We are so grateful to all of our donors who make our mission possible.
Alumni Profiles – From Caring Counselors to Child Life Professionals
March is Child Life Month, which celebrates Child Life Specialists and the support they provide to families facing illness. Sunrise Association continues to inspire and lead individuals to this meaningful career. We are pleased to showcase some of our Sunrise alumni who are now dedicated Child Life professionals at our affiliated Baltimore-area hospitals.
When Morgan Sigur was 3 years old, her family received news that would forever change their lives. Her younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia and two years later, devastatingly lost his battle. Heartbroken, Morgan’s family committed themselves to helping other families impacted by childhood cancer, and Morgan chose to devote her career to this mission.
Horizon Day Camp played an influential role in Morgan’s career path. Morgan was a camp counselor for two summers at the Baltimore camp. She quickly discovered the importance of allowing children to play and socialize without feeling defined by their illness or circumstances.
“I have a profound admiration for Horizon Day Camp and what it stands for,” Morgan said. “There is so much joy and happiness at camp. The whole experience reinforced to me how important it is to provide the children with normative childhoods, while keeping their unique health-related needs in mind.” Morgan now exercises these beliefs and practices as a Child Life Specialist at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai.
Thankfully, Morgan is in good company. Lily Metzger also works as a Child Life Specialist at the same hospital as Morgan. Lily first joined Horizon Day Camp as an intern before becoming a camp counselor. Lily now works closely with the Horizon on Wheels program, helping to coordinate Horizon on Wheels visits. “Horizon always brightens up our waiting room, and it’s a privilege for me to help promote Horizon Day Camp’s programs – a wonderful benefit for our patients,” said Lily.
Amanda Hennessy, a Child Life Specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, is another Sunrise alum who works closely with our Horizon Day Camp team. Amanda, a New York native, has the distinction of first serving as a camp counselor at Sunrise Day Camp–Long Island before later serving as an intern and Horizon on Wheels volunteer at Horizon Day Camp–Baltimore. Amanda now supervises the Horizon on Wheels program at Johns Hopkins and helps refer families to Sunrise services.
“The enthusiasm, commitment, smiles and laughter from both campers and staff when we allowed them to express who they are and what they are passionate about was an invaluable lesson that will remain with me forever,” shared Amanda.
It is humbling that Sunrise can inspire so many people and help shape career paths. It’s a special privilege and proud moment when we get to continue working closely with camp staff alumni – now as dedicated, talented professionals. How fortunate for patients and families, and how wonderful that Morgan, Lily, Amanda, and others continue to skillfully carry out the Sunrise mission. We celebrate and thank you – in March and always.
Sunrise News – Staff Conference 2023
In January, we held our annual full-staff conference for the first time since 2020!
Staff from Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Greater Philadelphia, Israel, Long Island, Metro DC, Pearl River, Staten Island and SunriseVX came together to celebrate the resilience that is Sunrise/Aurora/Horizon. We discussed and applauded all that we accomplished during the pandemic and prepared for the challenges of national expansion that we will face in 2023 and beyond.
We heard from a great lineup of professional presenters and medical experts as well as some of our very own staff and camp families about Sunrise’s impact on children with cancer and their siblings, explored strategies to make us even more effective as an organization, and we also got to know each other better through fun activities like a murder-mystery dinner.
At an amazing evening with our board chairs, we announced the five winners of our prestigious Rays of Sunshine Awards. These awards are given to exemplary year-round employees who demonstrate enthusiasm and devotion to our mission, excellence within their work, and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. Congratulations to:
Jennifer Rebetti, Director of Development and Programming for Sunrise Day Camp–Greater Philadelphia
Allison Lavelle, Camp Registrar for Aurora Day Camp
David Lutzker, Administrative Coordinator for Sunrise Day Camp–Staten Island
Marty Flyntz, Assistant Director of Facilities and IT for the Sunrise Association
Lucie Stonitsch, Graphic Designer for the Sunrise Association
We are so glad that we were able to see and work with everyone at this productive, in-person conference!
Sunrise News – A Sunny Day in Chicago
On February 10, Sunrise Day Camp–Chicago registered its first two campers!
“It’s always a special moment when the first camper enrolls, and today was no different.”
wrote Sunrise President & CEO Arnie Preminger, in an email to staff. “You could hear the hoots and hollers from Lake Zurich to Oceanside as both teams celebrated the news.”
In New York, Arnie and staff reminisced about the day our first camper – Nick Ferrano – enrolled back in 2006 and how we realized at that moment that this amorphous vision that we had been shaping had just become real. “We could feel that same energy coming from our Chicago colleagues this morning,” wrote Arnie.
After Team Chicago made its announcement, Addie Goodman, JCC Chicago’s President & CEO, called Arnie to share her joy, reminding him that it was less than a year ago that they had breakfast in Houston and first talked about bringing Sunrise to Chicago. Emily Kopp, the project’s new Camp Director noted, it was a sunny day in Chicago today.
“Our work with the Chicago group has been nothing short of wondrous,” wrote Arnie, “and we look forward to continuing to partner with this extraordinary team of professionals in building our first camp off the eastern seaboard.”
Sunrise Event – Bowling for Sunrise
Blue Island Homes loves bowling and Sunrise. Put those two things together and the Long Island real estate company’s Bowling for Sunrise fundraiser was born! “We love everything that Sunrise Day Camp stands for and is about,” said Mark Stempel, CEO of Blue Island Homes, “and everyone loves to bowl even if it’s been decades since they’ve walked into a bowling alley, so it was an easy decision to help in any way we could.” After they had a team of 20 bowlers, made up of Blue Island Homes agents, staff and some family members, they had sharp-looking custom shirts made and were ready to roll!
On January 17 at AMF Syosset Bowling Lanes, the team bowled against another local business, Fairway Mortgage. Blue Island Homes provided the pizza, chicken, French fries and drinks, and players donated to the cause, raising $500 for Sunrise. “We distributed Sunrise Day Camp brochures to all participants, and they all want to continue to help,” said Mark. “Everyone is ready to keep the momentum going.” The next Bowling for Sunrise event will be held in March and Mark welcomes any interested businesses to create a team and join them! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch – it’s a fun thing to do in your spare time.
Sunrise Event – Open Mic Night at Growler & Gill
Sydney Mitgang, Camp Director of Sunrise Day Camp–Pearl River, hit the weekly Open Mic Night at Growler & Gill in Nanuet, New York, on February 7. Sydney was not there to perform but was on site to accept a generous donation of $1,410 for Sunrise! The donations were given by the Pearl River Lions Club in support of their members who performed at the Open Mic, and the bar owners.
The Pearl River Lions Club has supported Sunrise Day Camp–Pearl River in the past. Members told Sydney that “childhood cancer is one of their pillars of fundraising,” and when they learned of Sunrise being in their community, they felt compelled to fundraise and donate. Rocking the mic seemed like a perfect way to raise awareness, funds, and have some fun!
“I had a great time at the open mic, spending time with the Lions Club members,” said Sydney. “Everyone was warm and welcoming, loved hearing about Sunrise, and I’m so happy that we have such giving and kind community members.” No pressure but maybe next time Sydney will prepare a song? If you have a suggestion, let us know!
Sunrise News – Cuddly Campers at SunriseVX
Starting in March, get ready to meet some new campers at SunriseVX – they’re cute, cuddly, and totally adorable. They’re…puppets! But don’t tell them that.
“Every day I go to the Treehouse is a fun surprise to me,” said Lily, in an exclusive interview with The Scoop. “I just love Sunny and all the activities we do together!” Sunny feels the same about the new campers. “I’m so glad that Lily and Noah get to hang out with me in the SunriseVX Treehouse,” Sunny said. “Sometimes we get into shenanigans together but that’s what makes it fun!”
Just like our non-puppet campers, SunriseVX is a safe and fun place for the brother-sister duo. They love to play. They can sometimes annoy each other, but as Lily said of her big brother Noah, “I guess that’s what brothers are for.” Lily feels a little tired sometimes from her cancer treatment and needs to find quieter activities. Noah is always ready to run, and relieved that at SunriseVX, Lily doesn’t get all the attention because she is sick, as he sometimes feels at home.
The campers talk about their difficult feelings. They also play games and go on fun adventures with Sunny – “like the time we went camping and made the best-tasting s’mores ever,” said Noah.
Tune in this March by downloading the Sunrise Studios app or visiting the Sunrise Association’s YouTube channel to meet these new members of the Sunrise family – and spread the word to others! “Children with cancer and their siblings, ages 3.5 to 16, are welcome to come to SunriseVX,” said Sunny. “There’s always a home for them. The kids are gonna love it!”
P.S. Lily’s favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry. Noah’s is mint chocolate chip – the green kind. Just in case you were wondering. Yum!
Sunrise In the News
On February 12, Sunrise Day Camp–Staten Island had a super-successful Sunshine Sunday, which is the camp’s second-largest fundraiser of the year. (SunriseWALKS Staten Island, this year on June 4, is the largest.) “This year’s Sunshine Sunday event raised close to $100,000 – around twice as much as last year,” reported Sunrise Day Camp–Staten Island Fundraising Manager Nicholas Kapsalis. “We also had several elected officials attend.” Read about the successful event here!
Please note: Sunrise Association policy requires that all event attendees be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In-person events will be held in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, including local, state, and CDC guidelines, to protect the health and welfare of our staff and guests.