The Sunrise Association provides hope to children with cancer by offering free summer day camps geared to kids who otherwise might not have these typical summer experiences.
Cancer is the second most common cause of child mortality in the United States. According to statistics compiled by the National Institutes of Health, more than 15,500 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2021, which is equivalent to 33 in every 100,000 American children.
Survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. have improved considerably, but many of these young patients are forced to undergo difficult treatments that impact their quality of life.
The Sunrise Association is committed to helping these pediatric cancer patients by hosting special day camp programs in the U.S. and abroad.
In a recent “DFW Community Shout Out” segment aired by CW33, television host Jenny Anchondo interviewed Arnie Preminger, founder and president of the Sunrise Association. From its office in New York, the Sunrise Association has expanded its day camp programs for pediatric cancer patients to include seven locations in the U.S.
Children who attend these day camps, which also welcome siblings, enjoy classic summer camp activities such as playing games, making crafts, taking nature hikes, dancing, singing, and more.
These are not sleep-away camps; they are specifically designed for children undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy sessions and intended to provide joy and comfort to kids whose poor health generally prevents them from attending overnight camps. The goal is to offer children a momentary escape from dealing with their disease and uncomfortable treatments.
According to the Sunrise Association’s website, “all of our summer, year-round, and hospital programs are completely free of charge to all of our families.” Their camps are instead funded by initial investments from philanthropic business people and organizations.
Preminger was inspired to start the Sunrise Association after attending a Paul McCartney concert performance in 2005. At the time, the famous British musician was working with actor Paul Newman on the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp project, which provides summer camp experiences to children diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
While noble, the Newman project is geared toward comforting children who may not have much time left to live; the Sunrise Association aims to provide hope in the form of daily joy and continuity. Preminger and Sunrise Association staff members, who predominantly work on a volunteer basis, enjoy the day camps most when they learn about children who enter remission thanks to successful treatments.
In addition to camps, the Sunrise Association offers in-hospital programs and a Virtual Experience. During the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sunrise Association launched the mobile app that provided children with a virtual camp experience.
A typical day at a Sunrise Association camp begins with greetings, singing, and dancing. The day is then split into two periods of activity, which may feature open playground sessions, a guided ropes course to build physical confidence, crafts lessons, drawing, or classes on various fun and interesting topics. Some of the camps feature swimming pools and managed freshwater ponds.