Monday, May 20, 2013

Camp Sunshine receives paddleboat donation by Leah Hoenen

Families seeking respite and relaxation at Camp Sunshine in Casco have a new way to enjoy Seb
ago Lake this summer. Longtime volunteer Ron Eby and The NASCAR Foundation have teamed up to donate a new paddle boat to the organization.

The boat was launched Friday, May 10, just ahead of the tenth annual NASCAR Day.

Years of volunteering, giving and fundraising for Camp Sunshine earned Eby widespread acclaim as one of four national finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award last year. Because Eby was a finalist, the foundation gave Camp Sunshine a $25,000 gift. This year, The NASCAR Foundation offered another gift to the charity when it helped Eby purchase the boat.

Camp Sunshine Executive Director Matt Hoidal said NASCAR’s recognition of Eby’s contributions has brought more attention to Camp Sunshine and its work. “It invigorates our current community of volunteers and draws in new interest,” he said.

NASCAR is holding 10 days of giving this May in honor of the anniversary of NASCAR Day, said Lorene King, Executive Director of The NASCAR Foundation. In celebration, the foundation is making additional donations to organizations it has already worked with, she said.

Hoidal said, “We are among several organizations that are the focus of Days of Giving.” The racing organization wanted to give a gift that would make a difference, and asked for a wish list, he said.

“They liked the idea of providing a vehicle. It’s not a car, it’s not a racecar, but it’s a vehicle for families to get out and paddle on the lake and have some fun in,” said Hoidal.

Hoidal said Camp Sunshine exists through individuals like Eby who give of themselves, and organizations like The NASCAR Foundation which give financial support.

Eight years ago, Eby began raising money for Camp Sunshine as part of his work to organize Summerfest. He estimates he has raised $250,000 for the organization since.

“Camp Sunshine is a year-round retreat for children and families with life-threatening illnesses in Casco on Sebago Lake,” said Eby. “It’s important to support children with life-threatening illness, but to support the whole family as well.”

The importance of the support of places like Camp Sunshine hit home for Eby years ago when his own daughter became severely ill during a trip from Maine to California. “It reminds me how important it is to have that support when you have a child with a life-threatening illness,” he said.

With a small staff supported by 2,000 volunteers, Eby said the camp hopes to host 800 families this year at no cost to the visitors.

King said, “Ron Eby is a very special individual. He has the true heart of a volunteer.” She said he displays and epitomizes the values the foundation looks for in volunteers who are working to improve children’s lives and give them the opportunity to live, learn and play.

NASCAR Day is a way for The NASCAR Foundation to highlight the work it does in support of children’s charities and to encourage and inspire people to take part in those efforts, said Eby.

He said he wants to encourage others to nominate outstanding volunteers for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

“With the humanitarian of the year nomination, that was a pretty big honor. Given the scope of the process and seeing this year how people are nominated, it is very clear to me how difficult it was and how special it was to get to that level,” said Eby.

Hoidal said it’s been amazing to see Eby’s contributions to the organization blossom. “Here’s somebody who came to us looking to sponsor a few families and to see his level of support grow year after year, it’s amazing,” said Hoidal.

For more information, find Camp Sunshine online at or call 655-3800. Follow The NASCAR Foundation online at, on Facebook or Twitter.

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