By Matthew M. Hoidal, Esq., Executive Director, Camp Sunshine
With September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we hope increased awareness and funding will lead to increased survivorship and cure rates. In the meantime, Camp Sunshine, a Maine Camp Experience (MCE) member camp, continues to serve as the unique resource of respite for these children and their families. For 29 years, Camp Sunshine has been a beacon of hope, support, and love to thousands of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Located in Casco, Maine, along the shores of Sebago Lake, the Camp is a safe place where families can feel “normal” again. From the moment they step foot onto the 24-acre campus, families become part of the Camp Sunshine family. Connections made there are often referred to as life-lasting.
Recreational activities are planned for each age group, including the parents. Additionally, psychosocial support groups are offered daily, where families have the opportunity to meet and share experiences with other families who are going through exactly what they are. And with a doctor on-site 24 hours a day, they can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that if something should arise, the Camp has the professional support and experience needed to safely address their child’s condition.
A place as unique as Camp Sunshine is a labor of love, made possible by hundreds of thousands of volunteers who give generously of their time. Every year, over 2,500 volunteers give more than 70,000 hours of their time. Many of these volunteers come from other Maine Camp Experience (MCE) camps. Additionally, many of these MCE camps also contribute financially to the program, helping Camp Sunshine continue to offer its program FREE of charge to all families.
Below is a letter that one family wrote to their sponsor about their time at Camp Sunshine:
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the opportunity to attend Camp Sunshine. Our experience here was unparalleled and we are very appreciative that we were able to attend.
Our second son, Dylan, is 6 years old and has Fanconi anemia, an inherited blood disorder which leads to bone marrow failure and a 500 times more likely chance of certain types of cancer. We’ve known about Dylan’s disease since he was 5 months old, and have been trying to prepare ourselves for his eventual transplant by learning as much as we could about the disease, transplant protocols, and ways to keep our son as healthy as possible for as long as possible. But until Camp Sunshine, we had never met any other children with Fanconi anemia and other families who are dealing with the same disease.
We have had 5 wonderful days at Camp Sunshine, attending lectures by scientists, doctors, researchers, and other health professionals working in the field. We’ve exchanged stories with other families and formed bonds here that will last a lifetime. We have so much more knowledge now about this disease, and a sense of HOPE – with all the research and advances that have been made in the last 20 – 30 years – that one day, there will be a cure for this disease and no more children or adults will suffer or die from it.
And none of this would have been possible without your sponsorship of our family which allowed us to attend Camp.
Thank you again from our family – it’s been a fabulous time and we owe it all to you!
Mark, Lisa, Dylan & Connor
For more information about Camp Sunshine and its special programs for children with life-threatening diseases and their families click here.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge®, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.