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Camp Sunshine Paradoxically is a Happy Place

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Whenever I describe Camp Sunshine to someone, it usually is followed by an “Aww that’s so sad” or “Wow, that must’ve been hard.” While it may have been a sad reason that brought us all to camp, it was most definitely not a sad place. In fact, it was the happiest place I have ever been to.

Camp Sunshine is a place where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can come to and, in a way, escape reality for a little bit. The families are able to meet other people who face their same struggles and heal together. I went as a volunteer for their Halloween weekend session. It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life.

While it may have been a sad reason that brought us all to camp, it was most definitely not a sad place. In fact, it was the happiest place I have ever been to.”

The whole process began last spring when five girls were chosen to go to camp: Madison Otterbein, Morgan Gomis, Grace Mittenzwei, Nicki Espinol, and myself. We all waited anxiously for this weekend in the coming months, sending loads of paperwork and getting everything together for the trip. The weekend finally arrived, and we all could not have been more excited. The group was chaperoned by Sister Lena and Sister Eleanor who conquered the 7-hour drive to Maine. When we finally finished the long and cramped drive in a Mount school van (you can imagine how that went) and arrived at camp, we had no idea how special this weekend would prove to be.

Friday began with orientation for volunteers, with families arriving later in the afternoon. The camp has a sprawling campus consisting of the family quarters, volunteer quarters, the main building, and many outdoor facilities. For summer sessions, they have a climbing wall, lake area, volleyball, boats, and so much more. It is a beautiful place. Dinner was the first event where everyone could meet each other. Some volunteers were assigned a family to sit with in order to get to know them better. I was assigned a little girl who came with her mom and grandma. They came from New Hampshire and had been trying to come to Camp Sunshine for some time. The camp is extremely popular and well-known, meaning many families have to sign up for sessions months and months in advance. The rest of the evening was spent watching a juggler and then a bonfire. I quickly realized that this place was different from anything I had ever experienced. I went to sleep brimming with excitement over the activities planned for the next day.

I am so grateful that I got to go on this special trip, to help children who so deserve to be happy, just like anyone else.”

I was assigned to Arts & Crafts for the weekend; there are many different possible assignments, such as Tot Lot/Nursery, 6 -8 year olds, 9 – 12 year olds, Teens, Food Service, Photography, Lifeguarding, etc. Madison and Nicki were with the 9 – 12 year olds; Sister Lena, Morgan, and Grace were assigned to Tot Lot; Sister Eleanor was with the 6 – 8 year olds. Being in Arts & Crafts meant that I was able to meet all the kids from each class. I met Jamison, the cutest 4 year old in the world who loves Black Panther and the color blue. He had a brother that suffered from Sickle Cell Anemia, and yet he was the happiest little boy I had ever met, teeming with life and creativity. I met Divine, who even though she suffered from an illness, was probably the best dancer I have ever seen. She was from New York and every time I saw her she had the biggest smile on her face and always gave me a hug. I met Mikayla, a girl from New Hampshire who made me laugh so hard whenever I was with her. Whether she was yelling at me for accidentally breaking her art project or crushing me in Foosball, I loved being around her. Her brother suffered from leukemia, but you could tell how brave she remained for her two little brothers and how much they adored her. There were so many more children that now own a piece of my heart that I could go on forever. Even though I was there to help them, each and every one of these special children taught me something during my time there.

Everyone in our group was extremely moved by the whole weekend. We all agree that we have to go back as soon as possible. The summer schedule came out on Thursday, November 1, and Sister Lena has already contacted the camp to book a week. Next time, we are hoping to bring more people and share this experience with more Mount students. I highly, highly, highly suggest anyone who is interested come on the trip in the summer. (We are also looking into more weekend sessions for next fall.) It will literally change your life.

Even if you can not come to Camp Sunshine, volunteering in any capacity is such an amazing and worthwhile experience that forces you to look at your own life differently, with some new perspective. In my opinion, making someone happy is one of the best ways to make yourself happy. I am so grateful that I got to go on this special trip, to help children who so deserve to be happy, just like anyone else.

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The Student News of Mount St. Dominic Academy
Camp Sunshine Paradoxically is a Happy Place