Though the coronavirus has brought with it many challenges, the Sunrise Association has continued to provide joy to children with cancer, and with a $1 million grant recently secured, it will be able to carry on its mission in the future.
The Frances Davis Fund offered the grant, and it will be used to build new studios at the Sunrise Association’s Oceanside headquarters to help expand its virtual offerings, even after the pandemic ends. The association hosts eight summer day camps around the world and 43 weekly in-hospital programs for ailing children, in addition to other year-round programming. Its members have worked with more than 16,000 families since its first camp opened on Long Island in 2006.
“We had a really great summer, and the kids were tremendously responsive to what we started,” said Arnie Preminger, president and CEO of the Sunrise Association. “It led to a real sense of belonging and being a part of the camp community at such a difficult time.”
At the height of the pandemic, association administrators began adapting their programs to a virtual world. The effort included Sunrise on Screens, which brought virtual content into homes and hospitals; Sunrise on Wheels Craft Bags & Surprises from Sunrise, for which arts- and-crafts kits and gift packages were shipped to hospitals; Support From Sunrise, an information and referral service to help families; and the Sunrise Virtual Camp Experience, for which 1,750 children enrolled over the summer from Long Island, Staten Island, Pearl River, Baltimore, Atlanta and Israel.
The Sunrise Association will use the grant to build the Dorothy and Irving Ross Sunrise Studios. Richard Ross, the president of Mature Temps, a company that helps seniors return to the workforce, and a donor adviser to the Frances Davis Fund, named in honor of his grandmother, said it was important to secure the funding. The studios will be named in honor of his mother and father.
“Due to Covid, it was necessary to give more money to help all of these organizations who lost their fundraising events,” Ross said. “They’ve all been hurting badly, so I was able to secure more funding for the Francis Davis fund in order to give away more money to help children with cancer and those on the spectrum.”
Preminger said the coronavirus has caused all people to worry about what many of the children battling diseases have long been concerned about in their lives, including the fear of germs, social distancing and constant hand washing. The studios will help Sunrise provide content for children who are in hospitals or unable to go out, so they can still take part in activities. Preminger said that planning talks for the studios were in their initial stages, and there was no timeline for the project because conditions change often amid the pandemic. The content will include virtual crafts, educational programs and other activities.
“Our goal is to let children be children and not be defined by their disease,” Ross said. “That’s the key thing, to try and be fun.”
Preminger said he was grateful to Ross and the fund for making the studios a possibility. “It’s a lot of kids, and we want to make sure that they’re engaged and that they feel good,” he said. “We’re hoping that this will be a really spectacular program that we’re going to develop.”