Bringing sunshine to the Schenectady area: The Project Sunshine Chapter at Union College

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By Katelyn Billings

The Project Sunshine club at Union is a group of kindhearted and creative students eager to make a difference in the lives of many children in the Schenectady area. The members of the club travel to Pathways Nursing and Rehab Center in Niskayuna to visit sick children and bring some happy ‘sunshine’ to a disheartening environment. They play games, make crafts and spend time with hospitalized children, all in an attempt to make the children’s days a little brighter.

Last week, Project Sunshine held an arts and crafts event, which invited members of the campus to come learn more about the organization and help with its mission.

“Project Sunshine is really big across North America, and basically the whole point is to volunteer at local rehab centers geared towards kids. Each chapter is associated with an organization, and ours is Pathways in Niskayuna,” explained President of the Project Sunshine chapter at Union Wayne Fu ’15.

Fu continued, “What we do is visit and play games, read, talk or just hang out with the kids. It’s unfortunate because most of the kids are confined to their beds and often even hooked up to a machine, and this is really the only time they see people from outside.”

The club holds many events open to the campus in which they craft, cut and draw little projects and knickknacks for the children that they visit. This past Thursday, the members of the club gathered in Messa House and helped to make pillows for their friends at Pathways.

“The Nation Chapter funds us with arts and crafts, and they’ve definitely helped keep us on track. We’re making pillows for them today, but we usually do something each term. Last term we made door tags, and in the past we have made blankets as well,” said Fu.

In Messa, the club worked with a soft material, making pillows with either blue owls or pink butterflies. The room was filled with positive energy, demonstrating that the members enjoy the work as much as the children receiving the results of the members’ work will. In the presence of a club that is seemingly small, its impact outside of Union’s campus is one of great measure.

“We have about 15 to 20 members, and a really solid group of board members including Julie Fishman [’16] and Katherine Christopher [’16] have been a big help to me, and we all volunteer for about three times a week for about an hour and a half,” Fu stated.

The club certainly makes an impact not only in the lives of the patients, but in the lives of the volunteers as well. Several of the club members expressed how much they enjoy visiting the kids every week, and how it has changed their college experiences.

“I love visiting the kids and knowing that we brighten their days. They don’t know all of our names, but they see our yellow shirts and their faces light up. It’s such a great feeling,” said Julie Fishman.

Fishman and Katherine Christopher have been involved in Project Sunshine for over a year now, and they both have appreciated being a part of such a compassionate organization.

“I was really interested after hearing that you visit hospitals to see kids, because I’ve always wanted to do something like that. It is different than I thought it would be because of the specific sicknesses and cases of the kids, but they don’t get many visitors, and they really love when we come,” said Christopher.

The club made about eight pillows and will continue to hold events to make more gifts for the children. For the students interested in a feeling of achievement and wishing to make a substantial difference in someone’s life, joining Project Sunshine is an excellent option for volunteering in the Schenectady area.

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