Founder of Sunshine Foundation dies at 78

  • A memorial service was planned for Wednesday for Bill Sample, a former Northeast resident and founder of the Sunshine Foundation, who died last week.

  • A lifetime of helping others: Bill Sample founded the Sunshine Foundation in 1976. The foundation has fulfilled the dreams of about 37,000 children who are chronically or seriously ill, are physically challenged or have been abused.

A me­mori­al ser­vice was planned for Wed­nes­day for Bill Sample, a former North­east res­id­ent and founder of the Sun­shine Found­a­tion, who died last week.

He was 78 and lived in Chalf­ont, Bucks County.

Sample was a Phil­adelphia beat cop, as­signed to the 26th Po­lice Dis­trict and sta­tioned at St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren, then loc­ated at 5th Street and Le­high Av­en­ue, when he learned that a 4-year-old leuk­emia suf­fer­er named Bobby dreamed of see­ing the moun­tains and play­ing in the snow.

That got Sample think­ing, “Why must chil­dren die with their child­hood dreams un­answered?”

So Sample ar­ranged for the Warmin­ster boy to vis­it the Po­cono Moun­tains.

That was in 1976, the year Sample foun­ded the Sun­shine Found­a­tion. It was billed as the “ori­gin­al wish-grant­ing or­gan­iz­a­tion.”

His motto was, “Not all chil­dren are able to run and play and en­joy life. Many are in­no­cent vic­tims of birth de­fects, ac­ci­dents and deadly dis­eases. Shouldn’t each child know that some­body cares enough to see his or her dream come true?”

In the last 38 years, the found­a­tion has ful­filled the dreams of about 37,000 chil­dren ages 3-18 who are chron­ic­ally or ser­i­ously ill, are phys­ic­ally chal­lenged or have been ab­used. Many of them have stayed at the found­a­tion’s Dream Vil­lage in Cent­ral Flor­ida. The vil­lage fea­tures an Olympic-sized pool, a play­ground and a mini­ature golf course for kids to en­joy. Fam­il­ies also re­ceive tick­ets to all the loc­al at­trac­tions.

The found­a­tion has ar­ranged for de­serving chil­dren to vis­it va­ca­tion spots, meet celebrit­ies, en­joy fam­ily out­ings and re­ceive gifts.

In ad­di­tion, the found­a­tion spon­sors “Dream­lifts” - charter flights for a day at Dis­ney World.

Also, the found­a­tion holds an an­nu­al re­union for people with pro­ger­ia, a rare ge­net­ic con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by an ap­pear­ance of ac­cel­er­ated aging in chil­dren.

For years, the found­a­tion was based in Frank­ford and Ta­cony be­fore it moved to Feasterville.

Sample lived in Ox­ford Circle and Nor­mandy be­fore mov­ing to Flor­ida for 12 years to over­see the Dream Vil­lage. He later re­turned to the area and settled in Bucks County.

Sample re­ceived many awards, in­clud­ing Pres­id­ent Ron­ald Re­agan’s Vo­lun­teer Ac­tion Award (first re­cip­i­ent); De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices City of Phil­adelphia Award; Fath­er Baker’s Ser­vice to Youth Award; The Bul­let­in Jef­fer­son Award; Doc­tor­ate of Hu­mane Let­ters, Vil­lan­ova Uni­versity; and Great Friend to Kids Award from the Please Touch Mu­seum.

Sample is sur­vived by his wife Kate; daugh­ters Di­ane, Donna and El­len; and grand­chil­dren Kyle, Mark, Nicole and Jordan.

Dona­tions in his memory can be made to the Sun­shine Found­a­tion, 1041 Mill Creek Drive, Feasterville, PA 19053. ••

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