Perspectives: Student Organization Brings "Sunshine" To Lives
Feb. 23, 2018
SHSU Media Contact: Tyler Pointer
“Perspectives” is a new series that invites students to share their unique stories on how they were positively transformed by a class, organization or community involvement at Sam Houston State University. To submit your story, please contact Today@Sam at Today@Sam.edu.
Story by Allison Faith
It is a Thursday afternoon at Kate Barr Ross Park in Huntsville. Children are running around the park as a neck-and-neck game of kickball is in its final inning. The swings move back and forth as the sun shines bright in the sky, but the sun is not the only thing shining. A sea of yellow shirts fills the park as those wearing them cherish the two hours they have; the two hours that will ultimately change their lives.
I joined Project Sunshine in the spring semester of my freshman year. My best friend was already a member and encouraged me to join, but I was still timid to commit. I was not an education major, nor did I have any experience working with individuals with disabilities. I was scared that I would not know how to interact or make connections. Nevertheless, I attended an interest meeting and was hooked.
Founded in 1998 by college student Joseph Weilgus, Project Sunshine is a national nonprofit organization that brightens the lives of children and their families who face medical challenges. To do this, Project Sunshine volunteers provide fun activities and care packages to children in pediatric hospitals.
In addition to hospital outreach, Project Sunshine offers other programs such as tutoring, cooking classes, caregiver wellness and buddy programs. The Sam Houston State University Chapter is one of the two chapters in the nation that participates in hospital outreach and a buddy program.
Through the buddy program, we are able to help children and adults facing medical challenges outside of the hospital. Volunteers are also able to become buddies with a child. As a buddy, we get to spend time outside of Project Sunshine events to foster deeper connections.
Becoming a buddy to someone is an unforgettable experience. Our buddies vary in age and interests. Our youngest buddy is three and our oldest is buddy is 53.
|Faith pictured with her buddy Daniel.|
The day that my buddy, Daniel, asked me to be his buddy was one of the best days of my life. Daniel enjoys baking and writing stories, so most of my park days, which are two-hour interaction days with buddies, are spent eating yummy snacks and listening to his latest written adventures. The time that I get to spend with him each week always leave me feeling brighter and bring me so much joy.
As secretary for Project Sunshine, I keep track of the attendance for over 150 members, which I report each month to our National Headquarters. We report our total number of volunteers, and number of buddies and parents present at each event. Every moment of happiness and fun that we have at park day is confirmed in these numbers. If I can help share that, then I am grateful to spend hours calculating who was at an event and how many buddies were there.
This semester we will tackle our biggest event as an officer team yet, a spring trip to Morgan’s Wonderland. Morgan’s Wonderland is an all-inclusive amusement and water park for children and adults with special needs. For some buddies and members, this will be the first time travelling to Morgan’s, but it will be the second time for our organization. To do this, we must fundraise and plan a safe trip for our buddies.
Before joining Project Sunshine, I did not understand how much we impact each other by our actions. Everything we do and say affects someone, therefore it is up to us to make sure that we are spreading kindness and compassion. The smallest of gestures; a smile, sharing food, or just giving a hug can brighten someone’s cloudy day. Despite your past or challenges you face, you can be happy and make others happy in the process. Our buddies have changed my life and have shown me unconditional love. A love that I hope to repay them every time I show up early to decorate for a park day or stay up late looking over sign-in sheets. In the end, I know it is all worth it when I see their smiling faces as they laugh and play with our members.
“I love Project Sunshine because you join thinking that you will make all these friends but then you meet all of our buddies and their families and they become your family,” Event Coordinator Camille Ingham said. “You do meet friends, but not because you hangout, but because they are kind hearted people that love the buddies as much as you.”
As college students, we are often caught up in joining organizations that will look good for your future career, but Project Sunshine is not just something to put on your resume. It is an organization that allows you to be yourself and gives you the opportunity meet wonderful people.
Because I joined Project Sunshine, I was able to discover that my passion lies with nonprofit organizations and community outreach. My dream is to work for a nonprofit organization, so that one day I can touch lives in the way that Project Sunshine has touched mine.
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