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This article was updated on March 8, 2022.
Nothing is more devastating for a parent than their child’s diagnosis of cancer. Aside from the heartache of watching a youngster endure treatment, parents are concerned about the effects of the illness on siblings. It turns the entire family’s world upside down in ways never before imagined.
In an effort to provide a positive summer experience, the JCC of Staten island will rent space at Staten Island Academy, Todt Hill, and utilize the facilities at the school for the Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp, a dedicated day camp for children with cancer and their siblings, provided completely free of charge.
“We are so excited to bring the Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island back in-person again this year. Unfortunately, over the past two years, we have all experienced firsthand what it feels like for a family of a child with cancer,” Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said. “The fear and uncertainty that we have been feeling is what our campers and their families have felt every day since their diagnoses. That’s why we have been thrilled to be able to bring back a safe experience for these children to allow them to socialize and enjoy themselves. Thank you to all the generous donors and sponsors who make camp a reality for these children by supporting us every year.”
About half of the children who attend Sunrise Day Camp have cancer. The other half are their siblings, whose lives are so often altered by the disease. No friends over to the house because of impaired immune systems, no ‘equal’ treatment because so much of a family’s resources (emotional, financial, time, etc) are dominated by the health/medical needs of the patient. The camp recognizes the need for fun in all the children’s lives.
Providing memorable summers on Staten Island since 2016 for children ages 3½–16, the camp brings the simple pleasures of childhood back to children struggling with cancer, changing months of loneliness and isolation into summers filled with sunshine, laughter and happiness. And because Sunrise is a day camp, it does all this while allowing the children to continue their medical treatment and enjoy the comfort and safety of their own homes at night.
“Our mission is to keep cancer outside the four walls of camp, to ensure the children return to normality, to have fun and keep cancer behind them,” Sandy Haft, director of the camp, said.
Staten Island Academy has a 12-acre campus, which provides enough space for Sunrise campers to take part in activities both indoors and out.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to welcome Sunrise Day Camp to their new home at Staten Island Academy,” Eileen Corigliano, Staten Island Academy’s assistant head of school, said. “Nothing beats seeing the children’s smiling faces as they enjoy all that our beautiful campus has to offer. It is such a powerful experience to have Staten Island organizations join together and share their resources to support children, especially during this difficult time in their lives. Staten Island Academy students have the privilege of working with Sunrise and their children and it has been a rewarding experience. I am hopeful that this becomes a lifelong partnership for Sunrise and Staten Island Academy.”
Additionally, the camp operates with enhanced safety protocols in place to minimize the potential of COVID-19 transmission at camp.
“Parents trust us. They know that we put into operation very specific cleaning protocols,” Haft said. “So when everyone was beginning to gather enhanced sanitizer, we’ve always had that. Cleanliness and sanitizing is very important because our children have compromised immune systems.”
Still, a virtual camp option is available for those families who may prefer or need distance camping.
Sunrise Day Camp is operated by the JCC of Staten Island and is a program of the Sunrise Association, which has locations locally and worldwide. Sunrise Day Camps are in Atlanta, Baltimore, Long Island, Pearl River, Israel, and of course, Staten Island.
This year, camp runs June 29-Aug. 12. Unlike similar sleep-away camps that are offered for only 1-2 weeks, Sunrise allows children in active treatment to continue with their home doctors, while attending camp each day. This unique concept allows children the comfort of sleeping in their own beds each night – a comfort not only for the campers, but for their parents as well.
Parents have peace of mind when their children attend Sunrise. All activities at camp are designed with special features to best accommodate chronically ill children, with medical personnel always available to provide expert care if needed. The flexible and individualized camp schedule allows for children to attend the program when they are able to do so, whether for the entire summer or a day or two. The goal is to provide the campers with a typical, predictable summer in a world filled with uncertainties and situations which no child nor family should ever have to face.
How do parents enroll their child?
Parents can enroll their child online or by calling 718-475-5119. Children must be referred/given clearance by their oncologist or hospital. The camp welcomes children primarily from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and central or northern New Jersey. Children are picked up at their homes and home hospitals and returned there at the end of the camp day. They attend as they can…the whole summer, a few weeks, a day…whatever works for them and their physical health and treatment schedule.
How is Sunrise Day Camp Staten Island different from the other JCC camp at Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds?
Actually, it isn’t very different at all. It has the same kinds of activities like sports, arts and crafts, swimming, music, and much more. Of course it will have well-trained and caring staff. What does make it different is that there are high energy levels and lower energy levels of the activities based on how a child is feeling. There is more medical personnel. But to the child…NO difference and that’s what’s important.
Who pays if not the families?
ALL funds have to be raised every year so these children can have the time of their lives having fun. Since it will cost about $6,000 per camper to pay for renting the facility, paying the staff, purchasing supplies, etc., there is a ton of fundraising that has to be done. No one would ever want to disappoint any child but not these children in particular.
How can the community help support Sunrise Day Camp?
Information about how to help support Sunrise Day Camp is available online.