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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 the only program 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 and psychosocial support. Bereavement sessions are also offered for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness.

Results: Over the past 32 years, Camp Sunshine has served more than 48,900 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: 750-800 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

100 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the blessing to be able to volunteer for a number of different organizations throughout the years including Camp Sunshine, Habitat for Humanity, The Boston Food Pantry and even a few organizations in Zimbabwe. Camp Sunshine has far exceeded all of these organizations for professionalism and overall organization. That, coupled with the concept of serving not only the ill children but also catering to the entire family of the children makes Camp Sunshine a truly unique organization. The experiences and relationships my wife and I have enjoyed at camp will stay with us the rest of our lives. Every session at camp guarantees us another lifetime memory and we look forward to serving Camp Sunshine as long as we are able to. Camp Sunshine is truly an amazing organization that we are proud and honored to be involved with!

Beth70

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first started volunteering at Camp Sunshine seven years ago. To say that Camp Sunshine is the best place for families would be an understatement. Camp Sunshine IS the place to be for families going through difficult times due to illness. Camp gives families the opportunity to get away from the pain and worries for one week, and reunite as simply just a family. As a volunteer, I have met many familes and have kept in touch with so many of them as well. For me, I return every year because sometimes I need to be reminded of how good I have it and that children are going through things that I could never even imagine going through as an adult. The smiles, the laughter, the fun, the families, and the staff are what makes this the best place to be. This was truly a life-changing, humbling experience. I have learned so much from the kids. Unfortunately, due to illness in my family, I have not been able to go since last year, but it is where I will be this summer. Beth Gervais

Ally F.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I can never put into words how great Camp Sunshine is; not any words that do it justice at least. This place is amazing. Volunteering there has provided me with so many opportunities, and because of Camp Sunshine, I have been able to figure out a career path. Camp Sunshine has made me want to be an advocate for childhood cancer research and to hopefully be a PA for pediatric oncology some day. I would recommend volunteering here to anyone because it is an unbelievably rewarding experience. I have met some of the most amazing people here and have developed many lifelong friendships. The strength of the families is beyond inspiring and everyone should have the opportunity to experience the magic that Camp Sunshine brings to life.

Review from CharityNavigator

Laura107

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a camper at Camp Sunshine in 1990 and have been volunteering since 2004. It is truly a life changing place. They have given me a chance to take my own experiences and use what I have learned to help others. Families of children with chronic illnesses face so many challenges, and camp gives them time to spend time together without stress. Siblings are placed with children their own age and parents can have fun while also joining in support groups. I think that many families facing pediatric illnesses feel that they are alone but camp helps them to build relationships with people who are experiencing what they are. I love Camp Sunshine dearly, and really think that they deserve this recognition.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is an amazing and life changing experience. It is a safe haven for the entire family struggling with a child's life-threatening illness. The camp is a FUN place for all, but also a very supportive and "normal" place for the family. All the families that attend during the week share a similar yet very different story. They have this place to share their story, be heard, and most importantly, be understood. As a volunteer, it is so powerful to see how this camp leaves a such a feeling of hope and love in all who attend. It's a true transformation that takes place right before your eyes. This place is a tremendous blessing to all. It is a place you WANT to keep coming back to year after year.. so amazing.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is one of the greatest places on earth. I started volunteering there in August 2010, and went back for 5 more sessions before June 2011 (when I moved out of the area). I have met life-long friends at Camp, and miss it every day! I can't wait to get back to volunteering there in the near future. If you ever need a place to donate time or money to - this is it!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughter, several students and I have been volunteering at Camp Sunshine each February for the past five years. It is the most loving, caring, place I have ever been. The staff is wonderful, the families inspirational. If Camp Sunshine was closer to home, there is no doubt that I would spend a lot more time there.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found Camp Sunshine through my high school's Key Club. Groups of students from my school have gone and volunteered, and even as many of us graduate this year, I am sure that we will continue to come. Camp Sunshine very clearly makes a huge difference in the lives of everyone who comes there, whether as a volunteer or as a family member. It has a positive environment where everyone feels comfortable, welcome, included. People enjoy themselves, the kids feel special, and the adults connect with other people going through similar situations and have the pleasure of seeing their children having such an amazing time. Everyone benefits. This place is difficult to describe because it is absolutely so amazing. Coming to camp helps people just as much as any medicine would; it is an incredible experience. I donate to Camp Sunshine, and I really recommend supporting this program. It changes lives.

Barbara103

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Currently my family volunteers at Camp Sunshine, but our first introduction to Camp was as a family with a sick child. Whether you are a family member being catered to by Camp Sunshine, or a volunteer, Camp Sunshie truly is a magical place. Where else can the entire family feel cared for in every way possible? Camp provides a full array of camp activities, three full meals a day, evening entertainment, time to talk with other parents of sick children with a supportive psychosocial director, and if all this was not enough, there is a doctor on-site to care for any medical needs that may arise! My children have fun every time they attend camp! The volunteers are amazing and the smiles on the campers' faces reflects the spirit of Camp!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It's very difficult to convey what Camp Sunshine means to me, because it's simply incomparable to anything else I've done in my short years. I began my Camp Sunshine journey at 17 years old. I am now 24 and can't imagine life without multiple yearly 3-hr drives to Camp. From the staff, who have remembered my name since 2006 even though I only go up a couple of times a year, to the families who accept and embrace my help and sentiments and hope, even though I can't truly know what it is they go through, there isn't one thing about Camp Sunshine that's left me unsatisfied. Volunteering at Camp grounds me - I leave grateful for my health, my family, my LIFE. I leave humbled and admittedly, often heartbroken that these wonderful, strong, selfless families suffer. But it is things like Camp Sunshine that ease their suffering, or at least that's what they tell us, and in that I can find solace knowing that I've helped in the slightest. But - it isn't about my satisfaction or solace, it's about the families, and Camp Sunshine is quite simply such a stellar place full of so many worthwhile humans you can't help but become overwhelmed with emotion. Explaining what makes this a "stellar" organization would take all day, but let me share this short anecdote: This November at a bereavement session, there was a balloon launch, which is an event for families and volunteers to remember siblings, children, friends and loved ones who have passed away. I didn't have to furiously struggle to hold back my tears, as I feared I would have to, because even though there were many tears falling, it was still a moment of celebration, albeit bittersweet celebration. As the graffiti-ed white balloons rose into the air above the lake, a toddler yelled to her sister to "Make sure you take a good look at it - I don't want you to miss any of my message." That's Camp Sunshine - it might be heart-wrenching, but you'll never be alone here and if you want to yell (or scream or cry) up to the sky, there will be a beach full of family supporting you always.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We started going to camp Sunshine to volunteer as a family in 2004 and have continued ever since, we wouldn't think of missing a year. our church group started the ball rolling with 5 volunteers and it's since grown to over 15 church members going...........every year someone else decides to go and keeps going. i really think this gave my daughter a direction in life She now knows the feeling of giving back and helping others. we have made some wonderful friends over the years and know we'll always want to continue.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is by far the most amazing place on earth. When I first volunteered at camp I left there with a whole new look on life. Camp Sunshine truly changed my life. It made me so appreciate for everything I have and I met the most amazing, strong, funny and appreciative people I have ever met. Camp Sunshine has become my favorite place in the world and each and every time I go I leave feeling rewarded and like I truly helped impact these families lives for the better. I honestly believe that everyone should volunteer at Camp Sunshine because I guarantee it would change their lives forever.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Started at Camp Sunshine when my 12 yr old daughter got Leukemia (2005). I wouldn't wish this disease on anyone but without it I would never have experience the enormous love & compasion we received from the staff & volunteers at Camp. The best cross-section of humanity that I've ever encountered. We loved it as a family. It had emotional healing for everyone not just my daughter. Kids bonded immediately with the others. Never, ever found a better environment for siblings of sick kids. They get left behind so much during the treatments, but not at Camp. Parent share advice. What has worked, what hasn't. You can't get that kind of feedback from doctors. Then when we returned, it was if no time had elapsed, we picked up right where we left off. They are family. Now returning as a volunteer. I love giving back to the place that helped us out so much. One my top ten places on earth. Truly life-changing. Go Camp Sunshine!

Laura106

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The first time I heard about Camp Sunshine, I knew it was a place where I wanted my family to volunteer. We started with my husband and I as volunteers, and my children as campers. After that first year, there was no doubt that we would be back every year we could. Now my whole family volunteers. It is a given that Camp Sunshine is part of our summer. My famiily is able to share a magical experience while building our seperate friendships among the volunteers and families attending camp. All of our lives have been changed for the better because of camp. I have heard each of my kids comment. seerately, that there is no other place like Camp Sunshine and they can't imagine their lives without th e time we spend there. The work that is done at this camp is extraordinary. Children who feel they have no one who understands their illness call camp "HOME." Parents who carry the sadness and fear for their children can find commonalities and support from each and every person there. You see many unlikely friendships at camp. Why - because the people who run Camp Sunshine do an amazing job at giving support, respite and fun to each and every person.

Lexi G.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went to camp for the first time in September. Not knowing what to expect I arrived nervous and anxious, but after 10 minutes of being there I was embraced by other happy volunteers all wanting to get to know me. I had the most amazing tme at camp and I tell everyone I run into about my time there. I was fortunate to be with the 6 to 8 year olds who were more full of life and happy than any children I have ever met. I was able to connect with the kids and families ans share stories and memories with them. I cried when I had to say goodbye to my campers and other volunteers!!! They were also tears of joy because of the amazing time I had and it was the first time I had ever felt like I truly made a difference in the lives of others. What's even better is that I still keep in touch with the families and the volunteers and we are all going to try to go to the same session next year! Camp sunshine is truly an amazing and inspiring place.

Bonnie35

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The opportunity to be a repeat volunteer at Camp Sunshine is one of the best experiences I've ever had. Bonding with entire families is amazing. Bringing the whole family to camp provides the opportunity for each member to interact with others that are going through the same ordeal. It offers an atmosphere of fun and support. I am honored to have met some of the bravest people ever. The kids can be 'just kids' and the parents can laugh and enjoy a special family memory. I love Camp Sunshine and encourage anyone who has a week or a long-weekend opportunity to make their way up North, and arrange to volunteer.

Don_13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My family discovered Camp Sunshine in 2001 as a supportive, informative, nurturing community of families, in our case, with a child with kidney disease. We went as a family...free of charge thanks to a pool of generous donors...for six years and have now been volunteering for five years. Each week, throughout most of the year, a the camp hosts children and their families, with different life threatening diseases. I our case, we learned all about kidney disease and transplants, the various drugs and their side effects. This was not information from doctors, but families that were going through the daily grind of providing the best care that they were capable of providing. We heard to miracles, the failures, the trials that the children and families went through. The kids were in a supportive place where their scars and tubes and bodies puffed up by steriods were just another one of the kids at camp, free to enjoythe activities and make many new friends. No ne stared or laughed or asked stupid questions. This gave my daughter Lizzie and us, her family all kinds of information needed for Lizzie to choose a pilot drug study that did not use steroids or an imuno-surpresent drug that is toxic to kidneys post transplant. The camp staff is amazing and the 70 or so volunteers at each session provide care, support and friendship to each and every family. In our family we say that "there is no place like Camp Sunshine".

Brandi H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Sunshine is hands down (or hands up) one of the most amazing places on earth. I've been volunteering as a camp counselor for Camp Sunshine for over 7 years. Typically, volunteer work is thought of as an act of giving, but it's hard to leave Camp without feeling you're always taking more than you've given. It has an amazing, small staff who somehow remember the names of hundreds of repeat volunteers and always walk the halls with a smile. From an on-site doctor to well-kept volunteer housing units and 3 meals a day --- there's little sacrifice to giving of your time here. For every ounce you give, you're given a pound in return. The magic of Camp comes from the children you interact with. The families who come to Camp are incredible. They are strong. They have perspective. They know how to live every minute. And they share all of that with you. Camp Sunshine makes every session special from small Winter sessions with camp fires, marshmallows, and ice skating to bustling Summer weeks of water activities, volleyball, and challenge course activities. Camp Sunshine changes lives - not just those of the families it serves, but of those who volunteer to help that mission. Get involved. You won't regret it.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The first time we went to Camp sunshine it was in 2005 when my younger son was being treated for Hodgkins Lymphoma. At that time we were devastated and the whole family needed a brake. We experienced such a warm, happy and supporting atmosphere. The next year we were fortunately invited again. It was at the end of that session that my oldest son who was 15 years old wanted to become a volunteer. So, the next year, my son, a friend and I became volunteers. The following year my husband also came with us and 3 years ago my younger son proudly became a volunteer. We love to help children and their families to enjoy their session, have a great time and forget their illnesses, the same way we were treated a while ago. We are so happy and proud to be part of the Camp Sunshine family. Camp Sunshine exceeds all our expectations of a great organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been blessed to volunteer at Camp Sunshine the past few years. Camp Sunshine is an amazing organization to work with. I love the fact that Camp Sunshine caters to the entire family, enabling them to be together while also enjoying activities based off of the children's age group. The program that Camp Sunshine runs is amazing and I plan to go back year after year, despite it being an 8 to 9 hour drive for me. The people at Camp Sunshine are compassionate and upbeat and the bond that one forms with the campers and families is astounding and cannot be found anywhere else that I have been. I have made lifelong friends at Camp Sunshine and my week spent at camp always manages to be the highlight of my summer.