Founded in 1984, Camp Sunshine is nestled on the shores of beautiful Sebago Lake. For seventeen years, Anna Gould and Dr. Larry Gould donated their facilities and personnel at Point Sebago Resort and hosted camp sessions for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
After watching a television program about a summer camp for children with cancer, Larry and Anna decided to offer a similar program at their resort. Discussions with the chief of pediatric oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston resulted in Anna and Larry offering a pilot family camp for 43 children with cancer and their families in June 1984.
At the end of the first session, when parents thanked Anna and Larry for the week while crying and hugging them, they knew that this was a very special program. They continued to offer the program, at no charge to the families, expanding to four weeks a year, two weeks in early June and two weeks in late September.
Through the years, the program became highly regarded, with increasing numbers of referrals from multiple medical centers. Demand for services far exceeded capacity, and it soon became apparent that Camp Sunshine had to have a permanent home where the program could expand to meet the growing need. In 2001, Camp Sunshine opened the doors of its own year-round facility on 24 acres donated by Anna and Larry.
Before 2001, Camp Sunshine was offering 4-6 sessions during the spring and autumn months, serving roughly 180 families (720 family members) each year. With the opening of the new campus; the addition of winter, spring, and other year-round programming in the years that followed; and thanks to support from many generous donors and volunteers; Camp Sunshine’s program has grown dramatically since then. More than 25 sessions are now offered annually, serving as many as 750 families (3,000 family members) per year. Since Camp Sunshine’s inception in 1984, it has served over 50,000 family members from 50 states and 27 different countries.
Throughout this period of growth, Camp Sunshine has made significant enhancements to its program and campus. Now serving families of children diagnosed with cancer, a brain tumor, some hematologic conditions, renal disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and who have undergone solid organ transplantation. They attend illness-specific sessions of varying lengths where they have the opportunity to solidify and renew their relationships while meeting others facing similar challenges. Bereavement programming began in 2002 and is now hosted annually for families who have lost a child to an illness Camp Sunshine supports.
In addition to expanding its program, Camp Sunshine has continued to enhance its campus in various ways. Most notably, in 2008 the Shaw Brothers Second Floor was added to the Viterbi Family Activities Center, the addition of the Orokawa Foundation Family-Volunteer Center was completed in 2011, Tropical Smoothie Cafe Sports Center was compelted in 2018, and the Isobel and Bruce Cleland Lakefront Clubhouse was completed in 2019.
Helping Camp Sunshine enhance its program is a list of professional organizations that has grown over the years, currently including The Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation, Dyskeratosis Congenita Outreach, Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Pediatric Low Grade Astrocytoma Foundation, and Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome Foundation.