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.

February 2017

"Have a Heart Volunteer Day 2017" — Renewing a Sense of Hope
By Kay Haldeman

From the vantage point of the baked goods table where I sold homemade goodies at the Caitlin’s Smiles "Have a Heart Volunteer Day" on February 4, I observed something that warmed my weary heart. At a time when so many seem to do nothing more than cling to differences, holding on tightly to what they believe to be best for their own self-interests, a group of people came together to make gift bags for children in the hospital.

Caitlin’s Smiles was started many years ago by Caitlin’s mother, Cheryl Hornung, when her sweet 6-year-old daughter lost her battle with cancer. Rather than living in the despair that any parent would feel, Cheryl decided to open her heart to the needs of the many children who experience the scariness of being hospitalized. Providing them with a gift bag filled with small toys, crayons, Play-Doh®, and other items for the children to express their creativity, Cheryl and Caitlin’s Smiles have provided thousands of gift bags to bring smiles to the faces of little ones.

This would not be possible without the many volunteers who come together to make and assemble the bags. Each bag is individually decorated and includes a handmade card along with the craft items. On this annual Volunteer Day, three shifts of people unselfishly come together to give a few hours of their time to this great project.

In addition to those volunteers, there was a hum in the room as many people came and went, bringing in homemade soups for the sale and lovely baked items for the table I was watching. There were servers, donators, organizers — all working together as one well-oiled machine to make the day go smoothly.

As if that were not heart-touching enough, when I looked around at the tables of bag-makers, I saw moms who had brought their children — many of whom were the age of Caitlin (or even younger) when she died. The tables were round, seeming symbolic to me, and were surrounded by people of different faiths, colors, and cultures. They were not there to argue out their differences; they were not there to change someone’s opinion; they were not there to boycott anything. They were just there with the humble attitude of commitment to making the lives of children a little easier by helping to offer the gift bags at a very difficult time for both the children and their families. It was obvious that there was a oneness in the room, with the common cause of making the world a little better.

In an effort to share this goodness and not let it get lost in all the craziness of our world right now, I had to write this. I would be grateful if it brought someone who reads it a renewed sense of hope. Kindness is possible and strong enough to help people ignore the differences. And when they do, great things can happen.

Kay is a longtime volunteer and supporter of Caitlin’s Smiles. Her handmade jewelry and other creations have often graced our Silent Auction tables. Kay’s beautiful personality blesses everyone she meets.