Michael Sojak was standing eagerly on the shoreline of James Caples Memorial Park in Amityville last Saturday, ready to take a dip in the frigid ocean for yet another year. Next to him was a team of friends and relatives who have stood by his side for years.
His parents, Lucy and Scott Sojak, of Farmingdale, remain on the front lines of organizing the annual Camp Sunshine “Freezin’ for a Reason” Long Island Polar Dip, which has called Amityville (and briefly, the Town of Huntington) home for the last decade.
The family started going to Maine’s Camp Sunshine, a nonprofit retreat dedicated to supporting children battling cancer, when Michael was around 3, and have been volunteering ever since.
The Sojaks started going in support of Michael, 14, who was diagnosed with pediatric hepatoblastoma, a type of liver cancer, when he was only 11 months old. Next month will mark 13 years that he has been in remission.
“Camp is hard to even express in words because it’s really about the feeling once you’re there -- it’s like magic,” Lucy Sojak said. “You have some families that are going through some devastating times in their lives. When your child is sick, there’s this fear, this isolation. And it’s hard for people to understand because the experience is just not the same.”
This feeling of community is exactly why the Sojaks remain an active member of the Camp Sunshine family. They head up to Maine, the camp’s headquarters, at least once a year to visit and volunteer for the summer and winter sessions.
The Long Island plunge raised $6,000 for Camp Sunshine as of March 10, which is enough to pay for the cost of Camp Sunshine for three families.
“Now I’m able to give back, and I do whatever I can do to give back,” she added. “Volunteers, they do so much for their families, and for others. You walk away with a sense of kindness, of fulfillment -- that you know you’re doing something good.”