August 2020 Newsletter: A Time of Transition

Aug 20, 2020 | Newsletter

Dear Friends of The Sunny Center:
Hello from The Sunny Center! August has been a month of change and transition as many countries are easing their way out of lockdowns and people are finding ways to resume an almost-normal life. The experience of the entire world right now mirrors, in some ways, the experience of Exonerees when they are released from prison and try to start a “normal” life. But it’s hard to regain that sense of normalcy because the world is completely different from when they left it.

During this time of transition, it’s especially important to take time for yourself, put the smartphone down and turn off the news, if only for a few minutes each day.

The Sunny Center is almost as busy as ever, even if our activities are different from past years. Read on for updates on the progress of the garden, a close-up of our new neighbors, and an up close and personal window into the life of an Exoneree in our Exoneree Feature of the Month: In Their Own Words.


A friend and activism teacher, Vicky Donnelly, and her partner Tom, who teaches stone carving, came to visit us. Peter was inspired and has since taken up stone carving! Now, when our Exoneree guests come to stay with us, Peter will be able to teach them how to carve stone as well as wood.

Creativity can take many forms. But, in whatever form it takes, it is therapeutic and healing. We are so grateful to be able to share the happiness and healing that we have found together with others. We hope one day soon to be able to host Exoneree guests again. Meanwhile, we are making things more and more welcoming.
Peter carving stone – a new hobby!


We are so proud of former volunteer and now a member of the Sunny Center Board, Amy Fly, who will be working with the Tennessee federal death penalty group. Congratulations, Amy! It’s great to see the progress of a young person who is committed to social justice and healing. We love you, Amy!

Our volunteer Tress is a front-line worker in Atlanta. And yet she still finds time to advise us on issues of health and well-being and just be there as a friend. Tress was our very first volunteer and ended up as part of the family. We love you, Tress! Stay safe!


Sunny in the new cart, with Barney begging for a ride!The golf cart is in service! Sunny took it out for a spin around the garden and the fields.  It was donated by local businessman Nicholas O’Connor.  Thanks to his generosity and support, Sunny will now be able to go up into the fields to feed the horses and down the road to visit the neighbors! Thank you, Nicholas!

Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the goodness that has come to us, even during these difficult times, through the support of friends and people who believe in what we are doing. Thank you all! We love you!


Connie and Claire, our two resident Connemara ponies.The ponies have come back down from the mountain to the lower field. Peter has a way with animals and, through his gentle and patient coaxing, the horses will now take carrots and apples from his hand. Peter’s father is a legend in Ireland, where he was dubbed “the horse whisperer” for his ability to rehabilitate shellshocked horses during the war.

Peter has also been feeding a feral cat who has now adopted one of the dog kennels as his home. None too great and none too small for help and healing at The Sunny Center.
Our newest furry friend, Joey, the feral cat.Lovely weather, isn’t it?The weather at the Sunny Healing Center has been very pleasant, with just the right amount of sun and rain to make everyone and everything happy. Soon we hope to announce that we will be able to grow our own organic vegetables again thanks to the generosity of our friends in Canada who are raising funds for a new poly tunnel for The Sunny Center!


We now have a washer and dryer for the residents to use in Tampa so they don’t have to go to the laundromat and spend $10 a week. Thanks to Maria, who held a fundraiser, and to Teddy, who did the installation. These are the kinds of things that your donations provide.

The Living Center now also has a beautiful outdoor furniture set thanks to Paul Hildwin who spotted it and brought it to the  community so the residents can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and Clemente’s now famous weekly barbecues! Thank you, Paul!


Sunny recorded an interview with the Ministry of Justice in England. The audience will be the Prison Service at their AGM at the end of September in the UK.

Spread the Word!We are reaching out to all attorneys and organizations that work with and for Exonerees. We want them to know that we are here and what services we can provide for their clients. Spread the word!

We Are Here For ExonereesWe are also reaching out to all Exonerees to let them know that we are here for them! We might not be able to bring people over to the Healing Center, but we continue to reach out in other ways in order to bring healing and hope into the lives of our Exoneree family members.

We are still sharing our healing and relaxation videos on the website and our social media for any and all who might benefit. Again, please share with anyone you feel might be going through a difficult time. And let us know if the videos have been helpful to you. We’d love to hear from you!



Life has changed so much in the 35 years that I was held captive. It has been a challenge to adjust to being free. The most important part of getting out of prison (death row) after spending so many years in a cage is to be surrounded by the people that will be there when you need them. Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help.

I was and am blessed to have people surrounding me that have been there for me since the day I walked out. I thank God for them every day. It hasn’t been easy; I’ve only been out five months, but there are challenges every day. I believe in myself, and that is so important. I face every challenge with the belief that I can handle whatever that life puts before me.

One thing that gives me that strength is the people that surround me. The Sunny Center is a very big blessing: I have my own home, I come and go as I please. It’s not a prison or halfway house – it’s my home.

I have to give big props to the people that have made this all possible for me: the Innocence Project of New York, the Innocence Project of Florida, The Sunny Center, the Rising Fund org., and the attorneys that worked on my case for so many years. With the help of all those people I’m able to in a sense be born again.

I may make it sound easy but believe me, it’s far from easy. Some people have called me a hero. I’m no hero, the people that I have around me are the real heroes!!!!!!!  — Paul Hildwin


What would you like to know about The Sunny Center?
Let us know here and we will answer your questions in a future newsletter! (Subject to appropriateness)

We are transitioning from quarantine to things opening up. Can’t Give What You Don’t Have:
The importance of self-care and sharing.


Our largest need is financial, especially in the time of Covid. Any amount helps, no matter how small! Please consider donating via the link below.DONATEAmazon Smile is another great way to support The Sunny Center. Just go to, log in to your account, and select The Sunny Center Foundation USA, LLC as the charitable organization of choice. A percentage of every eligible purchase you make on Amazon will be donated to us!


Morning meditation with Millie.Having been in lockdown and social distancing, we are all experiencing echoes of the exoneree experience .

We are stressed and worried. We worry if wearing a mask is enough to keep us healthy. We worry about the economy and whether our job is safe. And the societal strife of May, June and July also weigh heavily on all of us. These are upsetting feelings to have.

For exonerees, these feelings of stress, uncertainty and upset can trigger much stronger emotions that are extremely stressful for them and can bring about recurrence of PTSD.

While we are unable to travel or to host exonerees at the Sunny Healing Center, we are staying in contact with the exoneree members of our community to make sure they can access resources to help them during this time of transition.

Your support during this time has been invaluable, and we thank you!
Peace and Love,
Sunny and Peter

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