Enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers bring joy and play to the outpatient waiting and infusion sites at area hospitals, creating a camp-like atmosphere filled with FUN! The Sunrise on Wheels Pearl River program has achieved great success over the past six months and has served more than 300 children this year.
In April 2014, Sunrise Day Camp Pearl River initiated its first Sunrise on Wheels Program at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. A few months later in July 2014, the Wheels program rolled into New York- Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital's outpatient setting, and we anticipate that Sunrise on Wheels will be bringing smiles to children at Hackensack University Medical Center in Winter/Spring 2015. We are very excited about our new endeavors in the hospitals and appreciate their wonderful collaboration and reception of this program.
Crafty creations presented weekly have kept participants from ages 1 to 23 years engaged and distracted from the reality of being at the site for necessary and often painful and scary cancer treatments. Some of our most recent favorite projects are classy clipboards, painted pumpkins and terrific turkeys. In addition, children and teens at the program have learned to play new games, master puzzles and interact with one another in a playroom-like atmosphere. Much fun lies in the donated trunk filled with treasures to keep patients occupied during our sessions. Parents often share in the activities or take the opportunity to meet with a medical professional while their child is busy with the Wheels team. One parent at New York Presbyterian said, "I changed the appointment day I come to the hospital for outpatient treatment with my 19 month old as she loves the projects she gets to make and spending time playing with the Sunrise on Wheels volunteers!"
The magical weekly activity at Maria Fareri and NYP could not be accomplished without the generosity of our volunteers and donors. Sunrise on Wheels has been welcomed and so well-received at our 9 Sunrise Day Camp hospitals. We are thrilled to report that when the Wheels roll into Hackensack University Medical Center we will be at #10!!! Let’s roll on….
At Sunrise – Pearl River, local corporations play a vital role in the keeping our camp's magic going year after year. So every summer we invite our corporate supporters to help with a special volunteer day event for the kids. This year, we were thrilled to have our friends from Pfizer join us during “Superhero Week”.
Over 25 volunteers toured our beautiful campgrounds and then helped prepare and run an afternoon of “super” activities. We began with field games including, Pass the Kryptonite, The X-Ray Vision Game, Super Duper Obstacle Course, Guess the Superhero, and Superman’s Cape. Then we moved indoors for some superhero themed arts and crafts. The children also received a surprise, live visit from Batman and the Hulk!
Volunteers from the Pfizer Pearl River Team later commented, “Volunteering at the Sunrise Camp Corporate Day gave each of us such joy. The campers reminded us that what we do each day to produce pharmaceuticals for children is important work and the results are immeasurable. Their smiles said it all. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your wonderful program.”
This summer, nearly 150 children submitted applications and were medically cleared to attend Sunrise – Pearl River, which is offered completely free of charge. Without the support of the entire community, including generous individuals and corporations like Pfizer, Sunrise could not do what it does each summer. Therefore, every year we begin our efforts anew, to ensure that children with cancer in our area get the chance to stop feeling like patients and the opportunity to just feel like kids again.
We asked them to roll up their sleeves, get a little dirty, and prepare to work – and that’s exactly what happened when over 45 volunteers descended upon Sunrise Day Camp – Pearl River to help prepare the grounds for this year’s summer season. Volunteers of all ages came out for our second annual clean-up day and got busy sanding, painting, moving debris, cleaning, and planting to create a fresh, colorful and welcoming environment for our Sunrise Campers.
At Sunrise, safety is priority number one and for children with cancer that means special care must be taken to keep things safe and sanitary. For that reason many volunteers focused on meticulously cleaning the tables and chairs in our Sunrise Pavilion, which our campers use throughout the camp day. Other volunteers gave our “Round-up” bleachers a thorough sanding (to remove any rough edges or potential splinters) and a new coat of paint. Still others spent hours clearing debris from the center of camp and surrounding trails. Since some Sunrise campers struggle with mobility, tripping on a branch or a loose stone could cause serious injury.
Many volunteers made clean-up day a family affair. No matter their age, everyone pitched in and found a way to give back to children with cancer. Mother and daughter team Wendy and Jamie Nanus brought flats of flowers and devoted their day to beautifying our camp’s “Quiet Spot”, a special place where siblings can go during the camp day to be alone together. Jamie remarked, “I can’t imagine being a kid and having to live with cancer. I wanted to come today and help make this camp the most beautiful place they’ve ever seen.”
Elly Blankenbueheler, the parent of two Sunrise Day Camp - Pearl River campers describes the impact Sunrise has had on her family.
One Sunday, last fall 2012, our 3 year old daughter, Sofia, woke up dragging her right foot and complaining of pain in her leg. 8 days later she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. That day cancer entered our lives and has forever changed us. Living with cancer is our new normal.
Sofia at Sunrise
After many dark days, spring finally came and so did the words "Sunrise Day Camp." Camp is not just at the campgrounds but at the oncology clinic as well. In the hospital we met volunteers from the Wheels Program toting a trunk filled with crafts, games, books and more! It was all Sofia spoke about. And when Sofia's doctor told her she could go to the camp, her face lit up bigger and brighter than any Christmas morning!
With one less income and medical bills we feared we could not afford the amazing fit of Sunrise - but then we were told the entire program was free! Because of Sunrise children diagnosed with cancer are given the opportunity to live normal happy lives.
Last summer, Sunrise Day Camp - Pearl River served 105 children like Sofia and her brother Luca. This year we expect our numbers to most likely double. We depend on the generosity of philanthropic people like you to help us keep our promise that no child will be turned away from a summer at Sunrise.
Sunrise on Wheels is the newest, and perhaps the most exciting year-round project that has come from our Sunrise Day Camp Summer program, bringing the day camping experience right into the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Departments of our affiliated hospitals.
Throughout the year, so many of our Sunrise campers spend countless hours sitting in the waiting rooms of their outpatient clinics, anticipating lab work, checkups, receiving chemotherapy treatments and follow up routines. This experience can be long, monotonous, and even frightening.
But our Sunrise on Wheels program works to counter that experience by bringing the joy and excitement of camp to children undergoing cancer treatment. Here’s how it works - the best of Sunrise Day Camp’s trained volunteers and staff bring a rolling, rainbow camp trunk filled with toys, puzzles, games, arts and crafts, and special surprises into inpatient and outpatient units. We bring to these children simple toys such as dominoes, handheld puzzle games, Etch-A-Sketch, and Ants in the Pants. As the children dig deeper into the magical trunk, they also find board games such as Let's Go Fishing, Backgammon, Candy Land, and Trouble. Reach into the trunk even further, and arts and crafts supplies like Do-A-Dot, coloring books, stickers, markers, and paints will burst through to the surface. There are quiet games for individual children and daily group activities so everyone can play together. Sunrise on Wheels also offers an extra special themed art project each week for the children, coinciding with holidays and special events. Of course we would never forget our parents and families, whose days are also tedious and taxing; we bring special things for them to do as well, such as Internet ready laptop computers, tablets and hand held games. Our magical trunk is constantly changing, and our children and families continue to be surprised at every new Sunrise on Wheels session.
In 2009, our Sunrise Long Island camp piloted this most amazing program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Since then, we have expanded to many other hospitals including, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, NYU/Langone Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
In 2014, Sunrise Day Camp at Pearl River will launch its first Sunrise on Wheels program at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. We are currently recruiting and training volunteers who, under staff supervision, will bring the healing power of Sunrise to children undergoing cancer treatment in the Westchester County, NY. But we can’t stop there. With your help, Sunrise Day Camp at Pearl River can bring Sunrise on Wheels to all of our affiliated hospitals and keep the magic of a Sunrise Summer going all year long.
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Director of Development, Sunrise Day Camp at Pearl River