The Sunshine Kids Foundation is a shining institution in many kids' lives. With a mission of adding quality of life for pediatric cancer patients through exciting, positive group activities, Sunshine Kids Foundation offers a chance for kids to do what they are supposed to: "Have fun and celebrate life!"
"I think it's very important to have the support of companies here in our community," says Rita Suchma, director of development for the foundation. "It makes such a difference for us. We're honored that Fleming's chose The Sunshine Kids because it helps us in our mission to provide activities for these kids and gives us an opportunity to tell people what we're about. We're just very thankful to them for all they've done and all of their support."
While Fleming's River Oaks celebrates a special 10-year anniversary with the Month of Giving — a special prix fixe menu for $49.95 that benefits a different children's charity through Nov. 4 — The Sunshine Kids have a big anniversary as well. Founded in 1982 right here in Houston, Sunshine Kids turns 30 this year. In addition to a portion of proceeds from the second week in October, a cocktail reception and silent auction was also held at Fleming's to help commemorate their third successful decade of enhancing the lives of the children they serve. Of course, the foundation has grown tremendously in the last 30 years, which is cause for even more celebration.
What started as the simple plan of bringing a sense of normal childhood to kids in abnormal situations has expanded across the country and the foundation now has offices on all three U.S. coasts; East, West and Gulf. Branching out nationally means The Sunshine Kids can offer immersive seven day trips for pediatric cancer patients to visit (and play with) kids in hospitals around the country, and of course experience that city during the course of their week-long vacations.
Some recent trips, in which the kids travel with a doctor, nurse or social worker chaperone, have included California, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., San Marcos, New York City and Florida. Partnering with various hospitals allows the children who are in the middle of treatments to continue their care while still being able to travel and experience an extended vacation. Along the way, they form important friendships with kids in similar situations through shared experiences and a lot of fun activities.
Closer to home, recent Sunshine Kids events include or have included a pumpkin patch for about 200 pediatric cancer patients and their siblings, a fishing trip and plenty of outings to watch the Rockets, Astros, Texans and Dynamo. With all the sporting events on their agenda, it's only fitting that their national spokesperson would be former Astros legend Craig Biggio, whose voice and support has helped expand the foundation's reach through increased awareness and a national presence.
Biggio isn't the only celebrity whose name is closely tied to the foundation. Actor G.W. Bailey is executive director for The Sunshine Kids. If his name sounds familiar, you may recognize him as Capt. Harris from the Police Academy movies, Sgt. Rizzo from the M.A.S.H. television series or one of the regulars on TNT's The Closer (now rebooted as Major Crimes). After his goddaughter was diagnosed with cancer, Bailey began volunteering for the foundation and 15 years later transitioned from a valuable volunteer to the executive director in 2001.
Fun celebrity facts aside, The Sunshine Kids is a proud Houston institution that carries through on its promises to help kids experience childhood fully, even when something as powerful as cancer interrupts it.
Find out more at sunshinekids.org and get to Fleming's for the Month of Giving to eat a delicious prix meal for only $49.95 that also benefits a worthy cause.