Sun rises on new ‘STEAM Shack’ for kids with cancer

STEAM machines: The Laura Rosenberg STEAM Shack is packed with next-gen tools for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.

A unique day camp for children with cancer is kicking on its STEAM engines.

The Wheatley Heights-based Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island, a no-charge summer camp for young cancer patients and their siblings, has cut the ribbon on the Laura Rosenberg STEAM Shack, a 1,050-square-foot facility dedicated to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, now open to seasonal campers.

Stocked with tools for 3D printing, computer programming, robotics, graphic design, photo editing, video production and other cutting-edge pursuits, the STEAM Shack is intended to engage the creative minds of the roughly 125 campers who engage in STEAM activities each day during the summer, according to Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island.

In so doing, the shack can fill some of the educational gaps common to young cancer patients, who often lose valuable school time during treatments, noted Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island Director Deanna Slade.

STEAM driven: Engaging minds while bodies heal.

“Children with cancer often miss long periods of school with the potential to fall behind their peers,” Slade said Monday. “The Laura Rosenberg STEAM Shack offers campers the opportunity to learn valuable skills that can translate to future careers, particularly for kids with restricted mobility and physical limitations.”

The STEAM Shack initiative was launched two years ago by then-high school student Max Miller of Roslyn, a self-billed “computer geek” who volunteered as a Sunrise Day Camp counselor and quickly connected with a 9-year-old cancer patient who shared his interests in cars, pop culture and technology.

Recognizing a need and an opportunity, Sunrise Day Camp soon launched a capital-donation campaign to support Max’s plans, ultimately raising roughly $600,000 in cash and in-kind donations from a host of sponsors including Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and the Woodbury-based Laura Rosenberg Foundation, a 38-year-old organization focused on pediatric leukemia.

Deanna Slade: Filling in tech, art, math gaps.

“We’re so grateful for the ongoing generosity of our corporate and individual supporters for helping to make the STEAM Shack a reality,” Slade said, noting the sponsorships helped fill the new program with an electrifying assortment of tools and technologies.

“As with everything we do, Sunrise Day Camp will also make sure the STEAM Shack is fun for all campers and tailored to their interests,” Slade added.

Among those state-of-the-art tools are multiple robotics packages, a modular music studio, Adobe Creative Cloud functionality and many other advanced instruments and programs.

All told, the STEAM Shack represents a significant expansion of Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island’s existing science and technology programs, which themselves are just part of the activities available to summer campers.

Some 700 of those attended the 2018 summer program, ranking Sunrise Day Camp-Long Island – located on the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in Wheatley Heights – among the busiest in the Sunrise Association network. Last year, the Oceanside-based international program catered to roughly 2,000 campers at facilities in Staten Island, Maryland, Israel and elsewhere.