Sunshine Day breaks through the rain

Kaitlyn Coppolo

Rain could not dampen the sunshine on Saturday when over 150 children from various organizations attended Sunshine Day, an annual event sponsored by Rays of Sunshine, a University service organization.

Fairy tale characters took over St. Mary’s gym, which was transformed into Peter Pan’s Neverland with a mermaid lagoon, a “Lost Boys” hideout, a pirate ship and Skull Rock.

Music played and members of the Villanova men’s and women’s basketball teams gave children turns shooting baskets.

Members of Rays of Sunshine tutor underprivileged children on a weekly basis, visit the elderly, jazzercise with mentally disabled people and make service trips every Saturday.

Children from Southwest Enrichment Center, Universal Charter School, Mt. Zion, Hickman Temple School, Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Phil’s attended Sunshine Day.

“These kids work hard in school throughout the year, and Sunshine Day gives them a chance to relax and have fun with their Villanova buddies,” said Events Chair Jamie Berg, a junior who is one of the organizers of the event.

The children had their faces painted and created their own treasure chests. Students made mobiles in the shape of suns to donate to St. Edmund’s School for Disabled Children, one of the schools that University students visit weekly.

Games, prizes and moon bounces – one in the shape of a pirate ship- kept the children busy.

“It was the second year in a row that it rained for Sunshine Day,” Berg said. “But it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of any of the visiting students or volunteers.” Over 150 students volunteered.

“One of the girls from St. Phil’s told me that she never had such fun,” senior Jenny Dwoskin said.

Adding to the fun were the Villanova Wildcat, DJ Rockin’ Dave (of Special Olympics fame) and the IHC photo booth.

The children loved seeing the basketball teams. The players caught rebounds and some even played a little one-on-one.

“One highlight was watching Dante Cunningham lift up a little girl so she could dunk,” junior April Gonzalez, one of the agency chairs, said.

The players stayed longer than planned as the children and chaperones asked for pictures and autographs.

Other hits of the day were Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and the crocodile. They walked around hugging the children and signing autographs.

Rays of Sunshine’s Assistant Finance and Fundraising Chair Eric Melchior, a sophomore, dressed up as Captain Hook.

“Because I was the villain, they liked watching me fight Peter Pan,” Melchior said. “Most of them sided with the good guy, but every once in a while they said they wanted to be a pirate, which was cool.”

The event, which lasted four hours, seemed to make an impression on the children.

“We had a few obstacles, such as inclement weather, and there was a lot of planning that went into organizing Sunshine Day,” said Berg. “But it was all worthwhile to see the smiles and hear the laughter of the children.”

The kids were not the only ones smiling.

“I knew the kids were going to have a lot of fun, but I didn’t know that I would have so much fun too,” sophomore Cristine Lovallo said.