When children are in the hospital with life-threatening illnesses, they tend to feel scared and uncomfortable. The Case Western Reserve students behind the group CWRU Project Sunshine believe all kids deserve to play and be happy—especially when receiving medical care.
Project Sunshine is a service organization focused on restoring a crucial sense of normalcy to children facing medical challenges such as cancer or AIDs. The more than 150 group members at CWRU provide free programming that promotes play, joy and enrichment to the children and families at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.
The group members regularly volunteer at both institutions, both in person and virtually.
In the latter format, group members host games and trivia sessions—an approach they’ve increasingly taken while unable to volunteer in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During in-person events, volunteers play with kids, pass out seasonal crafts, and participate in University Hospitals Smoothie Day events, all with the goal of bringing smiles to the kids’ faces.
“We directly connect students with patients,” said Lydia Jahn, president of CWRU Project Sunshine. “Students who participate in this kind of one-on-one work quickly learn the importance of kindness and positivity towards others.”
When they’re not spending time with children, group members plan and host frequent Sending Sunshine events on campus, where they assemble craft kits that get mailed to kids in hospitals across the country.
“These craft kits allow for kids to be engaged in play without the presence of a volunteer,” Jahn explained. “We have increased our Sending Sunshine events to accommodate the greater demands for these kits during the pandemic.”
Group members also fundraise year-round so Project Sunshine as a whole, especially its Kenya chapter, can help those living with pediatric HIV. Members of the Kenya chapter frequently visit these children in their homes, where they combine interactive activities with therapeutic lessons to encourage children to play and forget their worries, even if just for a short while.