Project Sunshine shines at the UA
The University of Arizona’s Project Sunshine chapter sends out the most smiles in the nation, as evidenced by the club recently being granted the Chapter of the Year award.
Project Sunshine is an international organization that tries to brighten children’s visits to the hospital by bringing them arts and crafts, storytelling and other fun activities. The UA chapter volunteers at Tucson Medical Center, El Rio Community Health Center, Z Mansion, the Ronald McDonald House and many other locations.
The UA chapter has set itself apart with additional outreach programs like visiting homeless shelters, and contributing extra crafts aside from those in their budget. This extra effort and dedication is what got the club named Chapter of the Year out of around 50 college chapters nationwide.
“This has become a really big part of my life… I just have a large passion for it and I just want everyone to feel that passion,” said Project Sunshine’s co-president, nutritional sciences junior Molly Jepson, about how it is always rewarding to help out at clinics in the Tucson community.
Jepson came across Project Sunshine in her freshman year through her dorm mates, and encouraged her twin sister, Regan Jepson, to join as well. Public health junior Erin Pelley, co-president with Jepson, discovered Project Sunshine at a club fair in her sophomore year.
Pelley described the first event she volunteered at, and how it made a lasting impression on her.
“I had set up the tables, and it was a little slow. I thought, ‘Rats, this isn’t going to be good and no one’s going to come,’” she said. “Then this little girl comes over and she just starts doing crafts. And the mom sat down and she started doing a craft with us too… That’s why I’m here.”
For their members, Project Sunshine is more than just charity work. The club is dedicated to the mission in their motto: “Sending Sunshine.”
“The club is built on friendship, and we try and expand our friendships into the hospital,” Pelley said. “We radiate an energy that is pretty contagious. When we get there, everyone smiles and we smile.”
From geology majors to education majors and all others, Project Sunshine’s diverse members had nothing but praise and support for the organization. The co-presidents said that one of the biggest challenges they have is member retention and keeping everyone engaged.
Currently however, Project Sunshine has around 30 to 40 recurring members that actively participate in their volunteer work, meetings and socials.
“It’s a very compassionate group of people that have gotten involved,” Regan Jepson said. “They all share a common interest in that they all want to help each other. And that’s the reason for the success of the club.”
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“[Project Sunshine] is a group of really good people that want to make a difference in their community,” Molly Jepson said.
“I’m really shocked at how well organized the entire club is, and how comforting and welcoming the upperclassmen of the club are,” said Taylor Young, a freshman and pre-nursing major, who was recently elected volunteer coordinator of the club for next year.
Project Sunshine hopes to expand into more hospitals, school programs and nursing homes. They currently have the opportunity to work with Camp Abilities Tucson, a sports camp for visually impaired students this summer, and are pursuing a project with Diamond’s Children Medical Center to do STEM projects with children at Banner - University Medical Center.
For more information on Project Sunshine at the UA, visit their Facebook page.