My Smile-A-Mile story is really my family’s story. Getting involved with the early forms of ‘Camp’ SAM meant just as much to my Mom and the people that she had in her corner during my cancer journey as it did for me personally. In 1987 I was treated as a toddler for rhabdomyosarcoma, resulting in the loss of my left leg along with other effects of treatment. Through my cancer experience I gained the chance to live the rest of my life and the chance to be a part of the Smile-A-Mile family. I attended most of the summer camps and as many trips to football games, kayaking, and so many other activities as I could from about 4 years old through most of my childhood. In this family, I found a place where being a kid, making friends and having fun came with learning, understanding and accepting the terrible things that my family and I had been through. My mother found a place where she could learn from other parents who had been through similar journeys and then share her story with parents who would later go through it. I am so thankful to be part of the SAM family for the joys it has brought to my life, for the comfort it has brought my family, and for the friends that will always be in my heart, in this world and the next. My favorite part about staying involved in SAM into my 30’s is getting the chance to learn through the Beyond Camp program about how to cope with the effects of survivorship and how those effects can impact adulthood.
Smile-A-Mile has helped shape me into a better person and hopefully a better example for the younger children battling cancer. Giving back to this great organization hopefully allows the younger survivors and their families to see a positive example of survivorship while they are in the hardest parts of their journey. To see all the new and old ways that Smile-A-Mile is impacting the lives of these children and their families is so exciting and makes me proud to be included in this family. To bring joy, laughter and hope into the life of a child during and after a terrifying struggle with cancer is no small accomplishment. I love everyone in the SAM family for that reason most of all.