Meet the Ambassadors

SunriseWALKS - Long Island

June 10, 2018

Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds
75 Colonial Springs Road
Wheatley Heights, NY 11798


Meet Aiden & Mason! 

Aiden was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was 3 years old. He was immediately thrust into 8 months of intense treatment. With his twin brother, Mason, by his side, Aiden endured 5 bone marrow aspirations, dozens of lumbar punctures, and countless rounds of chemotherapy. He has another two and a half years of maintenance treatments that include daily chemo pills, monthly infusions, and three lumbar punctures a year. He will end treatment on June 14, 2020, right before his 6th birthday.
As you can imagine, we have spent many long hours in the hospital. We were first introduced to Sunrise during one of Aiden’s treatments at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Nicole, from Sunrise on Wheels, greeted us with a big smile and a beautiful tie-dyed trunk full of fun games, toys, and crafts. The Sunrise on Wheels staff and volunteers quickly became a constant source of light in our lives—we found ourselves actually looking forward to going to the hospital to see them! When we transferred to Mt. Sinai Children’s Hospital, it meant a whole new environment with all new doctors and nurses, so we were overjoyed when we saw Nicole’s familiar face with her signature tie-dyed trunk rolling behind her. We couldn’t help but engulf her in hugs.
Along with Aiden’s diagnosis came the reality that his treatment would put a financial strain on our family. We didn’t have room for many extra luxuries in life. No matter how much we wanted to, we could never afford to send the boys to summer camp. Beyond that, we wouldn’t trust Aiden’s health to just anyone. Because of the relationship we formed with Nicole and the Sunrise on Wheels volunteers, we trusted Sunrise. We knew at Sunrise, he would be safe. They even add the extra comfort of welcoming siblings to attend camp. Being twins, Mason and Aiden are inseparable and we never would have sent Aiden to camp alone. We believe Aiden has done as well as he has because of Mason. Mason gives him hugs, kisses away his boo boos, and gets Aiden his monkey blanket when he needs it. Mason has never missed a single hospital visit in over a year. They both do better when they do it together. It was a huge relief to us that the boys could have this incredible experience together.
Aiden and Mason love camp. The tee pee, the playground, the tree house—it is a magical new world just for them. And the magic of camp didn’t end when they left the Campgrounds. Every night, their stuffed animals went to Sunrise, dancing and singing silly songs. But Sunrise Day Camp proved to be much more than fun for our boys. Not only did they have the best time, they learned so much. Due to Aiden’s treatment, he was unable to attend Pre-K. We kept Mason home as well. We were worried the boys would fall behind, but at Sunrise they learned all of the things they missed by not attending Pre-K. They learned social skills and how to make friends. They learned how to follow directions and sit and listen to a story. They even learned the days of the week and the months of the year. Mason and Aiden entered Pre-K a year late, but were totally prepared due to what they learned over the summer. When asked where they learned something, the answer was always the same: “my counselors!”
Sunrise is filled with the most amazing people. They truly care about the children they work with and it is evident in everything they do. We haven’t missed a Sunrise Sunday yet. The boys love seeing their camp friends once a month, and the energy and attention the staff put in to each event is a true testament to how much the staff love the kids. From Sunrise on Wheels, to Sunrise Day Camp, to Sunrise Sundays—we have found a family in Sunrise, a constant source of comfort, and most importantly—a place where my kids get to be kids.
—  Denise Schaefer