November 2020 Newsletter: We Are Thankful For You!

Nov 17, 2020 | Newsletter

Dear Friends of The Sunny Center,

full moon behind ruined stone house
Spooky full moon gratitude. Photo by Angela Gay Byrne

As October came to a close, we celebrated a Blue Moon Halloween at the Healing Center in Ireland where the tradition is to light a bonfire. This is a very special time of year. For some, it is the beginning of a new year. For others, it is a time for honoring our ancestors and joyfully dressing up to trick or treat. It is also the season for gratitude – Thanksgiving for what we have and for sharing what we have with others who might not have as much. It is a time when we become aware of the continuum, from birth to death, that we call life. It is a time to be shared.

These days, sharing can be challenging. For some of us, Zoom has become the new “drop in and see you sometime.” For others, for whom technology is still mystifying, it is a lonelier time. And that is especially true for those who are confined – in nursing homes, hospitals or prisons. There is no visiting allowed. But we can still send them our energy! Filled with love and hope and happiness! We can work on that together in the video at the end of this newsletter.

At The Sunny Center in Ireland and in Tampa, Florida, we are grateful for YOU – our friends, without whom we could not keep this outreach functioning. The Living Center is full and brimming with hope and happiness. The Healing Center is busy every day reaching out to Exonerees and others who are in need of our help and encouragement. Every Exoneree has a family. And our newest volunteer, Joseph, has been helping our residents to stay in touch with family and friends through the new technology of smartphones and computers!

We are thankful every day for the people who surround us with love and support to make sure that we have everything we need. That way we can continue to help Exonerees to heal and to make a path forward in their lives that is positive and filled with love.

Now we would like to share some more of our good news with you from the Sunny Centers around the U.S. and around the world.

Read on to learn how we are continuing to support Exonerees, even from a distance. And find out the names that were finally chosen for the hens!



Around The Sunny Healing Center

Our lives here are always busy, and we’re so thankful for that. We’re also thankful that the Exonerees we work with are staying as safe and healthy as possible. We hope that next year we can begin to host Exonerees in Ireland again.

Planting is in progress in the polytunnel, and our winter greens are off to a great start! There is lots of spinach growing, and the kale and chard are coming up nicely. We’ll enjoy these throughout the chilly months.

We are so thankful to our volunteers whose tireless support and help around the Healing Center is essential to our ability to keep helping Exonerees. Thank you, Margaret! Thank you, Mike! Thank you Lelia!


Around the Tampa Living Center

A group of people pose for a picture.
Paul, Danny, Robert with two members of the Florida Innocence Project.

The residents are working together to keep improving and maintaining the houses and grounds at the Sunny Living Center in Tampa. They have made it such a nice place to live and given their time and energy so that everyone in the Community can enjoy it. Even the neighbors are happier!

Danny is feeling much better! He is hoping that he won’t need his hospital bed by next month. We’re so thankful that his health is returning, and grateful to Centurion Ministries for helping him get access to a hospital bed so he could manage more easily. And thanks to those who sent items from the wish lists. You’ve had a role in his recovery, and we are so thankful.

Three men stand arm in arm.
Left to right: Robert, Reverend Al, and Danny.

In the spirit of Halloween, Reverend Al came and blessed all the houses and the entire Living Center grounds. Thank you, Reverend Al!


Our Volunteers & Supporters

The Sunny Healing Center

A woman and a young man stand in a green yard.
Lelia and her son Conall.

Margaret continues to help with the shopping and a social distancing chat. She also takes Barney for a walk which he looks forward to every week! And Lelia has some ideas for the garden. Her son, Conall, does the heavy work.

The Sunny Living Center

Joseph, a law student and volunteer tech guru, has been teaching the Sunny Living Center residents how to use their smartphones and computers. He hopes that one day he will be able to teach these essential skills to someone whom he has helped to free from wrongful conviction.

When we first acquired the property in Tampa, it was a fixer-upper that needed a lot of work. Recently, we had to replace the air conditioners and refrigerator in one of the units. Fortunately, between Dorothy,  Paul and Robert, we were able to economize on installation. Thank you, Dorothy! Thank you, Paul! Thank you, Robert! We are so fortunate. If anyone would like to contribute toward the cost of the air conditioners and refrigerator, please go to the website or donate directly by clicking here.

Around the World

Abi, a young volunteer who lives in the UK, has graciously offered to caption all of Sunny‘s videos to make them more accessible and also to make up for the poor sound quality on some of them. We are working on improving in that area. Thank you, Abi!

Our wonderful board member, Peter Tunney, is working on a set of lithograph prints to be sold to raise money for The Sunny Center. We will let you know when they are available! There will be a very limited number of prints.

Join Us

Each and every one of you can participate in activism by talking to your friends and social media connections about The Sunny Center, our work and our mission. Send them to the website where they can learn more and donate!

We also had a couple of subscribers donate their air miles. Although we can’t use them at the moment, they will be very important in the future. Thank you to those who have pledged air miles! Contact us to learn how you can donate air miles.


Our Activism

European Innocence Network conference

In late October, we attended the European Innocence Network conference. It was very well attended by people from several countries. The guest Exoneree was from the UK, and he talked about how he was hoping to come to The Sunny Center.

He was asked, what was the most difficult part for him? He said that when he got out, there was no help.

Now that so many more cases are being resolved through the work of organizations like The Innocence Network, it is clear that much more emphasis needs to be put on after-care. The Sunny Center is dedicated to this type of care for Exonerees after they are released.

The session emphasized that attendees should support our organization and our work. This was an international level of recognition. We are so happy and thankful that our work is increasingly being recognized, as is an awareness of the incredible need for support for new Exonerees.

Guest speaker engagements

Throughout the time of Covid, we’ve been working with a number of other groups that help people heal. Now, we’ve been asked to share our techniques in a wider way. We’ve been participating in other people’s healing circles on Zoom as guest speakers.

Though we work with Exonerees individually, we hope by next month we’ll be able to arrange healing social circles for Exonerees. This will be part of the Exonerees 4 Exonerees program that we began in Seattle in conjunction with the Washington Innocence Project.

Although there are many victims of injustice and the injustice system, these circles will be exclusively and strictly for Exonerees. We may, on occasion, have a guest speaker in areas that might be beneficial such as trauma management, stress and anger management and PTSD, things that Exonerees may face and deal with daily.

If you are an Exoneree who would like to join a social circle, please send us an email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.


Our Furry & Feathered Friends

Our new hens have been settling in nicely. We’ve officially named them:

Mrs. White seems to have taken a dominant role among the new arrivals. Mrs. Black and Mrs. Redneck seem to spend quite a bit of time together amicably. And little Mrs. Tufty is a bit of a loner. Of course, Mrs. Chuckles is still the boss. But, when Peter peeks in to put them to bed and say good night, they are all cuddled up together.

And Mrs. Chuckles has been inspired to start laying eggs again! Not to be outdone, I suppose. So all is well in the chicken coop!

Left to right: Joey and Bogey.

Two feral cats have taken up residence in the garden. A marmalade whom we have named Joey, and a gray female that we call Leah. They live in the dog kennels and Peter goes out to feed them every morning and evening. They are becoming very friendly, although they are still too shy to be petted or come into the house. Today, we witnessed a little standoff between Bogey, our resident male cat, and Joey. But it ended amicably and, it seems, they have found a way to share space together. Little Millie still doesn’t feel comfortable with the newcomers. We will just have to give them time.

Barney explores the Connemara countryside.

Our friend Angela has resumed housesitting for us when we have to be away for the day. When she is here, she takes Barney for a long walk and brings carrots to the donkeys down the road. The animals are always glad to see Angela arrive!

The horses that we were fostering in our fields have been moved on. We are thinking of taking in a couple of rescue horses. Animals are very therapeutic, and we love to see them grazing in the fields above the house. Our Exoneree guests always connect with one of the animals.


Exoneree Profile: Joseph Frey

A man sits at a diner table with coffee.
Joseph Frey in 2014. Photo by Dee J. Hall. Reprinted with permission of the Wisconsin State Journal. Original article

“I have nothing. That’s not true. I have me — and my determination, and my tenacity.” – Joseph Frey, interview with Fox 6 Now, Madison, Wisconsin

Joseph was a guest at the Sunny Healing Center in Ireland in 2016. He is a gentle giant of a man who loved taking care of the animals. While he was at the Healing Center, we adopted a puppy called Molly. Together, they experienced love, Molly for the first time in her young life.

Joseph had ambitions to open a printing business back in Madison, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Joseph had a stroke. At the time he was working in a bakery and saving his money. Now he is struggling with the aftereffects of the stroke, which left him with limited use of his right arm and leg. But Joseph is not a quitter!

He is finding it difficult to continue his recovery because he was refused entry into a physical therapy program because of his prior criminal record. Even though he explained that he was innocent and exonerated, they still refused him entry–thus adding insult to injury again.

If you have any other ideas or connections that might help Joseph in his recovery, please send us a message.

Thank you so much for supporting Exonerees! And don’t forget, you can purchase through smile.amazon.com and select The Sunny Center Foundation USA, Inc. as your charity of choice.


Video: Survival Yoga

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Support Our Work

At the start of 2020, we didn’t envision the amazingly important role that the internet would play in our work. We have come to realize that Covid gave us a new opportunity to reach more Exonerees directly than ever before. We work with Exonerees by whatever means are available to them. Some Exonerees can use Zoom, as they have access to a computer and high-speed internet. Others only have phones. We reach out and work with them individually. We know from our own experiences how difficult it can be to transition to a healthy, fulfilling life after so many years in isolation.

This year, more than ever, we rely on your support. Please consider donating through this link. Or contact us for other ways to donate, such as by check. You can also donate air miles that we will use to fly Exonerees to the Healing Center in Ireland once our guest program resumes.

You can also support us through Amazon Smile! Just use smile.amazon.com every time you shop on Amazon, and select The Sunny Center Foundation USA, Inc. as your charity of choice. Thank you!


Stay Connected

Bogie explores the garden wall.

We are so thankful for everyone who has supported The Sunny Center. This has been a difficult and trying year for the entire world, yet we have joined hands – virtually! – and supported each other. Words cannot adequately express how much gratitude and thankfulness we have in our hearts for all of our supporters and all of the Exonerees we work with, who, even as they work to build new lives, have showed so much love and care and community.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

We look forward to a future filled with love, happiness, health and connection.

Peace and Love,

Sunny and Peter


It Takes A Community to Help Exonerees Heal

What an amazing summer this has been. We’ve been at home, raising a litter of kittens in our polytunnel and collecting eggs from our hens. And at the same time we have been able to reach out into the world and continue helping Exonerees.

Have you seen Sunny on YouTube?

Yoga and meditation are so central to our life and work at The Sunny Center. We meditate each morning to help us approach the day with a calm, clear mind (and some extra energy)!

Exonerees are succeeding, thanks to you!

Helping people exonerated of crimes they did not commit, setting them back on the path to a fulfilling life, is a monumental task that we depend on the dedication of volunteers, both near and far, to achieve.

For Exonerees, life’s little legal challenges can be huge

Exonerees face many challenges as they rebuild their lives after a wrongful conviction. One of the things that takes a backseat, as they struggle to access essentials like a place to live, medical care, and work, is thinking about how they will be cared for if they get sick.

Sometimes, it takes a (small) army

Terry Wanzer fought for more than 20 years to have his record cleared, even though he was exonerated in 1996. Our friend and volunteer Carrie is working to stop injustices like this.

How to Avoid Toxicity

At a time when it seems so many people in the world are expressing so much anger and hatred, how do you maintain your balance? Watch my latest video and share with us on social media!

About Our Wish List Program

One of our most impactful programs that arose during, and because of, the Covid-19 pandemic is the Wish List program. Through this, people who want to help an Exoneree directly can do so.

Wishing You a Summer of Healing, Hope and Joy

While the start of summer certainly feels much calmer and more certain than it did last year, plenty of activity is going on at The Sunny Center!

More Than 2,700 Exonerees Need Your Help

The need for resources and change within the system is immense. But together, we can start making a difference right away!

You Can Make A Difference for Exonerees Right Now

We are happy and hopeful that we can soon return to working in person with fellow Exonerees. But you can help us right now, even from far away.

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