NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An organization aimed at bringing hospitalized children a little ray of sunshine will hold its annual fundraising gala next month.
“Project Sunshine” started in 1998 when founder Joseph Weilgus decided to do what he could to make a few sick kids smile.
“I started as a simple volunteer clown,” Weilgus told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.
Since then, the idea has grown into a full-fledged non-profit organization with more than 15,000 volunteers in 175 cities worldwide.
“We service hundreds of hospitals across the world,” he told Hsu.
Weilgus said the benefits of “Project Sunshine” go to the kids and to the volunteers.
“What these children do to us as volunteers, it’s the most positive, infectious kind of release it gives us,” Weilgus said.
Supermodel Damaris Lewis, who grew up in Brooklyn, has been a volunteer with the organization for more than four years.
She said the program has been rewarding for her.
“To be a mentor or do anything for these kids is a blessing in itself,” she told Hsu. “You don’t realize how much it means until somebody comes up to you and just says ‘thank you.’ That, to me, is everything. That’s why I do it.”
Weilgus said there have been many kids who benefitted from the project and then started their own chapter of “Project Sunshine” after recovering from their illness to continue the cycle of giving back.
“Project Sunshine” Week runs from April 25 through May 2 and is capped off by the 10th annual Project Sunshine Gala on May 2nd.
The gala will be held at Cipriani 42nd Street. CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois will serve as one of the emcees for the event.
For more information on the gala, click here.
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