The Sunshine Project was initiated in 1997 by Louisiana Supreme Court Justice, Catherine "Kitty" Kimball. While visiting with some elementary school teachers, Justice Kimball was told by one teacher that she tried to say a kind word to every student each day because it might be the only kind word some children would hear. Touched by the thought of these children, Justice Kimball called on two friends for help, Dr. Sally Clausen, President, the University of Louisiana System, and Shirley Porter, a former kindergarten teacher and psychotherapist. After consulting with early childhood education experts, they decided that a book was the best avenue to reach the most children.
Shirley Porter wrote and donated the book, You Are Sunshine which addresses issues that affect a child's self-esteem and also offers information for care-givers on ways to build a positive self-concept in young children. The illustrations were created and donated by professional artist, Lisa Homan-Conger. Louisiana's First Lady Alice Foster consulted on the book and adopted the "Sunshine Project" as one of her major statewide initiatives.
A volunteer committee of teachers and principals prepared a Teachers' Guide with suggestions for using You Are Sunshine in the classroom. Each kindergarten teacher is given the Teaches' Guide, a copy of the book and a poster for his or her classroom. A parent-education video based on the book was produced and is available for use by schools or other organizations.
Through corporate and individual donations, a copy of You Are Sunshine has been given to every kindergarten child in public, private and parochial schools in Louisiana each year beginning with the 1998-1999 school year. With the help of BellSouth Pioneers organization, 120,000 copies were distributed from 1998 to 2000. Statewide distribution of You Are Sunshine has been handled by the Louisiana National Guard since the 2000 - 2001 school year bringing the total number of copies distributed to more than 550,000 books distributed by the end of 2007 or since distribution began in 1998.
A non-profit public Foundation has been formed to insure that the distribution continues. It is the Sunshine Foundation's goal to produce and distribute other specially written books addressing issues of older children.
In 2007, a section of the Mansion garden was designated as the Sunshine Garden for the children of Louisiana. The garden displays a sign that reminds all visitors that Inside Every Child is a Place Filled with Sunshine.
The Foundation intends to continue their mission and expanding to help every child possible for many years to come.