Mohammed Naeem, left, Leader of the Stony Brook University Chapter of Project Sunshine, and Joel Thomas, right, fellow Stony Brook University student and Project Sunshine volunteer, create crafts with patient Liam McGuire, age 9, of Shoreham during a recent visit to Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital.
STONY BROOK, N.Y., March 27, 2013 – Mohammed Naeem could easily be known as Mr. Sunshine. As Leader of the Stony Brook University chapter of Project Sunshine, that’s his mission: to bring sunshine into the lives of children who are hospitalized at Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital.
A senior majoring in health science with a concentration in public health at Stony Brook, Naeem and his fellow student members of the local Project Sunshine chapter visit the pediatric inpatient unit at Stony Brook Children’s each Wednesday afternoon, where they engage the children in activities to help them cope with the stress of being hospitalized. Their efforts help bring a sense of normalcy to the lives of children and their families.
“The Stony Brook students bring fun activities each week for the kids,” said Paulette T. Walter, MA, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist at Stony Brook Children’s. “We work closely with them to integrate their activities and enthusiasm with our staff and patients. The Stony Brook chapter has also been very active in fundraising and bringing special events to us.”
Naeem, 22, of Flushing, Queens, said he started the Stony Brook chapter of Project Sunshine in 2012 after he read a book in which the founder of Project Sunshine was interviewed. Intrigued, he searched the internet, found out there was no chapter at Stony Brook, and decided to start one. Now there are 16 students in the chapter, with plans to expand to 20 next year.
“For our volunteers, it provides an experience that allows them to understand the day-to-day experience of patients,” Naeem said. “It helps us understand that the lives we lead are only as valuable as the lives we touch.
“Personally, the children I have worked with have truly inspired me to wake up every morning with a purpose,” he said. “Simply seeing the courage and determination they possess on a daily basis has instilled me with a passion to make use of my talents for the goodness of others.
“I enjoy creating something and then seeing the impact,” Naeem added. “It just makes me happy. That’s all it really is.”
A non-profit organization based in New York, Project Sunshine has more than 10,000 volunteers serving in 150 major cities across the United States, as well as Canada, China, Israel, Kenya and Puerto Rico. The organization offers recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social services (HIV and nutritional counseling) to more than 60,000 children facing medical challenges.
“Our volunteers are students, working professionals, artists, athletes and people of all ages and backgrounds who want to bring sunshine into the lives of children in need,” said Kate Amanna, MPA, Program Manager for Project Sunshine. “Volunteers spend time with children, create gifts to send to hospitalized children, and participate in hospital improvement projects to brighten the hospital’s surroundings.”
“This is a tremendous service to our patients and it demonstrates great care and commitment by the Stony Brook students who participate,” said Margaret M. McGovern, MD, PhD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and Physician-in-Chief, Stony Brook Children’s.
On a recent visit during Child Life Month in March, the Stony Brook students were filmed as part of a video production by Project Sunshine to promote its spring benefit gala on May 2 and to help raise awareness about the organization. The students wore bright yellow Project Sunshine shirts and donned chef’s hats while helping children create yogurt parfaits at the “Chef’s Table.” The activity provided the opportunity to educate the children about nutritional facts, recipes and healthier eating habits.
“We feel very fortunate to have Project Sunshine on our team to help make the children’s hospital stays less stressful,” Walter said. “They truly bring rays of sunshine to our children and their families.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For a gallery of photos related to Stony Brook
University Project Sunshine student volunteers at Stony Brook Long Island
Children’s Hospital, click here.
About Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital:
Established in June 2010, Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital is Suffolk County’s only children’s hospital. More than 7,000 children and adolescents are admitted each year. Stony Brook Children’s operates 100 pediatric beds and has more than 140 full-time pediatric physicians and surgeons in 30 different specialties and over 200 voluntary pediatric faculty members. The hospital is the Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center for our area and has a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is home to the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center and also offers a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program, Pediatric Cardiology Program, Pediatric HIV and AIDS Center, Cystic Fibrosis Center and the Cody Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. To learn more, visit www.stonybrookchildrens.org.
About Project Sunshine:
Project Sunshine is a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children facing medical challenges and their families. Project Sunshine empowers a dynamic and dedicated corps of over 10,000 volunteers to bring programming - recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social service (HIV and nutritional counseling) - to over 60,000 children facing medical challenges and their families in 150 major cities across the United States and in five international satellite sites: Canada, China, Israel, Kenya and Puerto Rico. For more information, visit www.projectsunshine.org.