Wednesday, Nov. 18 marks the 44th anniversary of the Sunshine Foundation, which was established in Philadelphia in 1976 as the original wish granting organization of the United States.
The foundation answers the dreams of children, ages 3 to 18, who have severe or profound physical, developmental or intellectual challenges, or trauma from physical or sexual abuse, and whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to financial strain that the child’s illness may cause. Sunshine Foundation answers the dreams of children who are turned away from other national wish granting organizations that require a life-threatening or critical diagnosis.
Philadelphia police officer Bill Sample was assigned on protective duty to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He encountered seriously ill children and saw firsthand how their families were burdened, not only by mounting medical bills, but by the frustration of not being able to provide their child a special dream.
In 1976, Sample took out a personal loan and, with the help of volunteers, started the Sunshine Foundation. The first child helped was Bobby – a five-year-old boy with Leukemia. Bobby’s nurse told Sample that the boy had a dream to go to the mountains to see snow. Sample brought Bobby, his parents and siblings to the Poconos for a week of playing in the snow, sledding and snowmobiling.
Bobby passed away after his battle with Leukemia, and his mom told the foundation years later that she didn’t realize at the time how important that dream would be to their family. She said that trip with Bobby, laughing and playing in the snow, was the happiest moment of their lives, and those memories created have lasted a lifetime.
Children served are from all 50 states and live with a number of illnesses and severe or profound physical, developmental or intellectual challenges. These include spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Type 1 diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, spastic quadriplegia, low-functioning autism, brain and spinal injuries, injury from abuse, and numerous other syndromes and rare genetic conditions.
Since 1976, the Sunshine Foundation has answered more than 41,000 dreams. Visit sunshinefoundation.org for more information.