Life Enrichment
My Give Back Story: Camp Sunshine

My Give Back Story: Camp Sunshine

By Mark Stephens

Camp Sunshine is dedicated to children with cancer - do you have a personal tie to this cause?
Although many volunteers have a personal connection with childhood cancer through their profession, friends and family that have had cancer, or have even survived cancer themselves, I became involved simply because friends who were already volunteers told me I had to do it. I volunteered, was lucky to make it through the screening process, and now I couldn’t think of missing camp.  This last summer was my twentieth year volunteering with Camp Sunshine.

What types of activities happen at the camp?
Our kids participate in all the summer camp activities that you would see at a traditional camp - swimming, archery, horseback riding, tennis, pottery, fishing, daily newspaper, ropes course, biking and much more.  Camp was founded to provide the chance to experience these very normal activities to kids whose day to day activities are anything but normal due to their illnesses and treatments. Most volunteers either live in a cabin with a group of campers, serving as their counselor and leader throughout the week, or man the activities in which the campers participate during activity periods.

What has been your most memorable experience there?
Too many to even mention. They range from the daily acceptance, support, encouragement and hope shared by kids with a common experience, to the dramatic – a volunteer guiding a blind teenage girl through a high ropes course, or the sacrifice of a mom who lets her daughter spend her last day at the place, and among the friends, where she felt most at home.

For people looking to get involved, what advice would you give them?
Go to www.mycampsunshine.com to complete an application.  If you get an interview, be ready to sing a song.  I’m lucky they didn’t do that 20 years ago.

What do you look forward to the most when you go to 
Camp Sunshine?
Once a kid comes to camp, he or she can return to camp each year until they are 18 years old. I most look forward to seeing the campers return, grow and mature, and serve as role models for the newly diagnosed campers. Many continue on with Camp Sunshine after they are 18 and become counselors. I work with many volunteers now that I first met as a 13-year-old in one of my cabins.

How has the camp changed over the years?
The biggest change in summer camp since my first year is that so many of the volunteers are now surviving campers. They can connect with the kids in a way that us others can only imagine. Also, Camp Sunshine has grown well beyond a one week summer camp for kids, and now offers year round programs supporting children with cancer and their families, including family weekends, pre-school programs, teen retreats, sibling camp, young adult programs and many other educational and support programs.

Do you have a Give Back story? 
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