The sun shined down and illuminated the faces of Harborfields’ “Sunshine Girls” as they stood in the courtyard at Oldfield Middle School on March 11.
The female-run nonprofit group was founded in summer 2019 by Madeline Barker who, after meeting Donna Schmidt of Maggie’s Mission, wanted to spread joy and positivity throughout the community. Maggie’s Mission, in honor of Maggie Schmidt, is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancers.
Since its inception, the Sunshine Girls has raised funds and supported local charities like Maggie’s Mission and Gabby Gives, which was created in honor of former Harborfields High School student Gabby Cava, who recently passed away from colon cancer. She was a close family friend of Sunshine Girl Natalie Hering.
“Watching her and her family fight the battle with cancer impacted my life tremendously,” she said. “Gabby was fearless and fun and always full of joy, even on her hardest days. I want to do anything I can to help spread the joy I saw in her to others fighting their own battles.”
The group’s first public appearance was on Halloween at Value Drugs in Greenlawn, where they handed out candy to trick-or-treaters and collected donations for Maggie’s Mission. “I hope we made an impact that day and continue to help others,” Mia McNally said.
Since Halloween, the girls have raised over $4,000 wrapping gifts for the holidays, performed in Harborfields High School’s variety show and most recently, collected over 600 fuzzy socks to donate to area hospitals in honor of Gabby Cava. “She loved fuzzy socks,” Natalie said.
The remaining Sunshine Girls, Giavana Ciaramitaro, Sophia Casillo, Lyla Barker, Liana Flowers and Kaitlyn Wille all shared stories of why they chose to join the nonprofit, which ranged from personal connections to simple desires to give back to those less fortunate.
‘When I was offered a spot in this organization, I accepted it without thinking twice, and so far, it has been the best decision I have ever made,” Liana said.
Photo captions: Pictured left to right, Mia McNally, Sophia Casillo, Madeline Barker, Natalie Hering, Kaitlyn Wille, Lyla Barker, Giavana Ciaramitaro and Liana Flowers.
Photos courtesy of Harborfields Central School District