The man who helped establish a year-round retreat on Sebago Lake for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families has died. Lawrence Gould, a co-founder of Camp Sunshine in Casco, was 84.

Since it opened in June 1984, Camp Sunshine has allowed thousands of children from around the world to enjoy a camp experience in Maine and given respite to the family members who care for them.

Gould and his former wife, Anna Gould, donated the 25 acres on which Camp Sunshine was built. The land was part of the Point Sebago Resort property, which he acquired in 1973.

Anna Gould, who is considered a co-founder of the camp, is still active in Camp Sunshine, serving as chairwoman of its board of directors.

“We worked hard on this camp. Larry was tireless in making it come to fruition,” said Gould, who lives in Bedford, Massachusetts. “This was really a labor of love for him.”

Gould said Thursday that her former husband achieved many successes in his life, earning a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he was 21, becoming chairman and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and owning and operating one of Maine’s best-known resorts.

But she said his greatest achievement was “staying steadfast to the mission of Camp Sunshine.”

The year-round program is free to the families, and includes 24-hour onsite medical and psychosocial support. Camp Sunshine also provides bereavement sessions for families who have lost children to illness.

The idea for a camp came to the couple during a trip to Quebec City in 1983. Lawrence Gould had retired as chairman and CEO of M/A-Com Inc., a Fortune 500 company.

They were staying in a hotel and looking for an English-speaking channel on their television. They happened to find a reporter interviewing a child who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was attending a summer camp for children with cancer.

“We just looked at each other and he said, ‘We could do something like that,'” Anna Gould recalled.

The Goulds printed camp brochures and distributed them to six hospitals in Greater Boston. In June 1984, they launched their pilot camp. It was attended by 43 children and their families, who stayed in rooms at the Point Sebago Resort.

“There was no other place in the country for families to go and stay as one unit,” Anna Gould said.

At the end of the pilot session, parents asked the Goulds if they could come back. “How do you say no?” she said.

Camp Sunshine operated at the Point Sebago Resort for the next 17 years.

“As the demand grew, we kept adding programs,” Gould said, and it became apparent that Camp Sunshine needed a place of its own.

The Goulds eventually decided to build a camp that was separate from the resort. Camp Sunshine’s new campus opened in 2001 on the 25-acre parcel they donated.

More than 25 sessions are now offered each year, serving as many as 750 families. Since 1984, Camp Sunshine has served over 43,500 family members from 48 states and 23 countries.

Camp Sunshine serves families of children diagnosed with cancer, hematologic conditions, renal disease and systemic lupus erythematosus, and children who have had organ transplants. Researchers from around the country often attend, sharing information about medical breakthroughs and treatments.

Camp Sunshine was in session Thursday. Nine members of the Portland Pirates hockey team visited and played floor hockey with the children. But the mood was somber, six days after Lawrence Gould’s death.

“It was very sad today,” said Anna Gould. “He was the driving force.”

She posted a message on the camp’s website, saying, “His vision and his guidance will continue at Camp forever, as he will always be remembered for his perseverance in creating the enduring magic of Camp Sunshine.”

Lawrence Gould’s family plans to hold a memorial service at Camp Sunshine in June, at a date yet to be set.