Sunrise from Coast to Coast: A Full-Circle Connection

In June 2009, Oceanside, New York native Rachel Friedmann headed out for her first day as a counselor at Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island. She had decided to follow in the footsteps of her brother, Miki, who was a counselor during the camp’s inaugural summer in 2006, and her sister Debra, who joined the staff team the following year. Rachel had listened for the past three summers as her siblings recounted each day’s activities cheerfully and enthusiastically, which came as a surprise to her as she had expected a camp for children with cancer to carry a certain heaviness. So, she decided to see what Sunrise was all about.

Rachel quickly discovered just why her siblings had been raving. While working at camp, she witnessed endless smiles, laughter, and carefree childhood excitement. She particularly enjoyed the Family Nights, where campers and their families participated in fun and silly activities together. For her, this cemented the fact that, although pediatric cancer is devastating to the whole family, moments of shared joy are still possible. Rachel ended up working at camp for six wonderful summers, holding roles as a one-on-one counselor, an administrative intern, and ultimately climbing the ranks to the leadership team.

Fast forward to the present day, Rachel—better known to her patients as Dr. Friedmann—has relocated to the West Coast, where she works as a third-year pediatric hematology-oncology fellow at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. According to Dr. Friedmann, “Sunrise was pivotal in my decision to become a doctor. I had an academic interest in biology, but it was really the personal connections I fostered with Sunrise campers that made me want to pursue pediatric hematology-oncology as a career.”

More recently, this month’s opening of Sunrise Day Camp-Orange County—Sunrise Association’s newest camp in Irvine, California—has allowed Dr. Friedmann to reconnect with Sunrise in a unique way: by sharing it with her patients’ families. According to her, this new camp is a particularly attractive option to parents in the area who are in need of resources beyond what a hospital alone can provide, both for their children with cancer and their siblings.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to recommend an organization that I can vouch for firsthand,” she remarked. “I know how impactful Sunrise Day Camps are, which not only makes me feel confident in my suggestion but also inspires confidence in the parents of the patients I work with, who are ordinarily faced with a lot of uncertainty.”

From working at the first Sunrise Day Camp well over a decade ago to recommending the newest camp to her patients today, Dr. Friedmann’s feelings on what Sunrise offers have remained the same: “It’s the Best Camp.”