One Year Down. Many More To Go.

Year one of Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation is under our belts. I first announced it on social media on April 11, 2017. When I thought of the idea to start a foundation as a tribute to Ben, I wasn’t really sure how it would go – I just knew I wanted to be able to remember him, share him with others and offer support/gifts to families that are like ours was – all in Ben’s name.

We had a pretty successful first year:

  • We gave toy gifts to 16 children through our partnerships with St Charles schools, Easter Seals and Marianjoy.
  • We made donations to Chapelstreet Church Masterpiece Ministries.
  • We assembled gift bags for kids in the PICU at Central Dupage Hospital.
  • We sponsored a Toy Adapting Event with Kmart and Easter Seals where we gave toys to 8 children. And we participated in one other Adapt-a-Toy event through Marianjoy.
  • We prepared dinner for families staying at Ronald McDonald House in Chicago.
  • We had a pretty successful 1st Annual Bowl-A-Thon Event where St Charles Bowl was packed.
  • AND .. I found a publisher that wanted to work with me to develop “Ben’s Adventures” children’s book, where a portion of sales will support Ben Smiles. It officially releases late May but is currently available for pre-order here: www.Bens-Adventures.com

The foundation and the book have given me a new purpose. My identity as his mom was to care for him and give him the best life possible. When he was now gone, what did that mean for me? Well, I have found a new purpose. I am driven to continue this work. I want to reach way more kids through the foundation. I want to still talk about him, show his photos and share his memories.

Thank you to those that have donated. Thank you to those that have offered support and kind comments. Thank you to all who have attended our events. Be well.

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

Blown Away by Generosity.

Recently, we gifted an Upsee to a young boy named Jacob. I had posted several times in various facebook groups about Benjamin and our foundation. One post in particular of a video of Ben in an Upsee prompted a local mom to reach out wanting to purchase one for another kid. She saw Ben’s smile and was moved by his smile and joy.

It turns out that she has a sister with Down Syndrome and would notice how meaningful people's gifts or acts were to her family growing up. She makes it a point to give back and do something good for someone regularly. 

The Upsee definitely made Jacob smile. I can't take credit for the gift - but I'm thankful that my posts were in the right spot at the right time and that this mom saw them and responded. 

CCCECE0C-1036-4E44-86B3-21657BA69D47.JPG
DAC40FBF-88E5-416E-A6BE-4880055E48B1.JPG
TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

Three weeks and counting … til Ben’s Bowl-A-Thon.

So I looked at the calendar today and realized that Ben’s Bowl-A-Thon is just a short 3 weeks away, creating a little bit of panic. That’s okay. We’ve been blessed with many generous companies/people in the community donating to our raffle and auction. We have a fair number of registrations so far and I imagine many will decide to come as the date gets closer. It’ll be a fun event – featuring pizza, bowling, raffles, family, friends and face-painting!

If you don’t have your registration yet, please go ahead and do so – and don’t worry about bringing a bowling team of four! We have a few individuals that have registered so will be assembling teams as needed. Here’s the link: http://cffrv.gives/bowlathon

The complete list of raffle prizes includes:

  1. Synergy Kettlebell - two 3-month memberships
  2. Goldfish Swim School – one month free lessons
  3. Arcada concert tickets – passes for two on April 28
  4. Errand Up – 10 free deliveries
  5. St Charles Gymnastics Academy – 10 Open Gym Passes
  6. Bent Dog Yoga – two $25 gift cards for you and a friend PLUS two Bent Dog tanks
  7. Fun Republic – two day passes ($25 value)
  8. Kimmers – two $10 gift cards
  9. 41 North Chiropractic – new patient exam and three free sessons, plus oils and soap
  10. Tranquility spa - $100 gift card
  11. Epic Air – free jump passes, water bottle, value $45
  12. Juice Plus Basket – courtesy of Allison Earl
  13. Rodan & Fields gift bag – courtesy of Heather Tran
  14. Rodan & Fields gift bag – courtesy of Misty Feiza
  15. Nothing Bundt Cakes  - Bowling theme cake
  16. Family Night Game Basket
  17. Fishers Peanuts Gift Basket
  18. St Charles Bowl Party Package
  19. Starbucks Gift Basket
  20. All Around Office Cleaning – two hours of residential cleaning
  21. Barnwood reclaimers – barnwood art
  22. Dot Dot Baby Smile by Justyna Carlson – little girl dress
  23. Sarah’s Fade N flow – haircut package and products
  24. Club Fusion Volleyball - $200 certificate for classes/clinic

In addition to the raffles, we also have a few generous donations for the silent auction featuring a wine tasting for 10 at Aspen Lane Winery (Aurora), family photo package from Jennifer Mock Photography, dinner cruise for four on Odyssey Cruises (Chicago), family photo package from Mode de Vie Photography and a kids karate party at National Karate (South Elgin).

Don’t hold off – go ahead and reserve your spot! Those that reserve prior to the event will get the official event t-shirt! Get your tickets here - http://cffrv.gives/bowlathon

I hope to see you there!

Elizabeth

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

RE-Energized for the New Year

So it’s been a few weeks (the entire holiday season!) since I’ve written a post – we had a pretty busy fall and I needed to take a break. Step back. Evaluate what we accomplished. Think about what we could improve. Identify new opportunities. And also become re-motivated and re-energized for this new year. Our primary goals are the same.

I hope to continue pushing Ben’s Toy Closet, the giving program where we gift adapted toys and switches to kids with motor impairment. I intend to expand our reach and get new toys to new kids! And have reached out to local media to promote our message and mission to help us do just that.

I hope to identify new event opportunities such as the first annual Ben’s Bowl-A-Thon coming up on March 11 at St Charles Bowl. This will be a fun family-friendly bowling event with food, raffles and prizes. You can find more information here. And if you’re able to donate a raffle prize, click here. That would be awesome and much appreciated!

I’d like to get more service groups together and get out in the community like we did with the dinner service at Ronald McDonald House. You can expect to see another one of these this spring/summer, but at the Winfield location so it’s more convenient!

I’m also working on some more exciting things for this year! And hopefully will have an announcement soon as it becomes more final.

The bottom line – I want to continue to support families with kids who are like Ben was. I want to continue to do acts of service in his name, and represent him well. I’d like to provide monetary donations to organizations that supported us in Ben’s journey. I’d like to re-engage with the community and increase volunteer involvement in our events/initiatives ... growing Ben's Team!

Thank you all for your support last year. And here's to a strong 2018!

Elizabeth G

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor