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2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Camp Sunshine at Sebago Lake Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Health, Health Care, Youth Development Programs

Mission: Founded in 1984, Camp Sunshine provides retreats combining respite, recreation and support, while enabling hope and promoting joy, for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families through the various stages of a child’s illness. Camp Sunshine is one of the only programs in the nation offered year-round with the distinction of having been designed to serve the entire family in a retreat model. The program is free of charge to families and includes on-site medical support. Bereavement sessions are also offered for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness.

Results: Since 1985, Camp Sunshine has served more than 52,000 family members from 50 states and 27 countries.

Target demographics: Just as an illness does not target a specific demographic, Camp Sunshine's programs and support is available to all families, regardless of economic or cultural backgrounds.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 700-750 families, or 3,000 - 3,200 family members.

Geographic areas served: National / International.

Programs: Families of children diagnosed with cancer, hematologic conditions, renal disease, systemic lupus, those who have undergone solid organ transplantation, and families of children with other life-threatening illnesses attend illness-specific sessions of varying lengths. Families have the opportunity to solidify their relationships and meet others facing similar challenges. Bereavement programming is also provided for families who have lost a child to the illnesses served at Camp.

Community Stories

266 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Tina W.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My family has attended camp sunshine and it was an amazing experience. My family loved it.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This past June, our family had our first trip to Camp Sunshine! We could not have enjoyed our experience more. The volunteers were phenomenal, the facilities were immaculate, our meals were amazing, and the friendships we made are second to none!!! We hope to be a part of the Camp Sunshine Family for years to come!

Lorlap

Client Served

Rating: 5

This remarkable camp is by far the most amazing worthwhile and therapeutic place. The benefits, healing and strength it gives to families who are going through the worse thing imaginable are immeasurable. The staff and volunteers are so incredibly good at what they do. The money donated to this cause is honestly so well spent and the return of having a child like mine who struggle to cope with accepting their diagnosis of a life threatening disease say ‘they wish they could stay because they finally feel like they found somewhere they belong and be happy’ is priceless.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a fellow non-profit it is incredible to work with Camp Sunshine! Our experience with the staff is incredible. Anne Howley gives extra special attention to the detail of each family we work together on. Arranging free air transportation to a free camp for families with life threatening illnesses has been nothing but a win-win. Feedback from families is that they would not be able to go and enjoy the full program as Maine is often times states away from where they are. PALS (Patient Airlift Services) proudly partners with Camp Sunshine to make sure they enjoy that time of hope and healing as a family.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I'm a Camp Sunshine family and volunteer for the past 10 years. Camp Sunshine is a home away from home for my family. During our darkest days in the cancer journey Camp Sunshine was our light! The warmth, love and care you receive from the second you walk is unprecedented. Forget Disney my family thinks Camp Sunshine is the "happiest place on earth".
Cavallo Clan

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Happiest place on earth (yes, happier than Disney!)

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wonderful place full of wonderful people and wonderful experiences. Would spend every week there if I could.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at Camp since 2015 and I absolutely love being able to help sick children and their families escape their normal reality for a bit. I will continue to come back year after year!!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp is an amazing place and I love being here! I first started coming when I was 16 and now I have been to camp over 30 times. There is no better place to spend a summer. The people you meet and the experiences you have with stay with you through your whole life.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is a truly incredible place where everyone feels welcome. On the last day of camp, it is not unusual to see babies and teenagers alike crying because they don't want to leave their "home." For these campers, Camp Sunshine is their "safe place"; for a moment, they get to "fit in" and people just "get them." For once, it's kind of cool to be the person who has a life threatening illness. For their siblings and their parents, it's more of the same. Camp Sunshine provides them a place to meet people who truly understand what they go through day in and day out. They can swap stories, tips, advice, and give and receive love. Camp Sunshine allows these families a chance to get away, be a family, and be with people who understand. Since Camp Sunshine is free for those attending and volunteering, it also provides a vacation to those who are financially strapped by medical bills. It is a magical, life giving place.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Five stars aren't enough for a nonprofit that means the moon and the stars to those who attend. My family and I have just returned from a week at camp. We volunteer each year because we have witnessed the mission of Camp Sunshine and know what it means to the families who attend sessions year round. The session we recently returned from focused on a disease so rare that there are fewer than 1,000 known to have the life threatening illness. We talked of the value of "fitting in" at camp and how rarely they have an opportunity to fit in. There are no words to explain what it means to help others and to learn that in helping others the gifts are shared. Thank you Camp Sunshine for your dedication to families across the 50 states and Canada.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunttered at this camp and had a blast. All of the staff was very helpful and the kids were so much fun.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Absolutely loved being a yellow shirt here! Will be back!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered twice at this amazing place and plan to continue as long as I can. You really feel like you make a difference here. A wonderful place for everyone!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Best place in the world! You really make a difference volunteering!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is hard to explain to people who have never experienced the magic it holds. However it is truly one of the happiest places on Earth. From the staff and volunteers to the incredibly strong families that fill this campus you will always leave knowing you belong somewhere special. This place will change you for the better and you'll find yourself coming back time and time again.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is a life changing experience and is my absolute favorite place on Earth. All of the volunteers are so nice and upbeat and all of the kids have a truly amazing spirit that can't be beaten. You'look make friendships will kids that will last a lifetime and change your life forever. I remember I was very close with this one kid and when his mom met me, she said "welcome to the family" and I think that pretty much sums up what Camp Sunshine is all about!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering here is an amazing experience I will never forget!!! The most beautiful and scenic place I have been in my life, and has many awesome things to do with the kids such as kayaking, mini golf, volleyball, ziplines, etc. Volunteer and family suites are very nice. Amazing place, loving volunteers and staff, and overall amazing experience! Can't wait to volunteer again next summer and I would highly reccommend it.

2 Amanda254

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

3 Tammy137

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

2 Alyssa26

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

2 David370

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our family was blessed by all the kind staff and volunteers at Lupus camp this year.

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Lillie L.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Sasha H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!!!!

Colleen P.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Read more

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

1 Michelle129

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

1 Alexis14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!

1 Kristina12

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Scott84

Client Served

Rating: 5

Having a child with a very rare disease makes it hard to find other families who understand what we go through. Being at Camp Sunshine helped us to connect with other families going through our situation and with the specialists that treat her disease. It was such an amazing week in our lives and our daughter really enjoyed being like other kids.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

When our daughter was diagnosed with Lupus we did not know where to turn for support. Our lives had been upended, our daughter had spent the summer receiving chemotherapy treatments and becasue of predinisone her physical appearance was changing before our eyes. She wanted to find a camp where she would fit in. We wanted to find someplace that would provide support and information. At Camp Sunshine, we found all this and more! Our time there remains an important part of lives and we talk about friends from Camp Sunshine, information we have learned there and support we have received. We are so greatful this camp exists! They run an absolutely top notch program!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering at Camp Sunshine at 16, as soon as I was able, and since then my life has never been quite the same. Camp Sunshine further confirmed my aspirations to be a Registered Nurse, and showed me true resiliance. Through the love and pure strength I recieved from the families, I learned a lot about life at a young age and feel so blessed to be a part of the Camp Sunshine community. There is no better feeling than making a sick child smile, and there are plenty of smiles to go around at Camp Sunshine. The staff are incredible and extremely dedicated. Every single person in that environment has a determination to help others, and it is a beautiful thing to witness. I've been many places, but Camp Sunshine remains my favorite place on this earth.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In a nutshell, the week I spent volunteering at Camp Sunshine was the best week of my life! I am so excited to go back, and work with all the wonderful counclers and campers. Camp Sunshine is a wonderful place full of people with such big hearts. I spread the word as much as I can, so more people will go volunteer. Every child is given a week not only to be "normal" but to be extraordinary. It is so wonderful to see the parents having a good time, and see how happy all of the kids are. It is a contagious feeling in the atmosphere. Without a doubt, I'd call it the best place on earth, and I'm only a volunteer. I can't even begin to fathom what the children must feel. There is not a place the can compare to Camp Sunshine!

1 Lori46

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I first heard about Camp Sunshine, I thought "this sounds too goo to be true." My family traveled from California and what we found waiting on the other end was more than I could ever have imagined. My daughter is a cancer survivor. We attended Retinoblastoma camp (eye cancer.) Seeing her interact with other kids who have or are traveling the same road as she was a life building experience. She realized that having only one eye doesn't mean she is any different than any other kids out there. The support and fun they provided to our whole family is something none of us will ever forget. We made lifetime friends with both the families who attended as well as with the camp itself. Definitely a 5 star week.

Terry51

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When my daughter and I decided to volunteer at Camp Sunshine the first time, we knew it was going to be an amazing experience. NEVER in our wildest dreams did we think it would be as incredible as it is. Camp Sunshine is in our hearts forever and has become one of the best parts of our lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What keeps me coming back to Camp Sunshine year after year? Could it be the small, yet wonderful, caring staff who treat everyone so warmly? Is it the families who entrust their most valuable possessions (their children) to me during the sessions, and stay in touch with me throughout the years? Is it the medical professionals who are on call 24-7? Is it the clean facilities? The various activities? The army of volunteers of all ages and from all over the country? The wonderful 3 meals a day? The evening entertainment? The wish boats? Or is it, that Camp Sunshine is the place where kids can be kids, and no one is "different"? It is all of these things, and so much more, and I am so fortunate to be a part of it.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son has a life threatening disease, Fanconi anemia. He has already lived through a bone marrow transplant and is highly susceptible to many cancers. Camp Sunshine is a place for families and patients to feel normal and deal with the trauma that horrific medical conditions can bring.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My family has been blessed to attend Camp Sunshine for multiple sessions. Camp Sunshine provides an
exciting experience for both children and adults. Parents can meet together for fun and discussion groups, while the best volunteers care for your children so both the kids and parents can have a true camp experience. My family has made life long friends that we stay in touch with all year long. They have become family that we always look forward to seeing every year.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our youngest son has a brain tumor, so our life is very stressful. We went to Camp Sunshine on the recommendation of our hospital social worker. Are we glad we took advantage of his recommendation. There is no place else in the world like Camp Sunshine. Every member of our family has been blessed by our association with Camp Sunshine. My sons who do not have the brain tumor go there and for that week are free from worries. They connect with other kids with similar circumstances. The staff and volunteers love them and treat them like royalty. Our son with the brain tumor, has a one on one (who loves him like a brother), which allows my wife and I to connect with other parents. There are times of laughter and lightheartedness, time of tears and sorrow which all minister to our souls. We are better for meeting these courageous parents. I have never met such a caring staff and group of volunteers. They are friends for life.

Donations to Camp Sunshine are an investment that pay rich dividends.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our family has been fortunate enough to attend Camp Sunshine since 2009 when our daughter Abby, who then was 3 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. She also has Down syndrome and sometimes finding people that would accept her with not one but both diagnosis and just allow her to be a normal kid was hard to find. We were extremely blessed to find Camp Sunshine. The staff and all the wonderful volunteers there have made amazing memories with us. Abby (as well as her siblings and parents) LOVE going to camp. She gets so excited and refers to it as Hands Up (it's a song that is traditionally sung at camp). Our family is able to relax and just be. Our children are able to be focused on individually, which is common place for Abby but not so for her siblings which is unfortunate but a reality in our life. Her sister Elisabeth finally found a place that worries about her and her needs and she isn't "Abby's sister" she's Elisabeth, her own individual. The bonds and friendships we have made with other families as well as the volunteers has been indescribable. Several of our families have such a bond that we try to reunite there every year if possible. We cannot thank Camp Sunshine's staff, volunteers and the donors who all make it possible for families like ours to have a place that each member of our family feels comfortable at.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been blessed by Camp Sunshine in numerous ways. As a bereaved parent, I found Camp 3 years after losing my daughter to mitochondrial disease. I live in Maine and never knew there was a camp for families who had lost children to disease. Although we were very lucky to have support as my daughter got sicker, my 2 younger children found others like them who had experienced the loss of a sibling -- something quite unique.

In the past couple of years, I've been able to give back to Camp, by volunteering in numerous ways during the bereavement sessions. This is also important to me, as it gives me an opportunity to help others who may be newer in their grief journey.

Currently, my family and I are taking a break, as my children become older and can also volunteer! Thanks so much, Camp Sunshine!!
Theresa Gaetjens

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last summer I had the privilege of volunteering for one week at a Camp Sunshine brain tumor session. The camp is a delightful, happy, modern, clean and well-run facility. Staff and volunteers do everything they can to make the families attending feel relaxed, special and like they are on vacation. The families have time to bond as a family and they have separate child and adult time--it's a great balance. There are plenty of smiles and laughter and also a few tears. I'm looking forward to returning again this summer! Happy 30th Anniversary Camp Sunshine!!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is wonderful family experience! My daughter was diagnosed with ALL at age 10 and I meet and became a stronger parent/care giver at Camp Sunshine.

Jillian6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is truly the happiest and brightest place to be. I volunteered for the first time four years ago and it completely changed my life for the better. The highlight of my year is being able to volunteer, meet new families, reconnect with old and help allow these families experience a vacation they will never forget. At camp it isn't about the diseases that define the child but getting to know the child for who they truly are. The staff is amazing, the campus is breath taking and it truly is a home away from home. Volunteering at camp has brought me to my future career goals to become a child life specialist. I will continue to volunteer year after year! It is rewarding to be able to see the families and volunteers come together in remembering what life is all about. We come together to multiply our joy and happiness and divide our troubles. Camp Sunshine will always be my favorite place!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine provided my family with amazing memories during an extremely stressful and upsetting time. It was the first time that our family felt like we were not alone. It was a great experience that always brings a smile to our faces.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are the parents of three children; tweleve, ten and seven years old . On May 6th 2005 our lives were forever changed when our 18 month old (now ten years old), was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). On this journey we have certainly learned some valuable life lessons, and got a serious education in blood related cancers and the associated treatments. Through all our ups and downs, we can truly say that we’ve been blessed to meet quite a few wonderful people. One of our highlights has been our visits to Camp Sunshine, which continues to exceed our expectations.
The Staff of Camp Sunshine always prepares unforgettable experiences, from the games to the Group Sessions. Their meticulous planning, efforts and hard work is evident and truly appreciated. The entire Camp Sunshine facility is absolutely amazing! The Volunteers, who gave of themselves, their selflessness, support, love and open hearts could never be re-paid. They gave so much to us and to our children. The kitchen staff prepared absolutely delicious meals for us. Visiting Camp Sunshine afforded us the opportunity to meet people that we may have never met. It provided us with much needed parental group therapy, and the opportunity to enjoy life to the fullest, without worry, for a few days. It is our belief that we have made some bonds with Our Fellow Sunshine Parents and their families; whose warmth and kindness allowed us to share our story, as well as listen to theirs. There is amazing comfort and extra strength that comes from knowing that we are not alone on this journey. And as it continues, we trust that these bonds will last a lifetime.
These experiences could not have been possible without Camp Sunshine. The words “Thank You” almost do not seem to be enough to truly express our heartfelt gratitude for Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine is truly like nothing else!

Go Camp Sunshine!!!

Marianne B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wow what to say about Camp Sunshine. Smiles, laughter, fun, friendship and oh so much more. I have been involved in non-profits before as a volunteer but never one quite as loving, caring, compassionate and dedicated as this camp is. From the relentless dedicated staff who make sure that families have everything they need from arrival to departure, to the thousands of volunteers that are attracted to the camp and what it stands for. And what it stands for to the many who come through the doors – HOPE. The bonding that takes place between the campers themselves, as well as the volunteers is simply amazing. No one is left behind, what I mean is that every family member is treated as royalty. They have so many activities (from sports, to arts and crafts, games, singing and dancing, just to name a few) for the different age groups, from the littlest camper to the biggest, each individual is special . Winter, spring, summer or fall the camps activity is on-going. Certainly anyone who has a child with a life-threatening illness whether near or far should come to camp, it will change your life, you will leave rejuvenated. If you are interested in volunteering this camp will also change your life, as it has mine, you will leave exhausted but the joy inside your heart is like nothing else, knowing that you have spent the week in such a hopeful, respectful and loving environment and you WILL want to do it again. It is and always will be an honor to volunteer for such an outstanding non-profit as Camp Sunshine is.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wow to be able to tell the world about Camp Sunshine is such an honor. My daughter was the first in our family to volunteer she was 16 at the time. When she came home she was so excited and so uplifted about her experience I couldn’t wait to go. A couple of years went by and because of life I was unable to go but it nagged at me. So in 2010 I decided no more excuses I was going and I invited my sister who was recovering from breast cancer. That decision changed my life, working with families and children who everyday struggle with so much more than the rest of us made me realize just how lucky my family, friends and I were. Camp Sunshine became my purpose in life, I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have time and I am so grateful that I found that time in 2010 because I came home and shared my feelings and now my children, their friends, and my neighbors are all volunteering. Camp Sunshine is like a fine tuned machine, the staff and volunteers (who are all so absolutely wonderful) are there for the families and the families who are lucky enough to come have the experience of a life time. For the first time many families are relaxed, they can breathe easy for a few days, experience friendship with people who understand their plight, and most importantly they have fun. I along with many other volunteers walk away with a feeling of such pride to have been able to walk beside volunteers, staff and families for those few days. And many of us make lifetime friends, I am happy to say that I now volunteer a few times a year and I consider that one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Angel10

Client Served

Rating: 5

Life can be a challenge to children who are ill and have to deal with being different. The days we spend Camp Sunshine are the ones where I see my son Ian just be himself and so very happy. What can beat that.

wish2binflorida

Client Served

Rating: 5

First off, I am not just a client served...I am a donor and a future volunteer.

My son has an extremely rare disease. Camp Sunshine allows him to meet with other kids who deal with the same issues he does. It allows me to meet other parents to bond with and connect with so we can talk/chat/email/facebook in between our two year sessions with our hopes/fears/questions/experiences. Camp Sunshine is life changing. There is no way to truly put it in words. It makes more than a difference. It changes your world...though emotional as you talk through some of your emotions and find those emotions that have been buried for a long time. All this while your child is living a fun, safe and normal camp life. Siblings are well provided for as well. Please take a moment to look at their web site where you will see photos filled with love. The volunteers pour their love into each session. The employees are top notch and I could not say enough good about the on site counselor Nancy. If you paid her a million dollars a year, it wouldn't be enough. The sacrifice her family has made by working there is truly a Blessing for all of us.

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Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has an extremely rare disease. Camp Sunshine is the only way to meet others with the disease. Our foundation partners and brings in the top doctors and researchers to make it a vacation, appointment with your specialist for your orphan disease, bonding with other families and hearing first hand in the scientific world what is happening. It is a take-your-breath-away experience. It is full of hugs and tears--both happy to see others, sad to learn the real facts and happy again to learn about hope. I can't recommend it enough. My goal is to come back as a volunteer.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering at Camp Sunshine for over 5 years and it's consistently the best weeks of my year. The Camp itself has great facilities and treats all their volunteers with utmost respect and kindness, even going out of the way to learn everyone's name when thousands of us pass through there every year.

The families I've met have all echoed the same sentiment - that camp sunshine is amazing. I can only speak from a volunteer point of view but I know that I have witnessed communities of support come together and help each other get through this difficult time in their lives.

Volunteering at camp has literally changed my life and I don't see a time in my life when I wouldn't make the trip there at least once a year.

Tammy58

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have told all of you before what an amazing impact Camp Sunshine has had on our family! Tacey has worldwide 'best' friends due to meeting them at Camp Sunshine. However, I wanted to share this with you so you have another testimonial of how Camp impacts others!

This is from Caitlyn Harkness who lives in New Jersey. She is the young lady we flew to Texas for Tacey's birthday.

"I am writing an essay for my language arts monthly writing and I really wanted to share it because it is dear to my heart......"The one person who has influenced me most in my life is My best friend Tacey Raulerson. Tacey was born with a rare cancer called Retinoblastoma which left her blind in both eyes. I met her through a camp for kids with cancer. My brother was also born with this rare form of eye cancer about 7 years ago. Just because she is blind doesn't mean that will stop her from doing anything she wants. Her ambitions are high and this has shown me that know matter what tries to stop you in life you can always find a way around it, and succeed. Even though she is blind she still can text, and she even uses her ipod without any help. She goes to regular school like you and me.
Tacey has really influenced me in my life because even though she is blind nothing will stop her from doing what she wants. You can say she is sorta hard headed, which I admire most because know one can tell her she can't, because she knows she always can. When we are at camp she does everything that any normal kid would, she goes out on the lake in a boat, she plays the game where we throw mini bean bags into a hole, and she plays volleyball which is our personal favorite. Some times I forget she is blind, which I guess to me means that she is so willing and strong enough to want to do everything we do,even though it might be challenging, its almost like she is like a super human. Her strength and views on the world makes me determine to be a better person and to view the world in a better way. Most people would be to scared to treat her as if though she isn't blind, but I have learned that if you treat a blind person as if though they are blind they will be upset verses if you don't treat them blind and you push them to do something out of there comfort zone they will be happy with the result. Her letting me guid her and letting me help her has inspired me because she trusts me enough to guid her and to help her do everything that I do and its a blessing from god to expose me to something like this. It taught me that everyone is the same know matter your disabilities, they are all people who desire to do everything we do and is willing to do what it takes to live a normal life.
I've never imagined my life having such an impact from one person who has accomplished so much in such little time. Tacey has influenced me in two ways; she taught me know matter how hard life gets, it always gets better in the end. Tacey was sick for the first 7 years of her life, always in the hospital going through chemo and more chemo. she somehow though, always kept a smile on her face and always saw the positive in life. Words really can't described how she impacted my life simply because it was is a life changing experience that not many can say they have experienced. Secondly she showed me that you can truly look over someones disabilities. Again its hard to explain in words of how you can truly look past someone who has a disability all I can say is that a person is a person and thats all I see them as. In the future I really hope our world is able to completely change in a way that I have, being able to treat everyone as just a person, viewing them on there personality, and not singling them out because they are different. The one person who has influenced me most in my life is my best friend Tacey Raulerson."

Tacey I love you! best friends for life!!!!"

Thank you AGAIN for everything all of you do to make Camp Sunshine such a magical place!!!

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Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is an oasis for us! Our family’s attendance depends on generous donors, grants and other sponsorships. To understand why it means so much to us, you have to know our story.
After 13 years of marriage, my husband and I elatedly welcomed our precious daughter, Tacey, into our lives. Seven short months later, our world was again forever changed when she was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a very rare cancer that forms tumors in the eyes of infants. Despite a hard fight with chemo, radiation and other treatments, Tacey eventually lost both eyes to this horrible disease. Tacey is now 13 years old and the joy of our lives!
Being blind has not slowed Tacey down in life! She is a very successful seventh grader with extremely high aspirations in our local public school. She swims as often as possible and plays the piano and guitar as she sings songs she composes. In her free time, she also rides horses. She and her horse lead parades, carry the USA flag for rodeos and participate in many special events. As much as we dislike (or despise) this disease, it has made Tacey who she is today! That, I wouldn’t change for any amount of money!
So many times in life, Tacey is told she cannot do things because she is blind. Many in society often feel she must be protected even when she is very capable of doing certain things.
At Camp Sunshine, Tacey isn’t told she can’t do something! She is able to do everything all the other children do. She is allowed to shine in a way that builds her confidence and allows her to go back to face the daily struggles.
Dealing not only with cancer, but also with a ‘disability’ can be challenging to say the least! Having an amazing group like Camp Sunshine where our family can not only have fun together while leaving the cares of the world behind, but also to meet other families and share our experiences is very therapeutic and healing for all of us! Our friends at Camp Sunshine, from the staff, volunteer and other families, have become an extension of our amazing family! Spending time at camp and with our Camp Sunshine family is a truly priceless experience!

Michael, Tammy and Tacey Raulerson

Client Served

Rating: 5

Prior to May 2006 we were a family that traveled often and wasn't afraid of adventure. Once my daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia our traveling came to a full stop. We were so afraid to leave the house because at any sign of a fever we had to rush her to the Emergency Room. Camp Sunshine brought to our family that sense of fun & adventure in a safe, clean, and fun environment. We have the best memories from Camp Sunshine. They provide families with a great program, support, an ER doctor 24 hours a day, excellent food, and daycare. Parents get to relax and participate as much or as little as they want. The kids have the best time without any reservations because of the carefully selected group of volunteers and staff. We have been to Camp Sunshine many times, and plan on attending in the near future. It is a family! Come and visit...

Ellen50

Client Served

Rating: 5

My children and I were literally saved by Camp Sunshine. With little family support, we drove from Michigan to Maine in 2006 with no idea what to expect. We have met the best friends we will ever have, the nicest volunteers and the most amazing staff possible. It changed our lives, made living with my daughters brain tumor doable and enabled us to do so many thing to empower her and the rest of our family. I thank God every day for Camp Sunshine!

Tony30

Client Served

Rating: 5

“I Found HOPE at CAMP SUNSHINE”

I spent last weekend at CAMP SUNSHINE with my family. CAMP SUNSHINE is a place where my son Cole was able to enjoy his life before cancer and the harsh treatments he received stole his ability to run, swim, play, and laugh like all children should. CAMP SUNSHINE is run by volunteers; mostly young people in high school and college. I have such great memories of Cole and his brother and sister delighting in this wonderful place together, but it also hurts me to remember that this was one of the last places Cole was strong and healthy enough to enjoy pain-free. After Cole died I attended a bereavement weekend there with my family. It was only a few months after my son passed away and it was agonizing for me to be there without him, at that time I was nothing more than a ball of tightly wound anger. I forced my way through that weekend hiding behind a false smile for Cole’s twin brother Troy and big sister Tara. They love it at CAMP SUNSHINE so I did it for them, but inside I swore I would never go back. I thought it would always be too sorrowful for me to return.

Awhile back my family was selected to attend another bereavement gathering scheduled for last weekend and I had no intentions of appearing but after weeks of pleading from Tara and Troy I reluctantly agreed. I am so happy that I did because on the very first morning there I was presented with a great display of HOPE provided by two young volunteer counselors named MaryEllen and Kim. For those that don’t know me well I am not a morning person. It usually takes me an hour or so and at least two cups of strong coffee before my mind and body get going. However this morning as soon as we sat down for breakfast in the cafeteria MaryEllen and Kim joined us and I was immediately showered with their energy and passion to help increase funding, research, and awareness for childhood cancer. My heart was suddenly filled with HOPE; here were two young women who were intent on achieving everything we strive for to help put an end to the monster that is childhood cancer. Throughout the weekend I witnessed an equal display of enthusiasm from so many other young volunteers.

There is a theory thrown around that childhood cancer does not get the attention it needs to achieve greater funding because the subject is just too dark and uncomfortable to think about. MaryEllen, Kim, Andy, Jarryd, Adrienne and many more incredible young volunteers at CAMP SUNSHINE proved that is a weak excuse. They face the horror of childhood cancer head on with unbridled love, compassion, and enthusiasm that is truly inspirational. They were not forced into this battle like many of us; instead they have chosen to take part simply because it is the right thing to do. This gives me HOPE that the generation that will follow us will not hide behind excuses or give up when faced with obstacles in the battle against childhood cancer. To all the volunteers at CAMP SUNSHINE I just want to say thank you for all you do and for giving me HOPE that the future will be brighter because of you!


Tony Stoddard

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is a truly amazing place. It is wonderful what a talented, dedicated staff and a bunch of enthusiastic, caring volunteers can accomplish for the families that are able to attend. It provides a magical experience for everyone who is involved and it gives each person the opportunity to give of themselves to another individual and have a real impact on the lives of others. I have served as a volunteer and am returning this weekend to volunteer again. I plan to return as often as I am able. It is a life changing experience.

Sarah-Fay M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have now had the opportunity to volunteer at camp four times and will be returning this weekend to volunteer again. As a former client served I cannot even begin to describe how much of an impact this organization has had on my family and my life. When we attended as a family my brother and I, the "normal" siblings, were finally able to find others that we could relate with and really, really talk to. My brothers and I have established lifelong friendships from our time as campers. I began volunteering last year by myself and was able to share the volunteer experience with my mother and my husband this year; I honestly inform everyone about Camp Sunshine and encourage volunteering or supporting Camp in any way. It is impossible to put into words how much Camp means to me, but I can tell you that I am constantly using my earned vacation and personal days to VOLUNTEER, if that shows you how amazing volunteering for this organization is.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

The first time I attended camp was in the early 2000's as a camper; my brother had leukemia and we attended as a family three to four times. Camp is such an amazing place for families experiencing these hardships to sit back, relax, and connect. I finally was able to give back and volunteer this summer and can say that volunteering is even more of an amazing experience. You can see the joy, hope and gratitude in the families eyes as they are able to have a normal summer experience. By the time the week was over I did not want to leave and jumped at the opportunity to come back, which I will be doing in about two weeks. I have also spread the word about Camp to ALL of my family and friends and can't wait to spread the joy and hope for the years to come.