By: LAUREN COMANDER
As dedicated supporters of Sunshine Kids, the volunteers from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices have been bringing smiles to kids battling cancer since 1991.
When the CEO of Prudential Real Estate (now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) was vacationing in Aspen in the early 1990s, he saw one of the company’s associates escorting a group of cancer patients on the slopes. Intrigued, he was introduced to Sunshine Kids Foundation and its mission to provide group activities for kids battling cancer.
A partnership was born, one that continues to this day. In fact, as the only national sponsor of the foundation, BHHS raises funds to cover 60 percent of the organization’s budget, contributing a total of $37 million over the last two decades of engagement. “We’ve been able to expand our programs and open different offices to reach as many kids across the country as possible,” said Shannon Malone, director of operations for the Sunshine Kids Foundation. “Kids meet others going through the same thing as they are going through, and they make lifelong friends with each other.”
Among the 85 hospitals serviced by group, five are in South Florida and include Baptist, Holtz, Joe DiMaggio, Miami Cancer Institute, and Nicklaus hospitals. These draw many local BHHS members, whose aim is to be of service.
In addition to fundraising, many volunteer time, often chaperoning group trips like the one that attracted the company’s interest so many years ago. Some organize hospital parties that keep the kids – all undergoing active cancer treatment – engaged. This year, as the foundation emerges from pandemic restrictions that hit cancer patients especially hard, the nonprofit will take its patients on week-long, all-expense-paid excursions to Orlando and New York. The participants are selected by pediatric oncology units at the participating hospitals.
More good news: The organization aims to resume the pre-pandemic pace of ten trips a year.
As for the partnership with BHHS, giving back is at the core of the drive to help. “BHHS employees really stood up and continued to fundraise throughout Covid, and now they are really enthusiastic about volunteering and making as much of a difference as they can,” Malone said. “They’re out there raising money, but when they see where it’s going and how it impacts the kids, they see them having fun, playing games and laughing, they tell me it changes their lives, too.”