Camp Sunshine warms hearts of campers, counselors alike


Is it a camp? Yes, but it is no ordinary camp. It’s Camp Sunshine!

“[Camp Sunshine is] life-changing,’’ said Watertown High senior Andrew Kay. “It’s very interesting to me that kids in high school who may or may not have links to cancer, whether it be through family or friends, still want to go to a place that advocates accepting.

“It’s happy-go-lucky and the kids are so sweet.’’

About a dozen students in the Social Butterflies and Social Network clubs at WHS can go on the five-day trips to Camp Sunshine on the coast of Maine in October and February.

Camp Sunshine is a place for children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families. It is a special place for sick children to take a fews days away from everyday life, such as hospital visits and treatments, and enjoy being a kid.

A volunteer is assigned to an age group and they participate in multiple activities, such as mini golf, arts and crafts, and swimming. Every volunteer in enthusiastic and connects with the children and families fast.

Sometimes a volunteer forms a close bond with a family, that continues after the five days of camp. Andrea Nykiel, a WHS teacher, says, “I have [kept in touch] in the past, I think it feels like an honor to stay in touch and hear about their life.”

Everyone from WHS has had the feeling of anticipation, waiting for a special event to happen. Going to Camp Sunshine is one of those events.

“I like bringing teenagers to Camp Sunshine,” said Nykiel. “The group from Watertown steps out of their comfort zones. I like when they dedicate their time to help the kids.” newBlondeflyerjpg2

As a volunteer, WHS students interact with the children and their immediate family and have a great experience. Like Kay said, it’s “life-changing.”

The families have so much fun that at times they seem to never want to leave.

“They [the children] become so attached to their counselors, that they become like an older brother or sister. It’s truly phenomenal,” said Kay.

People change their personality based on where they are, Camp Sunshine is no different. Going to camp allows a person to see a side of themselves that they do not get to show.

“I feel as though I am much more open during camp than school,’’ said Kay. “I am much more likely to attempt to hold a conversation with someone at camp than at school. Let alone starting a conversation. From a counselor’s perspective, I think I’m a lot more playful with the kids than I would be if other students were there.”

As Kay said, camp can encourage a person to participate in activities with the kids and to do something they did not know they could do.

–Feb. 13, 2014–