post transplant hypoplastic left heart families. We could not tell the "sick" kids from the siblings..in that moment we felt God giving us direction we had been seeking and are forever grateful for the experience. Our daughter is 16 and does much babysitting duty. When we explained what kind of vacation we were going to have,one where she would not have to watch the boys for one minute her reaction surprised us...she cried for joy. We really did not understand how much we rely upon her and depend on this sweet girl to help hold our family together. Thank you for giving her a week of normal back!
I'm from Michigan and let me tell you, the road trip out to Camp Sunshine is worth every mile! As a volunteer I get to see the miracles that happen every day to every person involved. You become a more humbled, honored, loved, and grateful human being every second of every session. It is the definition of sunshine and I am so blessed to have volunteered there for 4 years and counting!
Our family first attended Camp Sunshine five months after my daughter, Mary, died from hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer. The services offered by Camp Sunshine and the connections we made at that session and all subsequent sessions have been a LIFE LINE for our family as we wade through being a bereaved family. I highly recommend Camp Sunshine to any family that is struggling with pediatric cancer and bereavement.
After our precious daughter was taken from us by cancer, our family struggled with day to day life. We attended Camp 6 months after she passed and it was like a breath of fresh air. There aren't many programs that assist families in treatment as well as bereaved families. We will be forever grateful for the love, compassion and support we have received from Camp Sunshine.
Our family first went to Camp Sunshine in July of 2002, ten months after my four year old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. It was so nice to be around people who did not judge us for how we looked or acted. Instead, they accepted and embraced us. We had a wonderful time and returned the following year for another extraordinary vacation. We always vowed to go back and volunteer there some day. Two years ago, my 17 year old daughter just that, and had an amazing experience. Last year, my husband and I joined her and had the opportunity to meet families who were going through the same agony that we had endured several years ago.
I am happy to say that my son, a leukemia survivor, will be joining us as a volunteer this year.