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.
What is Camp Sunshine?
Camp Sunshine is one of the New England and Bermuda District Projects located in Casco, Maine, near the beautiful Sebago Lake. It is a year-round program that serves children with life-threatening illnesses and their families by enabling hope and promoting joy.
In 1983, Dr. Larry Gould saw a television program about a summer camp for children with cancer. The program inspired him and Anna Gould to provide a similar experience to families at their Point Sebago Resort, generously donating their personnel and facilities. After discussions with the chief of pediatric oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Anna Gould and Larry Gould offered a pilot camp for 43 children with cancer and their families in June 1984.
The program was well-received, and expanded to four weeks a year, two weeks in early June, and two weeks in late September. Camp Sunshine was now offering four to six sessions during the spring and autumn months and serving about 180 families each year. Still, with the growing demand for their services, Larry Gould and Anna Gould recognized that they needed to expand further.
In 2001, Camp Sunshine opened its year-round facility on 24 acres of land donated by Anna Gould and Larry Gould. The opening of the new campus allowed Camp Sunshine to help more families than ever before. Today, Camp Sunshine holds programs year-round, for a total of more than 25 programs every year and is now able to serve as many as 750 families or 3,000 family members annually. This brings the number of family members served by Camp Sunshine to more than 43,500 from 48 states and 23 countries. Camp Sunshine is also now able to help children with a wider variety of illnesses, including cancer, hematologic conditions, renal disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, children who have undergone solid organ transplants, and many other conditions. Camp Sunshine also holds bereavement periods in the spring and autumn for those family members who have lost a child to an illness.
Camp Sunshine organizes recreational activities for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, allowing families to relax and have fun, rebuild relationships with each other, and form new supportive relationships with people facing similar challenges. Camp Sunshine also provides medical and psychological support for these families 24 hours of the day. A stay at Camp Sunshine is free of charge for all families, thanks to the generous donations of time and money from many individuals and organizations, including the New England and Bermuda District of Key Clubs.
How can my Key Club help?
Donate Funds or Needed Items
Your Key Club can help Camp Sunshine by holding a fundraising project dedicated to Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine is supported financially so that it can continue to provide its services free of charge for those in need. The New England and Bermuda District of Key Clubs proudly supports Camp Sunshine with donations collected at our annual District Educational Conference (DECON) during the Parade of Checks.
Key Clubbers can also help Camp Sunshine by volunteering at the camp! Your club can bring your enthusiasm and compassion to Camp Sunshine to make every family’s stay great! Since Camp Sunshine’s programs were started in 1984, volunteers have donated more than one million hours of their time to the organization. Volunteers are a crucial part of Camp Sunshine’s ability to provide their services for free, and the camp relies on more than 2,500 volunteers every year.
Volunteers must be at least 16 years old, and they serve in a variety of roles as camp counselors, including childcare, one-on-one assistance, kitchen support, and more. Assignments to the different positions are based on experience and the timeliness of the applications. Meals and lodging are provided for free in exchange for the volunteers’ services. It is important to note that volunteers under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a chaperone who is at least 21 years old to stay at the camp.