Our History

Original Wish-Granting Non-Profit

In the 1960’s, Philadelphia police officer Bill Sample was assigned to a local children’s hospital. He encountered children with serious illnesses and saw first-hand how these children’s families were burdened not only by mounting medical bills, but also by the frustration of not being able to provide their children’s special dream. In November 1976, Bill decided to make difference.

He took out a personal loan and, with the help of others, sent Bobby, struggling with leukemia, and his family to the mountains to spend a week snowmobiling, sledding and simply enjoying what Bobby told his nurse he dreamed of “playing in the snow”. With the support of others, Bill formed Sunshine Foundation, the first wish granting 501c3, and began making dreams come true for children. Bill believed, “Not all children are able to run and play and enjoy life as easily as those who are healthy. Many children are innocent victims of birth defects, accidents and serious illness. Shouldn’t each child know that somebody cares enough to see his or her dream come true?” -Bill Sample

The Cop Who Spreads Sunshine

Reader’s Digest, Published September 1982 by Joseph P. Blank

Upon publication of this article in Reader’s Digest, the public reached out to Sunshine Foundation to referral their child as well as to make donations to support Bill’s efforts. Bill retired early from the Philadelphia Police Department to devote his time fully to growing the Sunshine Foundation.

Dreamlift Program

First Dreamlift of Children with Special Needs to the Magic Kingdom

Back in the early 1980s, Bill Sample decided to charter an airplane to send groups of children to visit “The Mouse” for a day! So began the unique concept of Dreamlifts! Sunshine Foundation has sponsored 98 Dreamlifts which included 108 chartered airplanes. Children board the airplane in the wee hours of the morning then are whisked off to sunny Florida.

Sunshine dreamers can then enjoy a day that will provide memories that will last a lifetime! Presently, Sunshine’s Mercer County All-Volunteer Chapter, the Trenton Mercer Community, including NJ State Troopers along with Miami Air International, help Sunshine give these deserving children a once in a lifetime experience that allows them to forget their daily challenges

Progeria Reunions

Progeria Awareness brought to the World stage

In1980, it was brought to Bill and Sunshine Foundation’s attention that a young boy in South Africa had a dream to visit Pinocchio. The inspiration for Fransie’s dream came as he saw himself in a mirror. Due to his aged appearance, which is a symptom among many of Hutchinson Guilford Syndrome, Fransie felt in some way he was related to this wooden puppet. Upon learning of Francie’s dream, Sunshine Foundation flew Fransie and his family to Disneyland where he saw Pinocchio.

After publication of an article about Fransie’s dream come true, Sunshine began receiving correspondence from other families whose children had similar characteristics. That following June 1981 Sunshine sponsored the first gathering of all known children suffering from Huchinson-Guildford Progeria. The following June, the first of 27 Annual Progeria Reunions took place that included bringing all children from throughout the world together so, as Bill wanted it, “the children would not feel alone”.

Sunshine Foundation is proud to have brought the awareness of children with Progeria to the world’s attention that would go on to inspire another organization to work to find a cure.