CASCO, Maine — Recently, several members of the Kennett High School Key Club returned from Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine.
The students were there to volunteer as youth counselors during one of the camp’s bereavement sessions, where families who have experienced the death of a child from a life-threatening illness gather to find solace and comfort.
“I would say the impact camp left on me was just how happy of an environment it is,” sophomore Elizabeth Bouchard said. “You go into it understanding that these families have lost someone near and dear to their hearts. They show up to camp excited, but still in an upset state of mind. It was amazing to see just after one weekend how much we impacted their lives and how much joy was brought to them by Monday morning. It was truly an experience I will always treasure.”
Key Club sophomore representative Vanessa Lyons added that the organized and fun environment left everyone with a smile.
Camp Sunshine, a hidden gem on the shore of Sebago Lake where families can go to find support and joy during all stages of a child’s life-threatening illness, offers refuge to parents and children who need to see that they aren’t alone in their grief, confusion or illness.
The program is free for any and all families who want to attend, thanks to donations from charitable organizations and fundraising events.
Camp Sunshine has a full-time staff of only 17, so the camp depends on the help of roughly 2,500 volunteers annually in order to facilitate the program.
“We are thankful for the continued support of Kennett High School Key Clubbers,” said Camp Sunshine Executive Director Michael Katz. “As a whole, we can always count on this group to show up and give 100 percent.”
Only one of the recent group of Key Clubbers had ever volunteered at the camp, but all came away with a valuable sentiment. Grace Ward said she would never change this experience for anything.
Sam Alkalay attended and said that “I was amazed by the staff and the camp in general. It was an incredible experience, and I would not hesitate to come back. Every minute I was there I loved it, and I’m so happy that I had a chance to go.”
The Key Clubbers agreed that the experience was something they would all love to do again and they are so grateful to have had this experience.
Nadia Van Dyne, the one returning volunteer, said that “this time at Camp Sunshine, I thought a lot about what a wonderful place it is, yet all of the families there went through very hard times losing a child. Everyone at camp is so happy and excited to be there, and so understanding of all of the families and situations. I have come away from camp hoping to go back sometime soon.”
For more information about Camp Sunshine, or to make a donation, go to campsunshine.org.