News

Project Sunshine makes kids smile

Francesca Raffa, a Project Sunshine volunteer, with a patient during a fall event at Holtz Children's Hospital. Courtesy Francesca Raffa

As a volunteer at Holtz Children’s Hospital, Daniel McCormack recalls a 20 minute pickup game of basketball against an unusual opponent, Sebastian the Ibis.

Although Sebastian’s presence made this game peculiar, the real magic of the game came from the 12-year-old patient who eagerly raced across the court and tried to help McCormack shoot another ball into the hoop, his hospital robe waving over his back and an IV in his arm.

“It was one of the best experiences I had at the hospital,” said McCormack, public relations chair of Project Sunshine.

The young patient is just one of the many children who are quickly forging companionships with volunteer members of Project Sunshine, a campus organization that strives to brighten ill children’s days. They work with children of all ages; some suffer from diseases like cancer and some were victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti last year.

With an estimated 80 members, Project Sunshine volunteers visit the hospital every week and surprise the children with face-painting, games and prizes.

“We go into the kids’ rooms ready to play and try to alleviate the hospital environment,” said Francesca Raffa, president of Project Sunshine. “They usually are all very positive. They’re not patients with an illness, they’re just kids.”

Members of the organization are not required to volunteer at the hospital. Some choose to only participate in fundraisers, meetings and social events.
Although Project Sunshine has been active for 10 years, members recently decided to transfer their volunteer time from Miami Children’s Hospital to Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.

“There’s a big need for volunteers at the hospital,” McCormack said. “They have a lot of programs set but few resources.”

New volunteers are required to undergo training and orientation at the hospital where staff members remind them of specific guidelines to follow.
They recommend that volunteers do not ask the children why they are at the hospital and keep them focused on the exciting activity at hand. Staff members also emphasize how important it is to refrain from becoming emotional.

“I’ve never showed emotion because the kids may get more scared,” Raffa said. “We reflect on our own experiences after we’re with the children, but I always notice how confident and courageous they really are.”

Project Sunshine hopes to sponsor events that keep the students socially active and assist the children with medical challenges. Their next plan is to teach the children how to make ice cream, an activity they believe would put a smile on anyone’s face.

Jonathan Borge may be contacted at jborge@themiamihurricane.com.

January 30, 2011

Reporters

Jonathan Borge

Assistant News Editor


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

UM dining services team earns national recognition for special event catering. ...

From hammerheads to great whites, University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag is a dedicated sp ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.