A K12 International Academy (iCademy) family gives back to children in need in a very unique way!
The Smith family sets up donation collections at various sites to collect toys for children who are recovering in hospitals. Inspired by their own personal experience, the Smith family knows first-hand the needs these hospitals can have.
“The concept began from my oldest son, who was in kindergarten at the time, as he watched his sister in and out of the hospital with surgery and other serious medical conditions,” Tracy Smith, iCademy department chair, said. “He saw her struggle with recovery and many of the toys in hospitals were broken or missing pieces.”
Wanting his sister to have access to reliable toys, he came up with an idea.
“His birthday was coming up and he asked my husband if he could donate his birthday gifts to the hospital since we had a lot of toys at home,” Tracy said. “We decided to write on the birthday invitation to donate friends’ gifts to the hospital. He would keep only family gifts.”
For the next few years all three of Tracy’s children (Zakary, 5th grade, Gracyn, 3rd grade, and Ari Kindergarten), continued this tradition on their birthdays, leading to the birth of Smith Smiles organization.
“Smith Smiles is a family run non-profit that brings new toys, games, books, dolls, puzzles, DVDs, crafts and more to children who are healing in the hospital,” Tracy said. “We are growing rapidly and would love to expand to shipping to many local hospitals who need us.”
Since creating Smith Smiles, the organization has donated over 3,200 items to multiple children’s hospitals. Understanding what it’s like to be a family of a child in the hospital, the Smith family is dedicated to providing families with the support they need.
“Children and families need a distraction during this stressful and emotional time,” Tracy said. “Hospitals try so hard to keep spirits up and keep the playroom filled with toys, but there is a high turnover rate and things get broken. It is our mission to not only provide games to the hospitals to keep so families can have a few moments of laughter during stress, but also to give treasures to children to keep and take home with them. It calms the children and makes it easier for the doctors and nurses to do what they need to do.”
Helping others, even those who aren’t in your local area, is something Tracy has great experience in. Being a department chair for K12 International Academy, Tracy interacts with various students from around the world and is able to help them from miles away.
“I love that I get to interact with people from around the world and learn from the students,” Tracy said. “We are able to provide a way of learning for students that goes with them where they need to go if they travel, accommodate a schedule they need if they work at a different pace, have access at different times of the day or night if they have a medical conditions that have them working differently.”
For Tracy, being a part of Smith Smiles with her children and seeing them grow has been an amazing and rewarding experience.
“This truly began through my children,” Tracy said. “It was my son’s idea, my children drove it past their birthday parties. I just help them along the way. My three children are more compassionate and giving people because of it. They are the first to comfort a friend and understand people have feelings and need support.”