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Davenport - In the 1960’s, Philadelphia police officer Bill Sample was assigned to a local children’s hospital. He encountered critically ill, and often terminally ill, children and saw first-hand how these children’s families were burdened not only by mounting medical bills, but also by the frustration of not being able to provide their children’s special dream. In 1976, Bill took out a personal loan and, with the help of others, started the Sunshine Foundation and began making dreams come true for these truly deserving children.
“Not all children are able to run and play and enjoy life. Many are innocent victims of birth defects, accidents, and deadly diseases. Shouldn’t each child know that somebody cares enough to see his or her dream come true?” - Bill Sample
Bill Sample founded Sunshine Foundation in 1976. Sunshine Foundation was an idea born during his many years as a Philadelphia police officer. In 1962, following three years of service in the United States Army, Sample joined the Philadelphia police force. Stationed on protective duty at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Bill often met chronically ill or terminally ill children and their families. Through talking with the families, he learned the emotional and financial strain that comes with having a seriously ill child. Mounting medical bills and time off from work made providing their child with what could be their last dream seem out of reach.
Bill Sample decided he was going to make a difference in these children’s lives. After taking out a personal loan and gathering a small group of dedicated volunteers, Bill founded Sunshine Foundation, the Original Wish Granting Organization, with the mission of answering the dreams of chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages three to eighteen, whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to the financial strain that the child’s illness may cause. Sunshine Foundation answered the first dream in January of 1977 for four-year-old Bobby, who dreamed of playing in the snow in the Poconos. Bobby’s dream came true just four short months before he lost his brave battle with Leukemia.
Bill worked hard at answering dreams while still maintaining his position with the police force until he retired in 1983 to dedicate his efforts full time to Sunshine Foundation. With Bills direction, Sunshine Foundation has grown to include the Dream Village, a 22 square acre property, 15 miles of the Orlando theme parks, where children and their families stay in one of 9 fairytale-themed cottages and enjoy a handicapped-accessible playground, a wheelchair-accessible pool and a miniature golf course during their stay.
As a way of extending the most popular dream of visiting the Florida attractions to children, whose conditions do not allow them to be away from home for longer than 24 hours, Bill and Sunshine began Dreamlifts. Sunshine has answered over 5000 dreams in this unique program, which charters a plane and takes close to 100 children to an Orlando theme park for a one-day trip! After learning about the rare condition, Progeria, Bill and Sunshine developed the Progeria Reunions, which brings together children from all around the world with Progeria for a week.
Sunshine Foundation has answered over 40,000 dreams and has been able to maintain that 79.6% of all donations go directly to children’s programs. Bill Sample remains the President Emeritus of Sunshine Foundation, which has become one of the most respected children foundations in the nation. Bill was awarded the 3rd Annual Father Baker Service to Youth Award, President Ronald Reagans Volunteer Action Award, The Philadelphia Award, An Honorary Doctorate from Villanova University, Please Touch Museums Great Friends to Kids Award, Thomas Jefferson Award, AMORC Humanitarian Award, The FREEDOMS Foundation Honor Award, Olney High School Alumni Achievement Award, and The Association of Fundraising Professionals Lifetime Achievement Award, among many.
For more information about this great organization, you can visit their website at https://www.sunshinefoundation.org/