Operation Sunshine was founded in 1968, when Victor Ehre, then-president of the Utica Mutual Insurance Company, suggested that there should be a community effort to send children in need to summer camp. The Utica newspapers at the time — the morning Daily Press and evening Observer-Dispatch — agreed to sponsor the effort, and Mason Taylor, the newspapers’ executive editor, dubbed it “Operation Sunshine.”
That first campaign raised $9,276 from local businesses and public donations, and helped send 292 youngsters to camp. The following Christmas, a second Operation Sunshine effort was created to reach out to families in need during the holiday season. That campaign raised $7,886 for 130 families.
The campership program works with partnering agencies that reach out to children in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties. Children apply to specific agencies for assistance to attend a summer camp. Families then pay only a portion of the regular camp fees based on their income. Operation Sunshine picks up the rest. The holiday campaign works with some of the same partner agencies. Money raised is used to purchase food, clothing and toys for families in need whose eligibility again is determined by a careful screening process.
Because the Observer-Dispatch underwrites Operation Sunshine’s expenses, donors can be sure that 100% of every cent of every dollar contributed goes directly to the cause.
People from all corners of the community, young and old, are faithful to the mission. While large contributors provide a hefty base, Operation Sunshine could not survive without individual donations from people like you. The steady stream of $25, $50 and $100 donations that arrive during each campaign are the backbone of the effort. Because of them, Operation Sunshine succeeds.