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Rays of Hope

SHU Volunteers Help Camp Sunshine Shine a Little Brighter

Several Siena Heights students and staff members gave up part of their summer vacation to give others a needed break from the concerns of a life-threatening illness.

A dozen or so from Siena Heights traveled by minivan to Casco, Maine, in July to work at Camp Sunshine, a nonprofit operation that provides a retreat for children who are battling life-threatening illnesses and their families.

SHU Dean for Students Michael Orlando (photos below) learned about Camp Sunshine three years ago and involved Siena Heights through the Siena Serves volunteer program on campus. Orlando, his wife, Becky, and SHU Director of Counseling Sandy Morley joined nine SHU students from varying backgrounds on the weeklong experience.

“(Camp Sunshine) lets the families be treated as royalty and loves them as much as possible,” Orlando said. “It’s a way for everyone to come together with a sense of shared understanding.”

Siena was part of retinoblastoma week. Retinoblastoma is a rare form of eye cancer, and Orlando said volunteers are trained to help families spend a week having fun—and away from the worries of doctor and hospital visits.

“They can relax and just have fun,” Orlando said of the families hosted by Camp Sunshine. “You see a lot of kids who go in with ‘I don’t want to be here.’ But by the end of the week, they are crying and say ‘I don’t want to leave.’”

Volunteers often play the role of camp counselors, helping with activities such as canoeing, kayaking, Frisbee golf, swimming and arts and crafts. Camp Sunshine pays for all but $125 of the volunteer expenses for the week. Orlando said funding from the Siena Serves program helped with all but $25 of the volunteers’ costs.

Orlando said it was a bonding experience for the volunteers as well.

“What was really neat is that our group didn’t really know each other at the beginning,” he said. “We not only grew close with Camp Sunshine, but as a group collectively. … You do feel like an extended part of their family when you go there.”

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