Sunshine Acres Programs

ASL Program

Fit Program

Karate Program

Horse Program

Fine Arts - Choir & Drama

Counseling Department

Livestock Show Team

Flag Program

Music Lessons

The Learning Center

Transitional Living


Junior Harvesters’ Program (JHP)

American Sign Language Choir “Signs of Hope”

The name indicates multiple meanings: These children represent symbols of a hope for our future while they use sign language to communicate the hope of Christ to others through songs whose message speaks hope into the children. The ASL choir is a ministry that teaches the value of giving back to the community that supports Sunshine Acres. The participants involved learn the deeper meaning of current Christian songs as they are involved in translating the songs’ concepts into sign language. The choir has the opportunity to share the Gospel in churches, both deaf and hearing, while teaching them how to serve by using their gifts.

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Forgiven Instructed and Tested “FIT”

FIT is a Christ-centered fitness and wilderness experiential program for both boys and girls. Our children, staff and peers participate in weekly physical training and devotions geared toward building courage and a deeper relationship with God. Each semester we offer several backpacking trips to give the participants a chance to use the new skills that they are developing.

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The karate program at Sunshine Acres was started 36 years ago by Sensei John LaMarca at the invitation of Vera Dingman and Carol Whitworth, and he has been teaching the children and staff ever since. Sensei LaMarca holds an 8th Degree Master Black Belt and has been training and teaching for 38 years.

Seidokan Karate is a traditional Okinawan style of karate that teaches the kicking and punching techniques of karate plus the joint locking and manipulation techniques of Toide. The training also includes physical conditioning, as well as teaching patience, perseverance, courtesy and honor. These traits are expressed in the following:

Lessons Learned In the Dojo

  • To endeavor to complete your personality
  • To keep sincerity
  • To cultivate a spirit of effort
  • To respect courtesy
  • To rebuke hot blooded courage (not fighting with anger)

All of children and staff at Sunshine Acres are welcome to participate in classes and improve their physical and mental well being.

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About Our Horse Program

The Sunshine Acres Horse Program is an on-site, hands-on horseback riding lesson program in which the children and staff of Sunshine Acres are provided the opportunity to learn and improve their horsemanship skills. Run by a skilled team of equine professionals and dedicated volunteers, our barn is second to none in providing a safe and loving environment in which to learn, and ensuring the most excellent care for our horse companions.

While our primary focus is on safe horse handling, riding, and care, we strive to teach more than just barn applicable lessons. Our program helps instill key life skills such as compassion, confidence, teamwork and communication. Throughout their time at the barn, children are taught a system of what to do and how to find the answers they need to prepare to ride or complete chores. Our staff and volunteers are always there to guide and help, but we choose to emphasize independence and promote children learning to self-start whenever possible. Our hope is that our riders will continue these positive life patterns long after they leave our barn.

In our program, each child is paired with a volunteer mentor who assists the equestrian manager in teaching them how to work safely with horses from the ground up. During their riding lessons, children learn to catch, groom, tack up, and ride their assigned horse. In addition, riders are taught supplemental horse knowledge such as anatomy of the horse, footfalls/rhythm of the horse’s gait, proper names for the parts of tack, and much more. Children involved in the horse program are also expected to help with barn chores before or after their lesson, including feeding and barn maintenance, to help them learn not only how to ride but also many of the important aspects of care that go hand-in-hand with horse ownership. Our goal for this program is to give these children a well-rounded education and help them become competent, confident equestrians for life!

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Show Team

Sunshine Acres is proud to give children the opportunity to participate in our Livestock Show Team! This program is a nine-month commitment through which the children learn to raise lambs, goats, steers, and heifers. From the time they meet and begin working with their animals in August, the children must learn how to gentle their animals to be safely handled, bathed, clipped, medicated, and presented properly in the show ring in order to be in top condition for sale in the Youth Livestock Auction at the Maricopa County Fair in April. Each child is responsible for the daily feeding, care, and well-being of their assigned animal as well as working together to complete regular barn chores, packing and preparing equipment for all shows, tracking feeding and care paperwork to show what went into each animal, and learning the anatomy of the species they are raising. All of this presents excellent daily opportunities for our children to grow and learn.

The emphasis of this program, like many at Sunshine Acres, is to build the character of a child so the lessons they learn and the habits we instill in them are carried throughout their life, long after they leave our care. Show Team kids learn responsibility, accountability, trust, teamwork, respect, compassion, and the development of a good work ethic. They are taught how to recognize and execute work that needs doing and are given opportunities to be leaders among their peers. We are proud to have many of our kids return to this program year after year because they find it so rewarding, and we continue to see personal growth in our “Show Team alumni” as this program inherently presents new challenges and exciting possibilities every season. We are very impressed by the passion and hard work all of the Show Team kids put in, as many of them participate in multiple extracurricular activities. From karate to choir, flag football to off campus jobs, our children learn to manage their time while balancing school and maintaining high academic standards in order to show.

You can see our Sunshine Acres Show Team compete several times throughout the season at various shows, but the best places to catch them in action are at the Arizona State Fair, the Sunshine Acres open house at the end of February, and the Maricopa County Fair. We love to have crowd support there to cheer for these very hard working kids! In addition, we would like to say a huge thank you to our awesome community, our donors and volunteers; this program would not be possible without your support!

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Choir & Drama

The purpose of our Fine Arts Program is to develop talent, strong relationships, commitment, leadership, and teamwork skills in members. We are goodwill ambassadors representing Sunshine Acres to the community at large, blessing others with our gifts and talents, while bringing awareness to the various programs and ministry of Sunshine Acres.

Sunshine Acres Children’s Choir: There are two choirs, the “Jellybean” choir for elementary ages and the Teen choir for ages 12 and up. The choirs rehearse from August each year until their tour season begins in November and continues through the following March. Each week they perform at local churches and community centers, presenting an inspirational program of hope and encouragement. Some of the children will also become members of our Chapel’s Praise & Worship Team, singing at each Sunday’s worship service throughout the year.

Drama and Media: Children learn to act out fun skits and illustrated sermons presented at our Chapel services on Sunday. They learn to use lighting, PowerPoint, puppets, sound and special effects to enhance their performance.

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While Sunshine Acres is not a treatment facility, we are a trauma informed community and offer a variety of individual and group counseling services aimed at providing extra support and guidance as well as addressing the social, emotional, behavioral and mental health needs of the children in our care. Trained Therapists utilize a variety of evidence-based approaches ranging from supportive services to trauma work to facilitate a healthy adjustment to their new living environment, improve social skills and relationships, reduce emotional distress and maladaptive behaviors, and to guide them in making positive choices in order to maximize their potential and improve their overall general life functioning.

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Sunshine Acres Hearts of Praise

Sunshine Acres Hearts of Praise desires to provide a wonderful way for children to learn the joy of praising God as they sharpen their hand, eye and feet coordination. We are dedicated to building a team attitude while presenting a flag performance that both lifts hearts towards Jesus and creates a beautiful atmosphere. By participating in the Sunshine Acres Hearts of Praise flag program we pray that children will learn discipline and at the same time be strengthened physically. Psalm 24:9 states, “Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.” As the children lift up their flags, we believe He does.

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Through generous funding from the Jolee-Jaffa Music Foundation, children at Sunshine Acres are able to learn how to play many instruments including piano, ukulele, drums, violin, guitar, or take voice lessons while experiencing the natural mental and therapeutic benefits of music. Dedication, focus, and creativity are just some of the qualities that are refined through the music program.

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At Sunshine Acres, much like in every American home, our children frequently need academic support beyond what they receive in the classroom. Our ERC brings help in the form of volunteer tutors, reading specialists, speech specialists and homework helpers.

Our current volunteers include active local public school teachers, retired public school teachers, retired special education teachers, retired speech specialists, retired reading specialists, retired mathematicians, current Microsoft employees, current college students, and many other caring people who just want to lend a hand.

Our students and volunteers have access to our state of the art computer lab, art and crafts room and a well-stocked library at their disposal. Help is available after school, and on many nights, help is available as late as 8 p.m.

Whether it is help with daily homework, special projects, common core math or pre-calculus, our students can always find the help and support they need here at Sunshine Acre’s ERC.

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Sunshine Acres recognizes that all children need additional guidance beyond the calendar-driven event of their 18th birthday. Unlike other programs, Sunshine Acres does not ask kids to leave our program just because they turn 18. In our Transitional Living Program, our participants can stay right with us through a Bachelor’s degree if they so choose. In addition, we support participants in four different tracks, University, Community College, Vocational Training (trade schools) or entrance in to the Military depending on the participants’ preference. Any track chosen comes at little or no cost to the participant thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

Not all of our participants choose to stay with us after graduation, but those that do receive ongoing support in financial training, adult development, FAFSA and tax preparation and general life skills. Our Transitional Living participants can live in on-campus housing with live-in Transitional Living Coaches or in university dorm rooms. Either way, participants receive all the support they need to successfully transition to a successful adult life when they leave our program.

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