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 While in Florida, the Jasper family, of Warren, visited LEGOLAND, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Christopher (13), Conner (11), Charleigh (8) and Cheyenne (12) stand near a shark tank.

While in Florida, the Jasper family, of Warren, visited LEGOLAND, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Christopher (13), Conner (11), Charleigh (8) and Cheyenne (12) stand near a shark tank.

Photo provided by Ashley Jasper


Foundation provides 'sunshine' to Warren family

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published April 5, 2020

 The Jasper family was granted the trip through Sunshine Foundation.

The Jasper family was granted the trip through Sunshine Foundation.

Photo provided by Ashley Jasper

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WARREN — When Conner Jasper, 11, arrived with his family at the pirate-themed cottage located in Sunshine Foundation Dream Village in Davenport, Florida, the first thing he said was “Arrr!”

Conner, of Warren, and his family — his mom Ashley, dad Chris, brother Christopher, and sisters Cheyenne and Charleigh — all traveled to Florida in February on behalf of the Sunshine Foundation. 

The foundation makes dreams come true for children who are chronically ill, physically challenged, suffered trauma or were abused. The nonprofit organization recently granted Conner, who has special needs, and his family a dream-come-true vacation they enjoyed in February.

“The trip is designed to provide that kind of experience for families that have medical obstacles,” Ashley said. “We got to pick where we wanted to go. We signed him up for a trip to Orlando. We were able to pick a day at three different parks and LEGOLAND was automatically part of that.”

The family also bonded with each other visiting Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Ashley said Conner’s favorite spot was SeaWorld.

“They had all the different shows, and the whole day was fun,” she said. That included eating dinner at a restaurant that came with its own shark tank. “It was one of the best memories our family will ever have. Conner responded fantastic. He had a lot of fun. Lots of smiles. We have lots of photos.”

Conner’s siblings “thought it was fantastic. They had a good time too,” Ashley said. Lodging was included in the vacation, and the family stayed at Sunshine Foundation Dream Village, a 22-acre fairytale village with various themed-cottages. 

Conner was born with truncus arteriosus, a rare defect of the heart in which a single common blood vessel comes out of the heart, instead of the usual two vessels. When he was only 11 days old, Conner underwent open heart surgery.

“He still has lots of cardiovascular issues,” said Ashley, adding her son also has a mild form of cerebral palsy and wears a hearing device in one ear.

Conner attends the Keith Bovenschen School in Warren. Operated by the Macomb Intermediate School District, the school provides educational services for students ages 3-26 with moderate to severe cognitive impairment. 

“He loves school. He does very well with the structure,” Ashley said. “The school is fantastic. The people that work there are very dedicated to these kids.”

Ashley said that when Conner was 3, he was in a program through the MISD when a therapist suggested the family apply for a trip through Sunshine Foundation. It took several years for the wish to be granted. 

Sunshine Foundation’s national headquarters is located in Southampton, Pennsylvania, and has chapters in various states, including Florida, New Jersey and Delaware. Sunshine Foundation grants trips to children between the ages of 3 and 18. The child or the child's parents or legal guardians make the request of where they would like to travel. 

In 2019, the foundation afforded trips to 232 children. According to Dream Village Director Wanda I. Curtis, the average cost of adopting a dream is $5,000. The trips are funded through donations. 

“We receive letters, pictures and many phone calls from the families sharing their amazing experience and how it has impacted their lives,” Curtis said in an email. 

“Sunshine Foundation has answered over 41,000 dreams through the generous support of our donors,” Curtis said. 

According to Sunshine Foundation’s website, www.sunshinefoundation.org, the nonprofit organization was created by Philadelphia police officer Bill Sample. In the 1960s, Sample was assigned to a local children’s hospital where he often came in contact with critically ill children. He saw over and over again how their families worried about mounting medical bills while at the same time couldn’t provide family vacations. In 1976, Sample took out a personal loan and, with the help of others, started Sunshine Foundation. Sample died in 2014, but his mission continues.

For donation information or to sign up for a trip, visit sunshinefoundation.org.

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