Sunshine Foundation presentation at the Canoe Club
Sunshine Foundation Vice President Mary Young and Treasurer Rhonda Hummel spoke about the Sunshine Foundation at the Hammonton Canoe Club on March 14. Young and Hummel talked about the foundation’s background, its initiatives and the events taking place in Hammonton for the foundation.
The Sunshine Foundation is the original organization that started granting wishes and was founded by Philadelphia police officer Bill Sample. Sample often met with seriously ill, chronically ill and physically ill children and their families while on duty at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. He later realized the financial burden on the families, who were taking off from work and not being able to pay the medical bills and a lot of the children wanted things but the parents were unable to provide that, which led to Sample taking initiative and making these wishes come true.
“He took a personal loan out, got some of his police officer friends together and started raising funds to help award these dreams of these children. Some of these dreams were to go on trips but some of them were just for medical equipment, maybe improvements around the house like ramps or medical beds or whatever they may need,” Young said to those in attendance.
Sample saw that a lot of these children were asking to go to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Sample raised more funds to open Dream Village in 1990, which provides the children and families to stay in while visiting Central Florida for theme parks. It features nine themed cottages, heated pool, putt-putt course and playground equipped for special needs children.
“There were so many volunteers there who actually come into the place, they paint, help remodel, clean up. It was just really cool because the organization itself does not use a huge amount of money on advertising, like almost all of its funds [79 percent] go back to the organization, which is unheard of with some of these charities that we donate to,” Hummel said.
The Dream Village isn’t just limited to physically challenged and seriously ill children, as children in abusive households and life threatening situations. An application must be filled out which is based on the family’s income and a screening process that goes to the foundation’s board of trustees and must be ages 3-18 to apply. To date, the Sunshine Foundation has answered over 41,600 dreams and counting, according to its brochure.
The Sunshine Foundation will be bringing back their Halloween Bingo and are working on a daddy and daughter dance for the early childhood children at Hammonton Middle School on June 11. Small tiaras will be handed out when they register as a DJ will be there while encouraging the girls to dress up and have a nice dance with their fathers.
“We figured the little guys really don’t get to do that, the middle school has all of their formal dances. They have winter formal and dances all year long like they’re having a St. Patrick’s Day dance, the high school has the prom but the little guys don’t get to get dressed up as much,” Young said.
Both Young and Hummel told a story of a child named Sammy whose mother passed away and his aunt’s house was not ready for him as he was in a wheelchair. He was granted a wish through the Sunshine Foundation and both Young and Hummel’s husbands, who are a sheet metal worker and electrician, respectively, remodeled the house at no charge to help make it accessible for him.
“He was already going through enough losing his parents so having to relocate and not being able to take a shower was very difficult for him so we widened the doorways and we put a full shower in there where there was like a drain in the floor to take a shower. Little things like that, we don’t think about but that made him feel more human,” Young said.
For more information on the Sunshine Foundation, you can visit sunshinefoundation.org and on Facebook at Sunshine Foundation Wishing Well Chapter.