Today we’d like to introduce you to Zakary, Gracyn, Ari, Tracy and Jarrett Smith.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Smith Smiles Toy Donations began after our daughter, Gracyn, was in and out of the hospital when she was two years old. Our oldest son, Zakary, saw many of the toys were broken or missing parts. He offered to donate his birthday gifts when he was turning six years old to the hospital she had spinal surgery at, and Smith Smiles was born! Beginning in 2011, our three children started donating their birthday gifts which evolved into hosting toy collections at various locations within the community to gather new toys, books, puzzles, games, craft supplies, dolls and much more to bring to hospitals in need. When we deliver the items, we are able to bring smiles to children who are scared about what they are going through and take away their fears for a bit while they heal and play with these new items.
In 2016, we proudly became a 501c3 nonprofit organization to bring more smiles and donations to more hospital locations! As a nonprofit, we can fundraise and not only bring to local hospitals but also ship items through the mail to other states! We started finding families that had treatment at hospitals and shipping them boxes of 150-250 toys to bring to the place they had treatment as our representatives if we could not go ourselves. Sometimes we bring toys on our vacations and other times we ship to people who have had treatment at a hospital. So far, we have donated over 11,300 toys to 20 states, and one international donation to Israel. We continue to donate locally all around Florida and expand to hospitals that are in need. All three children, Ari, Gracyn, and Zakary talk with children in schools to show them that kids can make a difference through kindness, following your passions, and giving back.
Has it been a smooth road?
Along the way, we have worked to figure out shipping costs and fundraising to ensure we can help children in the hospital in the most cost-effective way without taking away from the donations themselves. Our priority is helping the hospitals and patients. We have tried to reach out and write grants to get toy stores, craft supply stores, and more to donate to us. It would be amazing to be able to provide more to the hospitals with each donation since 100% of what we fundraise goes directly to our donations. Having a way to work directly with the toy or craft manufacturers would be wonderful so we could help more hospitals and children in need.
When we did our international donation, we arranged with a wonderful toy store in Israel to preorder the toys so when we arrived we could use US Dollars and avoid fees and exchange rates which is a hurdle with international donations.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Smith Smiles Toy Donations fills a need that child life departments in the hospitals are always looking to fill. When a doctor, nurse, or specialist walks into the room of a family, there are so many things going on! The family is scared, the child is overwhelmed and not feeling well. By providing toys, craft supplies, and more, Smith Smiles Toy Donations is providing a way to “break the ice” or open the conversation with the family. We are providing a way for them to fill their time at the hospital and put their concerns aside for a few minutes and begin healing. We are so proud of how we have grown over the years so we can fill the wish lists of hospitals locally, across the country, and even internationally.
We know from our own experiences how important this is. Through our own frightening times in the hospital when our daughter was in and out of the ICU multiple times, we know. Tracy Smith was eight months pregnant with our 3rd child, had a four-year-old at home, and a two-year-old in the hospital for invasive spinal surgery. She and Jarrett Smith were able to get through with the help from family, friends, and the child life department. The reason Gracyn wanted to push through the pain and walk again was because of the playroom and we saw how important the toys were. Gracyn took her first steps (again) after spinal surgery to go for a toy, she wanted to walk again to play in a play kitchen in the playroom.
Every children’s hospital needs to be stocked with toys so that children can be children. As her brothers have sat by her side more than once as she has been in the hospital, Zakary and Ari understand how important toys are for both the patient and siblings. When we donate, we donate to the family, not just the patient. We know what it feels like to be scared. We know how it feels to try and distract your kids while having to stay in a hospital room for days and days at a time.
Gracyn, Zakary, and Ari are experts at picking out toys for each donation! They go shopping with a budget depending on the donations we are doing, and select toys for every age, gender, and need. They select toys for physical therapy, occupational therapy, children on the spectrum, babies through teens. They know what is needed and it is their passion to supply toys for children who are healing!
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
There are several hospitals in need in every city! Contact your local hospitals to see what they need and what is on their wish lists. Look for a charity like Smith Smiles Toy Donations and see how you can help or start your own charity to provide what is on the wish lists.
- Website: www.smithsmiles.org
- Phone: 561-961-TOYS (8697)
- Instagram: @SmithSmilesToyDonations
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SmithSmilesToyDonations/