Project Sunshine works to light up pediatric patients’ days

Project Sunshine sets up its table for member recruitment on Halloween. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Vining.

By Mariah Bennett | Staff Writer

Baylor’s chapter of Project Sunshine is a light within the medical field, with a mission to bring joy and play to pediatric patients.

Project Sunshine works with medical centers nationally to transform hospitals, outpatient centers and long-term care facilities into cheerful places for pediatric patients and their families. The nonprofit works to design fun, creative and educational programs, which are implemented by a network of trained volunteers.

Dallas sophomore and club president Daniela Marquez said the organization’s main goal is to “bring sunshine to a cloudy day.”

“Kids spend so much time in the hospitals,” Marquez said. “We just want to be that light for them. We just go and play games with them. We volunteer with them, and we just make sure they have a good time and just something for them to take their mind off [everything], since they’re going through a tough time.”

Sulphur, La., sophomore and club vice president Alyssa Vining said via email the organization’s mission is to bring light to patients.

“We hope to … live out our organization’s mission: bringing light to pediatric patients,” Vining said. “Being a member of Project Sunshine means making a difference in a special way.”

Currently, Baylor’s 4-year-old chapter has plans to partner with Cook Children’s Hospital in Dallas and take members to volunteer for a day. The organization is also scheduling a meeting to put together “sunshine kits” for pediatric patients — something Marquez said the group does once each semester.

“We message headquarters in New York, and they send us this big box, and it comes with crayons, Play-Doh and coloring books,” Marquez said. “What we do is we get these little bags, then we put all those things that come in there and we assemble the sunshine kits. And then we send those off to the hospitals.”

Baylor’s chapter currently has 110 members. There is a meeting at the beginning of each semester to explain HIPAA, rules and guidelines for volunteering.

Marquez said the organization is an activity members can do on their own time, although there are also volunteer opportunities they can do together. There is no minimum number of hours to remain in the organization.

Vining said that Project Sunshine is a group for everyone and that she enjoys the way the community builds as it welcomes freshmen.

“I feel that we play an important part of making them feel at home and involved at Baylor,” Vining said. “That is what Project Sunshine did for me my freshman year, and I hope to always do in my years at Baylor.”

Oak Leaf sophomore Maya York is a pre-med student interested in pursuing pediatrics. She said she thinks bringing joy to these patients is important.

“I like the organization on campus,” York said. “I feel like it gives students opportunities to understand why certain medical ethics is important in the health care industry.”

Berlin, Conn., sophomore Jaden Paldino said she wants to be a pediatric physician assistant.

“I think it’s important to bring joy to pediatric patients in hospitals, just to give them some hope and to make their unfortunate situation seem a little bit better,” Paldino said. “They are just kids, and helping them to continue to be happy is super important.”

Marquez said every chapter of Project Sunshine has something very specific it does. She said that what makes Baylor’s chapter different is its leadership team.

“What really makes our chapter different is our leadership team, honestly, because we’re all so passionate about what we do,” Marquez said. “We really want to give the members an opportunity to be able to volunteer. Doing this service is awesome.”