At Spreading Sunshine, we are always looking for ways to partner with other non-profits that share a heart for families in medical crisis. When we learned of Icing Smiles, which provides celebration cakes to families facing pediatric illness, we knew our Year of Sunshine families would be blessed by their organization.
Little did we know that their Regional Coordinator (South & West) Lauren Smith had actually been a Year of Sunshine recipient in 2020 – our inaugural year for the Year of Sunshine! This surprise connection only confirmed our desire to work together to bring smiles to Year of Sunshine families.
Now those families can request a cake through Icing Smiles to celebrate all kinds of special days: birthdays, graduations, end of treatment, or whatever else they have to celebrate.
We recently had a chance to learn more about Lauren’s story and wanted to share it with you.
Tell us a little of your personal story as a family facing pediatric health issues.
For us, we faced pediatric health issues when our son was 24 hours old. It was scary, and I often felt alone and unheard. I was young, but I was the best advocate for my son, (and now my other children [who have health issues]), that I could be. I am still, and always will be their biggest advocate and cheerleader.
How Has Having Multiple Children with Health Issues Affected Your Family?
We faced issues of schooling, insurance, the balance of caring for healthy children and being present for all during hospital admissions. We faced long days of appointments, holidays away from family, and in most recent months in the house (quarantined) away from all we knew and loved.
How did being part of a Year of Sunshine impact you and your family?
Being a part of Year of Sunshine was phenomenal. The packages and handwritten cards always seemed to show up when I/we needed them the most. The children always loved what was inside — from the little toys to bubbles to treats.
My favorite package was definitely the Mother’s Day Sunshine Box. We, as medical mommas, often forget to STOP and take a moment for ourselves, so this was definitely something that made me do just that.
What have been your biggest challenges as a medical mom?
My biggest challenge as a medical mom is right now: the transition between pediatric specialists and exploring and researching adult specialists. My son, Xavier, who will be a senior this August and then is off to college, is still under the care of several specialists.
The three colleges that are on his list do not have pediatric medical centers near them, which causes me to worry. While I am so proud of Xavier and his accomplishments and getting to the day where he can be sent off to college, I am worried about the care he will receive and how everything will be handled by people who do not know him.
What are some examples of how people have shown care and compassion for your family during challenging medical times?
As we all say, “I am fine.”
We really aren’t. During some of our long hospital admissions, the most thoughtful and compassionate things done for me and my family were people who just said they were going to do things such as “I am cutting your lawn today” or “I am coming to pick up the kids to give your mom a break for a few” or “Dinner is on the porch.”
I say all the time, just do it, then tell them. If you ask me [first], I will say “No, thank you, I am fine.”
What is the most fulfilling part of your work at Icing Smiles?
I stumbled across Icing Smiles sitting in the hospital room with my son, Xavier, one day during a long admission. Since finding the organization, it has always been special to me. For 4 years Xavier received cakes through them to celebrate his birthday. This was so special and still is.
It is now special to 3 of 4 of my children, who are medical children. The most fulfilling part of my “job” is I love the people I get to e-work alongside and the families I come in contact with. The families sharing their stories and how the “cake” is so much more than a cake is my “why” and “joy” in being a part of Icing Smiles on the administrative side for the last 4 years.
Why is the work of Icing Smiles important to you?
I get to bring joy, happiness, and memories to a family forever that they will cherish. Any celebrations at Icing Smiles are worth celebrating – birthday, end of treatment, graduation, etc.
What is the best part about your partnership with Spreading Sunshine?
The best part of the partnership with Icing Smiles and Spreading Sunshine is we get to work together to help brighten the medical child’s (and siblings!) celebration!
A Year of Sunshine – Encouraging Families throughout the Year
The Year of Sunshine provides families with a year of support, encouragement, and hope through intentional relationships and monthly mailings that include Sunshine Boxes (care packages), encouraging cards, and meal gift cards.
You can help provide consistent, ongoing support for a family by sponsoring them for a Year of Sunshine. Click here to learn more about encouraging a family whose child is facing a critical or chronic illness.