While attending the Association for Child Life Professionals conference this past May, I had the pleasure to meet the representatives of Camp Sunshine. I wanted to share this amazing organization, so we can better support the families we work with and also volunteer our time as a camp counselor.
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.
A cost-free, year-round retreat on the shores of Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine
In 2017, nearly 700 families from all over the world will have attended Camp Sunshine’s one-of-a-kind retreat in Casco, Maine.
When families first hear about Camp Sunshine, their initial reaction can sometimes be: “My family gets to go on a free trip to Maine? What’s the catch?” But when they begin to do research and speak with Camp Sunshine’s Family Support Team, they quickly realize that there truly isn’t a catch and that the program is simply designed to be a safe, tranquil place for families to relax, reenergize and restore hope for the future.
“The transformation that happens during a Camp Sunshine session is one of love, kindness and hope,” explains Camp Sunshine’s Psychosocial Director, Nancy Cincotta, MSW, MPhil. “The challenges each person in the family faces outside of Camp Sunshine are incredibly complex, which is why it is so important for us to create communities of support for each member of the family, so they know they are not alone on their journeys.”
Sessions at Camp Sunshine are designed to restore a sense of normalcy by offering families the ability to be around other families who are going through similar challenges. All campers (including siblings and parents) are able to participate in many exciting activities year-round like performing in the talent show, bass fishing, swimming in Sebago Lake or in the indoor pool, challenging themselves on the ropes course, and even snowshoeing, ice-skating and sledding in the winter. It is Camp Sunshine’s goal to educate, inspire and empower all families, preparing them to return home reinvigorated.
Creating Sunshine for Others
“The important connections that are fostered when a family walks through one of Camp Sunshine’s three, iconic front doors does not happen without the kindness and support of many people, including our generous donors, volunteers and families,” explained Camp Sunshine’s Executive Director Michael Katz. “There is nothing more inspiring than to have a family share with us that Camp Sunshine has changed their lives and in some instances saved their lives,” Katz continued. “We are so thankful to our donors and volunteers for helping us continue to create sunshine for these families.”
If you know a family with a child who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, please consider referring the child’s family to Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine is still accepting applications for illness-specific fall and winter retreats in 2017. Session dates for 2018 will be released in early December. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Family and volunteer applications can be found online.