Answering the dreams of children ages 3-18 who are chronically ill, physically challenged and/or abused throughout US since 1976.
Sunshine Foundation answers the dreams of children, ages three through eighteen, who have severe or profound physical/developmental/intellectual challenges or trauma from physical/sexual abuse, and whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to financial strain that the child's illness may cause. Sunshine Foundation answers dreams to children from all 50 states and Puerto Rico with life-long chronic conditions; ones that are turned away from the other national wish granting organizations that require a life-threatening or critical diagnosis.
In the 1960’s and 70's, Philadelphia police officer, Bill Sample, was assigned on protective duty to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. He encountered critically ill and chronically ill children, and saw firsthand how these children’s families were burdened, not only by mounting medical bills, but also by the frustration of not being able to provide their child a special dream.
In 1976, Bill took out a $4,000 personal loan and, with the help of volunteers, started the Sunshine Foundation and began making dreams come true for chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children. The first child helped was Bobby, a five-year-old boy diagnosed with Leukemia. Bobby’s nurse told Bill that the boy had a dream to go to the mountains to see snow. Bill brought Bobby, his parents, and siblings to the Pocono mountains in PA for a week of playing in the snow, sledding, and snowmobiling. Not long after, Bobby passed from his battle with Leukemia. Bobby’s mom told us years later that she did not 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.
Under Bill’s leadership, the Sunshine Foundation grew into the first national wish-granting organization. In 1990, the Sunshine Foundation Dream Village in Florida opened with nine fairy-tale themed cottages, specially equipped to handle the needs of the children who dreamed of visiting the Central Florida theme parks. Bill also established an annual Dreamlift to bring children with severe special needs on a chartered jet to the Magic Kingdom for a day; and for twenty-seven years, Bill hosted a gathering of children from across the globe who lived with the unique challenges of Progeria (Hutchinson-Guilford Syndrome).
More than 41,500 children have benefited from programs and services of the Sunshine Foundation over the past 45 years. Sunshine Foundation is proud to continuously be ranked as the Top-Rated wish-granting organization serving the terminally ill or chronically ill according to www.charitywatch.org.
The most popular dream request is for a family trip to Orlando to visit LEGOLAND Florida, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, and the Florida coast beaches. Families stay at the Foundation’s 22-acre Dream Village in Davenport, FL, an enchanted accommodation less than 15 miles from Disney World. Since opening in 1990, more than 21,000 children have enjoyed the Dream Village which includes 9 fairy-tale themed cottages, a heated zero-entry swimming pool, handicap accessible playground and a miniature golf course. The Sunshine Foundation provides everything for the entire family including airfare, transportation, lodging, tickets to the attractions and spending money. These Magical Dreams cost approximately $6,600 per family.
We also answer Special Dreams: shopping sprees, computers, iPads, gaming systems, bedroom makeovers, outdoor playsets, above ground swimming pools, family trips, and many more. These Special Dreams cost approximately $2,200 per family.
The Sunshine Foundation strives to bring joy to children who need us most, including children from income-limited families who suffer from chronic illnesses, often which has a devastating life-long impact. These are the children who are forgotten and ignored because the initial outcome of their diagnosis is not immediately life-threatening. However, they suffer incredible pain from many incurable diseases that will significantly shorten and hinder the quality of their lives.
The children we serve suffer from several illnesses and conditions including spina bifida, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, spastic quadriplegia, low functioning autism, brain & spinal injuries, Type 1 diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness, injury from abuse and numerous other syndromes due to mutated chromosomes and rare genetic circumstances. We do not limit our support to one specific illness and address each child’s request with the dignity that is deserved.
Granting a dream or a wish for a child with an illness is not a part of traditional medicine. However, it often becomes an integral part of a child’s path towards wellness, independence, stability, or recovery. The Sunshine Foundation has many accounts on record from parents and children who attest to the power of a few days away from doctors, hospitals, and treatments. It can make all the difference in the world and the staff proudly pursues its work on behalf of children every single day.
Examples of Special Dreams answered over the last year:
Robert, age 12, Holoprosencephaly, Cerebral Palsy
Special Dream - Wheelchair Swing
“Bobby was so excited to try out his wheelchair swing for the first time today. He kept saying, "Really? I can't even believe it that I can have my own swing at my own house!" Bobby loves to swing and having an accessible swing in his own yard will provide countless hours of fun, relaxation, and smiles. We cannot adequately express our deep appreciation for this wonderful gift!”- Bobby’s Mom
Miracle, age 8, Down Syndrome
Shopping Spree (Birthday Party and Presents)
“In a year full of difficulties, and after losing her dad in 2020, we are thankful that Miracle was able to celebrate her 8th birthday with lots of fun and presents that we would not have been able to do for her without the support of the Sunshine Foundation. We are forever grateful for her special gift!” – Miracle’s mom
Jon, age 18, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury
Special Dream - Massage Chair
“Thank you very much for this opportunity to get our son, Jon, a heated message chair. Jon has had such a difficult time during covid with medical decline. This heated message chair brings comfort and joy to his aching body. This is truly a miracle at this stage of his life.” - Jon’s dad
We will measure the outcomes using exit surveys and letters of thanks from the families we serve and expect at least 80% of the children will see either a temporary or permanent improvement in their outlook and at least 80% of the families will also experience some relief from the stress of their child’s or sibling’s illness.