When Hodgkin’s Lymphoma struck Ethan Zemel of Melville at age 13, his family was distraught, but one summer camp gave him a chance to feel like a normal kid—remarkably before his remission.
Oceanside-based Sunrise Day Camp gives children with cancer a place to play that makes them feel normal. From the camp’s start on June 29 through its finish on Aug. 17, kids do all kinds of activities including music, drama, crafts and playground. The camp touts itself as the world’s first free summer camp of its kind.
“Normal is good,” said Ethan’s 43-year-old mother, Aileen Zemel. “He’s healthy and normal.”
Even before getting sick, Ethan and his classmates directed their Bar Mitzvah money to building a Go-Kart track to help the kids at the camp, which has since grown to seven locations across New York, Maryland and Israel since the first one opened on LI a decade ago.
There are myriad donors willing to assist the children of this camp. Max Miller, 17, of Roslyn, decided to introduce computers and a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Shack for Sunrise. Not only is this camp helping children play, but it’s prepping them for their futures.
His father, 48-year-old David Miller, said his son’s a “techie geek” and didn’t expect him to become a counselor at the camp, but Max defied his expectations.
“The camp basically said if you can raise the money for it, then we’ll start it,” David Miller said. “Since then, the two of us have raised over a quarter of a million dollars. We have over 30 corporate sponsors, including Verizon, SUNation Solar, Makerbot, Little Bits, Yahoo.
“We’ve raised enough money to build a building that’s going to start construction after the summer, but we wanted to get the program going this summer, so we found a donor who actually bought a portable classroom for us,” he continued.
He said that this summer, the camp will be teaching robotics, 3D printing and computer programming to the children. He and his son have big plans for Sunrise Day Camp, and they hope to expand their vision to the other locations.
Another donor, Evan Cagner, 44, of Oyster Bay, who is the president and CEO of BCNY International and Synclaire Brands, donated footwear to the kids.
“Kids love the shoes and I love just seeing them smile,” Cagner said. He said his company will go to the camp on July 19, bringing even more stuff—hats, bags, bracelets—that the kids can use.
“Sunrise is an amazing organization and it really creates an opportunity for adult parents who are going through tough times with their kids who are going through even tougher times,” Cager said. “And if we can try to at least allow a kid to be a kid, even if it’s for a couple of days or a few weeks during the summer, I think it will really help those kids get through the tough moments they’ll have ahead of them.”
Sunrise Day Camp is open to kids ages 3 1/2 to 16. Its Long Island site is located at 75 Colonial Springs Rd. in Wyandanch. For more information, visit sunrisedaycamp-longisland.org