Caitlin's Smiles - Giving sick children laughs, hopes and smiles.

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Here at Caitlin’s Smiles, we are witness to many incredible acts of giving. Whether it is through volunteering, donations or photos from children in the hospitals, people continue to amaze us with their acts of generosity. We will be sharing these experiences with all of you through our Monthly Smiles stories. So, please come back to visit this page for inspiring stories of giving that happen right here at Caitlin’s Smiles.

September 2018

"I am the mother of a warrior. In February 2014, my family began a journey that changed us. At just two years old, my youngest son, Heath, was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called ependymoma. Our baby boy underwent an 8-hour brain surgery just two days after an MRI at Hershey Med Center revealed a large tumor eroding into his brain stem. This was the start of a series of events. Heath would ultimately end up having six surgeries over the next four years, with two of them being major surgeries for tumor removal in his brain and spine. We have watched him endure a total of 66 rounds of proton radiation. We have watched him sit for hours receiving blood transfusions. We have witnessed the miracle of him going from bedridden to running, learning to walk and talk again after surgeries. Heath has had more pokes and prods, more ouchies, more scary moments than any child should ever have to endure. This journey has taken us to hospitals as near as Hershey and as far as Houston, Texas. The most recent portion of the journey involved a two-year clinical trial with routine trips to Pittsburgh. At the end of all this, he is healthy and he is a warrior.

Despite all that he has endured within the walls of medical facilities, Heath loves the hospital. He has no fear when he goes into a doctor's office, when he is strapped to an MRI table, or when he has to be stuck in a hospital bed. This perspective is possible to achieve by making time spent in medical facilities as positive as possible. I believe most children are innately inclined to make the best of any situation when given the tools. Caitlin's Smiles gives children a whole toolbox to work with to make the best of their situation. The countless hours spent in a hospital bed can melt away with a tub of Play-Doh, a coloring book, a craft kit, a puzzle, and a good book. A scary piece of medical equipment becomes less scary if you can cover it with stickers. The mandatory confinement to a hospital bed can turn into an adventure of colors and imagination. That's what art can do for children. I watched it happen for Heath. IV preparation, medication administration, bandage changes, tube flushes...these things can be ignored when a child has the distraction that is provided by a bag full of arts and crafts. The relief these simple items provide to a sick child is critical, but so is the blessing it brings to parents and caregivers. When your child is able to conquer medical issues with less fear, fewer tears, and more joy, it makes a parent stronger. It allows us to save our own strength and courage for another day, another battle. Art and creativity bring joy, and joy brings healing. We are happy to be supporters of Caitlin's Smiles and the important mission that started with one little girl. We are blessed that Heath is no longer a recipient of the Bags of Smiles, but instead can now walk into a children's hospital and deliver a box of those smiles to other children that are still on their journey of healing."

- Crystal, Heath's Mom


Heath, along with his family, will be attending this year's A Night of Smiles art auction on Saturday, October 6th, at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill. Heath has donated artwork for the past few years and is presenting artwork again for this year's auction. His artwork, as well as artwork provided by other children who have received our arts & crafts activities, will be up for bid during the live auction portion of the event.