Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer. And though there are still a few weeks left until fall begins in earnest, already the mornings and nights have begun to cool off.

But for those mourning those fleeting days in the sun, we have good news: Thanks to the generosity of the community, Operation Sunshine made its goal of $65,000 this year — making it possible for many local children to experience camp this summer.

Observer-Dispatch Publisher Terry Cascioli said everyone who helped contribute to the cause should feel proud.

"The community was there this year," he said of the O-D charity's fundraising effort."This is something that you never want to take for granted. It changes lives, and we feel blessed to be part of a community that can do this."

Operation Sunshine has been helping send children to summer camp for 48 years, an effort Cascioli called "pretty special."

Each summer, the charity partners with nine agencies in the area to make sure kids of every background and skill set can attend a camp that suits their needs and can help them grow, learn and play at their own pace.

The ARC of Oneida/Lewis Counties, Boy Scouts Revolutionary Trails, Catholic Charities-Oneida/Madison Counties, Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathway Inc., Kamp Kiwanis, Neighborhood Center, Salvation Army of Utica, Thea Bowman House and the Kelberman Center are all affiliated with Operation Sunshine.

Some kids have been so moved by the experience that they spend the rest of the year looking forward to their time at camp, often because it gives them the chance to push themselves to new limits, and that sense of independence can be liberating.

Learning how to swim or navigate a boat, hiking and making new friends are just a few of the perks of going to camp.

In the end, those formative moments spent away from school or family can be extremely important to a kid, camp leaders say. Being out of the protective bubble of home and learning how to interact in a new environment can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Knowing that Operation Sunshine has been able to help provide hundreds of kids from around the Mohawk Valley with that experience makes all of the fundraising efforts worth it in the end.

"We know that we're always asking for help and every year, this community comes through," Cascioli said.

Follow @OD_Bostick on Twitter or call her at 315-792-5013.