Caroline Danehy ’19 never expected to appear on national television. But a stroke of inspiration at a special summer camp offered her the chance to make an appearance on the Animal Planet series Treehouse Masters.

Two years ago, Danehy, then a junior in high school, decided to spend a summer day volunteering at Sunrise Day Camp in Pearl River, N.Y. The camp, one of six Sunrise camps located worldwide, cares for children with cancer, providing a refuge in nature for them and their families, and offering fun and healing away from lonely hospitals and painful treatments.

“It’s such a good thing for the kids,” Danehy said. “They’re in a place now where they don’t have to be worried about doctors or medicine, and they can just be kids and have fun. It’s taking them out of the hospital and into nature, which is such a healing environment.”

It was this unencumbered view of nature that first struck Danehy upon her arrival at the Pearl River camp. Specifically, she remembers the multitude of trees, which brought to her a sudden inspiration.

“I was reminded of earlier that morning when I had been watching the show Treehouse Masters, and I just thought of what an amazing place this would be for a treehouse,” Danehy said.

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A room with a view, brought to Sunrise by Caroline Danehy (center) with Arnie Preminger (right) and Pete Nelson (left)

After approaching camp management for the green light on the project, Danehy took action, first reaching out to a local construction company to ask for a donation of one of their treehouses. When they were unable to provide one, she turned to the very people who inspired the project, the team at Treehouse Masters. Danehy sent an e-mail to the show’s casting director, never expecting to receive a response.

“But sure enough,” she said, “I got an e-mail back saying they loved this idea, and they wanted to set up a meeting with me and Arnie Preminger [the director of the Sunrise Foundation].”

From then on, Danehy acted as a liaison between the camp and the show’s production team, and after a casting call, she was chosen to appear in the episode for an interview with Preminger and Pete Nelson, the show’s host.

But Danehy’s involvement with the project didn’t end on screen. She also organized a fundraiser with her school’s lacrosse team to raise approximately $2,000 toward the nearly $200,000 in funds needed to build the wheelchair-accessible structure complete with a peek-a-boo roof and plenty of room for games and activities.

On June 21, 2015, Danehy’s dream came to fruition when camera crews filmed the reveal of the treehouse to the eager campers waiting below. Nearly a year later, on June 2, 2016, she received the Sunrise Champion Award at the Sunrise Association’s Third Annual Dare to Dream Benefit recognizing all of her hard work in bringing the treehouse to life.

Danehy’s commitment to activism has only grown since attending Colgate. In 2015, she and her brother, Jake Danehy ’16, pitched their idea for Fair Harbor Clothing at Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend, gaining $5,000 in funding. Their business sells environmentally sustainable beachwear, including board shorts crafted from recycled plastic bottles.

Related:
Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE)
Fair Harbor

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