In 1982, Houston, TX's first nonprofit organization supporting children with cancer was established. The Sunshine Kids Foundation was developed to increase quality of life amongst childhood cancer patients. Founder Rhoda Tomasco's background at a Houston pediatric cancer hospital as a volunteer is what inspired the organization. According to Sunshine Kids Director of Operations Shannon Malone, Tomasco's experience paved the way for the organization to become what it is today.
"She met many children who were experiencing depression and loneliness during their long hospital treatments," Malone says. "It was Rhoda's vision to establish The Sunshine Kids Foundation, thereby giving these kids the opportunity to participate in exciting group activities for children with cancer, so they many once again do what kids are meant to do- have fun and celebrate life!"
The Sunshine Kids Foundation offers both national and regional events, allowing their reach into communities to be as far as possible. Upcoming national events include the Texas Hill Country Adventure in San Marcos, TX; Summer Broadway Break in New York, NY; California Fun-Time Fantasy in Los Angeles, CA; the Haunted Halloween Getaway in New Orleans, LA; and the Florida Fun-N-Sun Celebration in Orlando, FL. Regional events were primarily held from January through March of 2016. However, two events in Naples, FL in November include Chalk Art and the 3rd Annual Beach Party at LaPlaya Resort.
"As with every national and regional event that we provide, these cancer patients have the opportunity to meet other kids who have gone through the same painful treatments and feelings of isolation that they are not alone in their fight against cancer," Malone says. "All programs are provided, free of charge, for children who are receiving treatment in hospitals across North America."
Malone says a big issue affecting children with cancer and their families is the financial and emotional tension that a diagnosis can create. Many families can no longer afford to take vacations, get involved with sports or buy birthday presents. Malone says many children say that, aside from overcoming their illness, all they want is to forget their cancer and enjoy being a kid.
"Over the past 30 years, the Sunshine Kids Foundation has watched numerous children with cancer benefit from participating in activities that not only can take their mind off their illness, but also allow them to regain confidence that is crucial to building their self-esteem and adds to their strength to fight the disease," Malone says.