After more than 50 years of enriching the lives of the community’s young people, Operation Sunshine has partnered with the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, ensuring that its mission will continue to be fulfilled through grants to nonprofit organizations for many years to come.

The new Operation Sunshine Fund at the Community Foundation will continue the organization’s mission, providing children with campership opportunities each summer. The organization has operated as a nonprofit affiliate of the Observer-Dispatch newspaper, which established it in 1968 at the urging of Victor Ehre, then president of Utica Mutual Insurance Company.

“Victor was a big mover and shaker in the community,” said Dave Dudajek, former Observer-Dispatch opinion editor. “He was involved with the Boy Scouts at a young age, and his camping experiences taught him some of life’s most important skills. It occurred to him that in many instances, only kids of privilege were able to attend summer camps, and many children were missing out on this once in a lifetime experience. He reached out to Mason Taylor, an editor at the Observer-Dispatch, and pitched the idea to collect funds from the community to send underprivileged kids to summer camp. And the rest was history.”

The campership program works with partnering agencies that contact potential campers in Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison counties, and kids apply directly to partner agencies for assistance to attend a summer camp. Beginning in 2023, the Community Foundation will identify nonprofit recipients for the campership awards, and details on the process will be shared with eligible organizations as they become available.

“If it weren’t for the agencies and the people in the community who supported this annual campaign year after year, none of this would be possible,” Dudajek said. “The generosity of the community back then helped these kids, and the generosity of the community through the years has sustained it. We’re confident that this partnership with the Community Foundation will allow Operation Sunshine to continue its mission for the long haul.”

Contributions to the Operation Sunshine Fund will directly fund the camperships. For more information or to donate, please visit

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