I was first introduced to Smile-A-Mile over 20 years ago, as a freshman in college, when my lifelong friend and college roommate, Kellie, volunteered as a camp counselor. She LOVED Smile-A-Mile. In fact she loved it so much that she continued to volunteer with them for the next 16 years and in 2013 she eventually joined the SAM staff. While at lunch with her one afternoon I mentioned I wanted to find an outlet in which I could get involved with an organization and give back in some way. She immediately mentioned I should consider volunteering. I was initially skeptical because at that point I was already an adult with a child of my own, so I decided the best way I could help would be to contribute financially to the organization and I did. However, I was still looking for some way I could personally get involved at the ground level. I inquired about volunteering at a camp thinking I would go help with some craft activities over a weekend and then I would walk away feeling fulfilled. So, I took a leap of faith and applied to be a volunteer counselor. I had no idea what kind of impact a group of complete strangers was about to have on my life.
The time I spent at camp was hands down one of the most life-changing experiences I’d ever had. To watch the kids and their families get such joy out of what most of us take for granted was both humbling and inspiring. During one camp session I had the privilege of spending time with a child whose last wish was to simply go to camp to be with his friends. I also had the honor of taking a boat ride with his mother. As the wind blew in our faces, I watched a smile appear and tears of joy roll down her face as she shared that in that moment she felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders. A simple boat ride and watching her son just getting to be a kid brought her a happiness she hadn’t felt in years, even as she walked through one of the darkest valleys of her life. That is when I learned that SAM wasn’t about helping sick kids feel special. It was about helping sick kids feel normal. It was about finding the joy and the hope in ordinary moments under extraordinary circumstances. I was hooked and continued to volunteer in various ways until recently, when after a successful 15-year career in Marketing & Communications an opportunity presented itself to join SAM as a full-time staff member. So, again I took a leap of faith and joined the SAM family as their Development Director.
My heart has always been with SAM and the children we serve, and nothing makes me happier than to be able to say that now my heart is finally at home!