CASCO, Maine — For the first time since the winter of 2020, Camp Sunshine is welcoming families back in person, following a long pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the prospects are exciting for campers, staff, and volunteers alike, there's a lot of work that needs to be done before that happens in about a month, which is exactly what Monday was dedicated to.
About 160 volunteers from sponsor Texas Roadhouse visited Camp Sunshine on Monday to help clean up its campus by mulching, painting, pulling out boats, and weeding. Camp Sunshine has been around for 38 years and serves kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families. They get to come to camp for a week for free, with activities, food, and lodging provided.
"It is amazing to be getting ready to open," Michael Katz, Camp Sunshine's executive director, said. "Nothing beats having the families right here onsite with us, hearing the laughter of children, seeing the smiling faces, and being able to serve that population."
Katz said none of that would be possible without money from generous donors. Texas Roadhouse has fundraised for Camp Sunshine for a decade after an event cooking food for the camp turned into an extended mission. On Monday, Texas Roadhouse announced a special milestone — $1 million raised for Camp Sunshine in 10 years.
"This is just the beginning," Michael Halpern, the market partner at Texas Roadhouse, said. "As time goes on, whatever the camp needs, we’re going to be there for them."
That sentiment was apparent as the volunteers from several Texas Roadhouse locations in New England got their hands dirty for the cause. For some, it was their first time taking part.
"I don’t even think I knew what mulch was, so this is all new to me. But this is my workout for the day," volunteer Jamie Perkins said.
"It makes me want to come back. It just fills me with so much joy that we're able to do this for these families," volunteer Liz Hogan said.
Other volunteers said they're happy to be back after a period off because of COVID.
"It’s all about the kids," volunteer Dani Ciampo said. "It’s about families that are in need, and they’re going through things that most of us will never have to go through."
"At the end of the day, it’s really like we did a great thing for the kids to be able to come and enjoy camp," volunteer Beatrice Lucey said.
Those interested can learn more about Camp Sunshine and donate to its cause here.