When you think back to childhood, the adventure of going to summer camp may hold special memories. Just taking the time to “be a kid” is important, since childhood flies by all too quickly. While we would like to think that childhood is a time of carefree fun and happy thoughts, many children face such daunting prospects as serious illness or abuse and abandonment.
This is where Project Sunshine comes in. A local non-profit organization, Project Sunshine exists to serve the children of Nevada who have special needs. Whether they are critically ill or have experienced a life-altering situation, children need time to be “normal” kids. By providing summer camps, Project Sunshine lets them forget about the hospitals, alienation and isolation they may experience on a regular basis.
“Project Sunshine and the camps we offer serve a dual purpose,” said Kari Tillman, executive director of Project Sunshine. “We exist to give kids the freedom to be kids. We want them to be able to run and play, while drawing strength from others in similar situations.”
The goal of Project Sunshine is to create an all-encompassing facility that provides each camp session with all of the children’s basic and special needs, including those needs of individual campers. Camps that are specifically designed to accommodate children with illnesses utilize a fully equipped medical center designed for the camp’s needs. At a minimum, there is always one pediatric oncologist or pediatric physician, four or more registered nurses and a number of other medical support personnel available.
Project Sunshine provides financial aid and volunteer relief to support these non-profit camping programs, which are offered free of charge to campers and sometimes even their siblings. All Project Sunshine camp counselors and other staff members are volunteers who are interviewed and trained after undergoing a thorough background check. Each camp session lasts between three and five days and generally mixes overnight and day-camp options.
The Project Sunshine camps are held at Torino Ranch in Lovell Canyon, located about an hour outside Las Vegas on Highway 160, on the way to Pahrump. What was formerly a run-down recreational vehicle park has been converted to a summer camp for children, complete with a lodge, dining room, commercial kitchen, dance hall, laundry facilities, shower/bath houses, two lakes, a swimming pool and log-sided bunkhouses. Daily activities at the camps include such favorite summer pastimes as swimming, rock climbing, horseback riding, crafts, canoeing, drama and hayrides.
This year, Project Sunshine will offer five camping sessions. Returning camp titles include Camp Haven, which is designed for at-risk, abandoned and abused children and will be hosted by Child Haven, a local Clark County social services organization. Another popular session, Camp Cartwheel, will take place July 30 to August 2. Designed to serve critically ill children, Camp Cartwheel is hosted by the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Three new camps will debut this summer. Camp Braveheart, hosted by Project Sunshine, will take place June 26 to June 28 and has been programmed to serve young burn survivors. Camp Independence, July 7 to July 10, is designed for children with bleeding disorders and is being hosted by the Hemophilia Foundation. The last camp of the summer, Camp Sol, August 11 to August 14, is designed in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation for children living with the challenges of arthritis.
For more information on Project Sunshine or to apply to be a volunteer or camper, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (702) 434-3699.