A warm embrace for children and their siblings battling pediatric cancer
Cindy Hearn from Camp Sunrise in Maryland shares the story of how she helped re-brand a program at Johns Hopkins Hospital into a thriving, welcoming camp for children who have been treated for cancer, their siblings, and their families.
It’s almost summer, and many parents are finalizing summer school programs, activities, and camps for their children. Cindy Hearn, board member of Camp Sunrise, wanted the same opportunities for children battling cancer.
“Everything we do is for our campers. Our mission is to provide joyful and nurturing camping experiences that foster confidence, friendship, and fun for children and families on their cancer journey,” said Cindy.
Camp Sunrise started 35 years ago under the Johns Hopkins hospital umbrella. In fact, Cindy first became aware of the program for pediatric oncology patients through a work outreach program and became moved by their promise to help children and families recover from cancer.
Cindy’s journey to Camp Sunrise
After obtaining her BA in International Relations and Economics from The College of William and Mary, Cindy became a research assistant for a Washington DC think tank. She worked at the Cato Institute for two years before leaving to become an international trainer for Outback Steakhouse where she opened 22 restaurants. When she wasn't traveling, she was responsible for training and customer service in 20 Washington/Maryland/Delaware restaurants. She transitioned from operations to marketing with Outback Steakhouse and became the director of Chesapeake Bay Area Charities of Maryland, a non-profit organization that raises money for cancer research.
With her passion ignited to help children and their families overcoming cancer, Cindy became involved with Camp Sunrise and has stayed committed to the mission for the last 10 years. She’s raised money for the hospital’s research endowment through a non-profit organization and served on the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology Advisory Board and Camp Sunrise, Inc. Board.
How Two17 became involved
Recently, the Camp Sunrise program moved to its own 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Because of this transition, Cindy felt it was a great opportunity to rebrand and create an entirely new entity. Because of her background in marketing and as a member of the board, she wanted to help provide consistency and cohesiveness to the camps being offered.
“We needed to find experts who could navigate our complex needs,” Cindy explained. Two17 joined the team, and Cindy couldn’t be happier. “They really listened to our ideas, were patient while we worked out some organizational kinks, and were able to complete our vision beautifully.”
The Two17 marketing team came together to brainstorm ways to enhance the Camp Sunrise brand. They offered suggestions and solutions for current and future opportunities. When asked about her favorite part of the marketing rebrand, Cindy exclaimed, “Beautiful logos. A robust website. A social media presence. Soon, we're going to add print and media marketing! We've come so far.”
Current offerings at Camp Sunrise
Each year, Camp Sunrise offers volunteer-driven, cost-free camping experiences for children with cancer and their siblings: Camp Sunrise, Camp SunSibs, and Camp at Hopkins. Children participate in traditional camp experiences like canoeing, archery, dodgeball, fishing and more. Additionally, on the last day of camp, a special activity is offered. This could be a train ride, a show at the planetarium, or a zip line adventure! Of course, no camping experience is complete without staying in rustic cabins and roasting marshmallows around the campfire.
Camp Sunrise is supported by incredible volunteers, counselors, staff, medical staff, donors, charitable organizations, and families that continually work hard to help manage the camp and fulfill its commitment to providing campers with a safe, enjoyable, and stimulating camping experience.
Camp is free to all attendees and is supported by the medical team at Johns Hopkins hospital. Children who need outpatient treatments are even able to receive them at camp while they attend. As Cindy explains, Camp Sunrise is a lifelong journey as many campers return year after year, eventually becoming counselors and giving back to the program that supported them over the years.
“For me personally, looking at the smiling faces of the children who visit the three camps is fulfilling enough,” Cindy shared. “Working with the volunteers, the directors, camp staff, and other board members is an added bonus. They're truly a wonderful group of people who are so dedicated to our campers. Helping to build our brand is something I want to be a part of.”
What’s on the horizon
While many campers are introduced to Camp Sunrise by the staff and medical team at Johns Hopkins hospital, Cindy hopes that the increase in marketing efforts will draw in additional campers.
“We are hoping to expand our camps and offer more opportunities to serve our camp families,” Cindy shared.
Also, because camps have been offered virtually for two years, Camp Sunrise will begin offering in-person camps again. After spending a few years away from the campers, it became apparent that in-person experiences were extremely valuable and more nurturing for campers and families.
“I think the most overwhelming feeling a camper or even a volunteer would feel is acceptance, almost like a warm embrace,” Cindy explained.
To learn more about becoming involved in Camp Sunrise, visit campsunrisemd.org. Donation and sponsorship information is available. A "Ways to Give" is coming soon and will offer more ways to give to Camp Sunrise.