Students at St. Joseph’s College are known for their commitment to service — through raising funds and volunteering across the year for various organizations.
Case in point: Taylor Hanscom ’22, president of SJC Long Island’s chapter of Project Sunshine. She discovered her own desire to help others when she was only 10 years old.
Hanscom of Patchogue started a lemonade stand as a child to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after seeing a commercial about it on TV.
Project Sunshine is an international organization impacting more than 150,000 pediatric patients and providing community service opportunities to over 18,000 volunteers by partnering with medical facilities to provide opportunities for play and authentic engagement in the medical environment.
SJC’s chapter of Project Sunshine was established in 2013 when a former student told Lisa Tafuro, Ph.D., associate professor of communication studies and moderator of SJC’s Project Sunshine chapter, about the organization.
“In the beginning, there were only a few students involved,” Dr. Tafuro said. “We started by visiting the pediatric floor at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. Over the years, the club grew, and we now have 25 members who regularly meet and work on Sending Sunshine Kits for distribution.”
Each semester, Sending Sunshine Kits are assembled by SJC students and used for hospital workers, parents and adolescent patients. Due to COVID-19, the kits are mailed to hospitals that Project Sunshine cannot directly visit to provide fun activities for hospitalized patients.
Currently, SJC’s chapter works with Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip and Angela’s House, an organization that supports three homes on Long Island for medically fragile children.
“Prior to the pandemic, we were able to visit Good Samaritan’s pediatric unit in person,” said Hanscom. “During the COVID pandemic, we were able to continue our work by dropping off crafts and Sunshine Kits, and creating videos.”
In addition, the kits that SJC students create are sent to numerous hospitals across the United States. They also host annual fundraisers to help support Project Sunshine’s mission.
“Over the winter break my family and I made an additional 300 kits that were sent to hospitals in Florida, Rhode Island and California,” Hanscom said. “We look forward to a time when we can return to in-person programming but remain dedicated to bringing sunshine during this virtual period.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges for the club, their mission remains the same and the students got creative with their efforts to spread sunshine to those in need of it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the club has had to put a hold on in-person activities with their partners at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Angela’s House and Good Samaritan Hospital. However, they managed to continue their work by hosting donation drives and creating Sending Sunshine Kits that not only helped patients, but caregivers as well.
Additionally, the club created virtual programming with Cohen Children’s Medical Center, and now hosts a monthly trivia game that is conducted over a HIPAA-compliant Zoom platform.
“Each month, we play a new Disney trivia PowerPoint with the patients,” Hanscom said. “Our program is broadcasted on the CCTV program throughout the entire hospital. Patients can tune in and play along to guess the answers.
“I have also created an interactive puzzle that is completed throughout the programming,” she continued. “We even recorded our trivia game so it can be used more frequently at the hospital.”
Although she is preparing to graduate from SJC this May with a B.S.N. degree to pursue a career as a registered nurse, Hanscom said she hopes that Project Sunshine will continue to grow at SJC and beyond.
“I hope this club will continue to thrive and bring sunshine to pediatric patients,” Hanscom said. “I have been able to expand our outreach to numerous organizations and hospitals. There are numerous members interested in leadership positions and I believe the club will continue to succeed for many years to come.”
Dr. Tafuro, the club’s moderator, expressed how much of an impact the club president has made on the club and those around her.
“Taylor is an exceptional young woman,” Dr. Tafuro said. “Connecting with families and children takes strength and selflessness. Our members are special people who are living SJC’s mission every day. But Taylor has shaped the club in terms of its enormous presence on campus, expanding to a second hospital; coordinating its many members and hospital visits; and overseeing fundraising and service activities.”
For more information about Project Sunshine, visit projectsunshine.org.