After several years volunteering in person for Project Sunshine, switching to TelePlay wasn’t exactly easy for Robyn, co-leader of the Philadelphia Chapter. “I really struggled with the tech,” she says, remembering the challenges of the early months of the pandemic. When asked why she persevered, Robyn’s answer was immediate: “I just thought about those kids, so isolated and alone, and I knew I couldn’t give up.” Playrooms were closed and visitations severely curtailed, but there were still sick children in medical facilities and Robyn knew they needed Project Sunshine more than ever.
Fast-forward a year, and Robyn is now a Zoom pro. She’s conducted dozens of TelePlay visits and helped train volunteers from her and other chapters. While she’s excited for facilities to welcome back in-person volunteers, Robyn says there is a “significant need” for programs like TelePlay to continue. She’s seen firsthand how TelePlay can help Project Sunshine reach kids wherever they are, and how the medium allows for flexibility in participation. A teenager undergoing a breathing treatment, attached to a nebulizer and unable to speak, was able to take part in a distracting and hilarious game of trivia by holding up fingers to indicate her answer choices. Another teen, this one with a sibling under hospice care, wanted to leave her camera off and communicate via the chat. TelePlay meant she could engage with programming in a way that felt right for her, giving her a safe space from which to let go of the world for a minute and focus on having fun.
“Children are just so innocent,” Robyn says, “and it’s so easy to make them happy. That’s what Project Sunshine does, and that’s why I love being part of it.” It’s probably just a coincidence that Robyn’s middle name is Joy, but it’s the perfect word to describe the emotion she most associates with Project Sunshine: “There’s just so much joy involved, for everyone.” Thanks to volunteers like Robyn, Project Sunshine’s programs will continue to spread that joy in new and creative ways. “We can reach kids wherever they are now,” Robyn says proudly, and when asked, the former Zoom-a-phobe doesn’t hesitate: “I would absolutely continue with TelePlay in the future.”