Amazon Day has become a yearly event at Caitlin’s Smiles and for many area Amazon employees. The day highlighted the Amazon associates’ efforts to collect Play-Doh for our organization, but it’s become so much more than that. Many of the Amazon facility teams participate in what they call “The Battle of the Buildings.” In its fifth year, this battle is a contest where employees at many Amazon facilities throughout the region work together to be the facility that will collect the most amount of Play-Doh to be donated to Caitlin’s Smiles. The Play-Doh then is distributed by our organization to children in medical facilities in our Bags of Smiles and Coping Kits. Play-Doh rolls in from Amazon facilities both near and far.
The door at Caitlin’s Smiles swung open and closed many times on Amazon Day. Dozens of Amazonians came through those doors that day. They brought their Play-Doh, their experiences and their enthusiasm. After a tour and viewing the Caitlin’s Smiles video, they settled in at the tables, assembled craft kits, created cards and decorated bags that will be used for the Bags of Smiles.
Volunteer Coordinator, Skip, took some time to speak with many of the Amazon volunteers that came through our front door that day. Here’s what they had to say.
Carmela Rhoads, from Amazon’s DPH7 in Elizabethtown, volunteered at Caitlin’s Smiles because helping children with health problems is dear to her heart.
She runs a nonprofit, Kisses for Kaeden, in honor of her son Kaeden, who has had several open-heart surgeries since he was 13 months old. He’s 18 now.
“Kaeden was the recipient of many, many Bags (of Smiles) throughout the years,” Carmela said. “This is my first time at Caitlin’s Smiles, but it’s not the last for sure.”
Al Schramm of Amazon’s Harleysville facility near Philadelphia: “I helped with this in 2019. I’m in one of the buildings that collected (Play-Doh). This is awesome.”
Shelly Perry, also of Elizabethtown, accompanied co-worker Carmela.
“I’ve volunteered throughout my adult life,” said Shelly, who has helped Caitlin’s Smiles before.
“Carmella said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” she said. “And I said, ‘OK’.”
Chaz Parker of Amazon’s DAE3 in Hazleton was unfamiliar with Caitlin’s Smiles before the Play-Doh drive and signing up for the volunteering event.
“I said I’d like to try that,” he said. “It’s a far drive for people at my site. It’s my first time here, but it’s not going to be my last.
“I like the whole concept. The kids. I’m a big kid myself. We can pay it forward.”
For Freda Clark of PHL5 in Lewisberry, it was a return to Caitlin’s Smiles Amazon Day. She was here for the first one.
“I love being here. I do. It’s fun,” she said. “It’s always nice to do things to help other people. A lot of people helped when I was down and out. It’s nice to give back.”
Nicole Willis of Amazon in York has been volunteering for hospitalized children for several years. She said her nephew was born with a heart problem and spent about a year at a Ronald McDonald House. “He wasn’t expected to live, but now he’s doing well (at age 9).
It was Nicole’s first visit to Smiles Central. “This is fabulous,” she said as she assembled craft kits. “I could do this all day. I’ll be back.”
Jackee Seitz, Mechanicsburg: “I want to come back. This is really cool. I love your mission.”
Pat Sotak, Mechanicsburg, as he was decorating Bags of Smiles: “This is my first time. I’m really enjoying it.”
Dalton Coldwater, Mechanicsburg, as he decorated bags: “I’ve had so much fun. I’m trying to be as creative as possible. This is thoroughly enjoyable.”
Shayanna Pacley, Harrisburg: “I like this. I used to drive by here every day and see this place. Now I know what it is.”
Yolanda Farley, Harrisburg: “This is an awesome endeavor. I’m in awe of Miss Cheryl’s dedication. I love that Amazon is a part of this.”
Clara Graham, Harrisburg: “I never knew about (Caitlin’s Smiles). I really like this. This is really good.”
Jolene McCoy of Amazon’s DH7 in Elizabethtown, said she hadn’t heard of Caitlin’s Smiles before the workers at her site collected and donated “7,197 cans” of Play-Doh.
“This is a great operation. It’s great to see all sides of it and realize what we’re a part of,” she said. “It’s inspiring, for sure. We’ll have to get more Play-Doh next year.”
Ashley Sweigart, Elizabethtown: “This is phenomenal.”
Steve Clark, Elizabethtown: “This is my first time. It’s awesome!”
By the end of the day, greeting cards were stacked high, paper bags were decorated with bright colors, and many new craft kits were assembled, all to make the days a little better for children in medical facilities. And the Play-Doh, approximately 50,000 tubs of it, filled the warehouse. It will be used in our outreach for the kids. Two cans go into each Bag of Smiles, one can will go into each Coping Kit.
You may be wondering which building ‘won’ the Battle of the Buildings… It was the PHL5 – Lewisberry location. However, everyone was a winner on Amazon Day: the Amazon associates, the kids, and our organization. The support of our mission by so many at Amazon helps carry the Smiles forward to thousands of kids, and their families, during their time of need and vulnerability. We can’t thank them enough, but we’ll try. Thank you, Amazon & Associates for your enduring and enthusiastic support. Thank you for sending smiles with us.