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 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. ••

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.