Last spring I had the opportunity to meet Jen Burke, the founder of Sara’s Smiles Foundation at the CLC Conference. She was full of positive energy and compassion to help children fighting and surviving cancer.
Sara’s Smiles Foundation, a designated 501(c)(3) organization, was created by the family of 5 year-old Sara Burke to carry on her memory, spirit, and legacy of hope, determination, and cheer. Sara was a vibrant, energetic, little girl who loved arts and crafts, mac and cheese, music, her Big Wheel, and her big brother and big sister.
Upon being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, Sara and her mother lived at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for seven months. During that time, Sara underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, stem cell transplants, and therapies of all sorts. Despite her difficult, adverse circumstances Sara battled her disease with fierce determination and an unwavering positive attitude, living every moment to the fullest. Although physically isolated, she was able to harness the power of love from her family, friends, and community. This energy filled her heart, brightened her outlook, and strengthened her resolve to fight.
Tragically, on May 12, 2008, Sara lost her courageous battle with cancer. The many, many happy memories that Sara experienced in the hospital are the primary inspiration behind Sara’s Smiles. Our mission is to extend a loving hand in helping to create a warmer, more personal, more empowered experience for children who are struggling with cancer by providing a variety of resources to entertain, comfort, and educate. The three major facets of Sara’s Smiles are our website, Inspiration Kits, and Inspiration Stations. All three are designed to encourage a more positive experience for children and their families.
Our website, www.saras-smiles.org, is designed for both the child diagnosed with cancer as well as his/her family and friends. The website provides information about our Inspiration Kits, Inspiration Stations, and many valuable resources. A comprehensive, user-friendly list of organizations that support and advocate for kids with cancer as well as websites and apps for games, arts and crafts, stress management, and pain relief are also featured on our site.
Our Inspiration Kits:
Sara’s Smiles Inspiration Kits help cultivate a more positive environment and frame of mind for children who are fighting and surviving cancer. Each Inspiration Kit is designed to be durable, portable, practical, and fun. Our kits contain a sampling of the resources found on our website- items that can help families stay organized, connect with others, and explore creative ways to encourage smiles. Whether in the hospital or at home, we believe that engaging children not only brightens their spirits, but empowers them as well. Sara’s Smiles donates Inspiration Kits to pediatric cancer patients in the many hospitals with whom we are partnered and also upon request free of charge. Kits can be ordered by phone or our website.
Our Inspiration Stations:
Sara’s Smiles Inspiration Stations are where clouds are lifted and joy is inspired via the creation of bright, beautiful, Inspiration Cards. Inspiration Stations are easy to set up and can be hosted by anyone, anywhere such as at schools, parties, shopping centers, etc. Volunteers hosting Inspiration Stations encourage people to share colorful, uplifting, and positive words, phrases, quotes, and pictures on cloud-shaped Inspiration Cards. The cards, crammed with positive “graffiti,” offer an extra measure of love and support to the patients and families who receive them. The Inspiration Cards can also be used to add a spot of color to the walls of a child’s room. They act as a constant reminder of the strength that lies within each child and the unbroken, loving connection to a community that cares about them. Inspiration Cards are included in our kits. They can also be delivered as a surprise package of love and cheer to a child diagnosed with cancer by family and/or friends. More information on how to host an Inspiration Station or to request the delivery of Inspiration Cards can be found on our website, www.saras-smiles.org.