And so it continues…..

Lightning Community Hero Video

The first two years of the Bring Smiles program saw tremendous growth. We had connected to more communities than we ever thought imaginable. We had built a card donor base, added school and civic group partners and staffed our program with volunteers that would help our program be successful. We met every hardship with the will to press on. There were times that we ran out of cards, ran out of money and wondered if it was all sustainable. However, just when things seemed most bleak, amazing things would happen and we were able to go on to live another day.

In 2017 we delivered 18,810 cards. I was worried that the card supply would not grow and that keeping up with those kinds of numbers was not sustainable. Therefore, I set our goal for 2018 at 20,000 cards in hopes that we would be able to deliver. As we entered 2018 I felt something special going on. We were making connections in the card community that was spreading the word faster than advertising ever could. Miraculously, a few dollars here and there started to appear. By mid year it became obvious that our 2018 goal was going to be blown out of the water. That is the power of “we”.

Because our card donors were from all over the country, we decided that we had a responsibility to give back to their states as well. Mid year we started the first of our “Random Acts” campaigns and delivered cards to a senior community in all 50 states. We were so successful with that campaign that we decided to start with the alphabet and go backwards and deliver to all 50 states again, in reverse order. We completed that campaign just before the fall. By late November we had delivered over 34,000 cards and we knew that this year was going to be something special.

While the final numbers are not in, we know that we will have delivered to over 200 Seniors communities in all 50 states by the time we close out 2018. We will have provided cards to senior communities, elderly nutrition programs and seniors at home. We will have involved schools, civic organizations and now corporate entities in our decorating programs. We started a home decorating program where individuals can get involved that might not otherwise have the means to contribute. We have some amazing decorators that have become an integral part of what we do. Finally, while we don’t know what the final number is going to be for 2018, we know that it is going to be pretty darn close to 40,000.

The picture above says it all. While I was honored with the Tampa Bay Lightning Community hero award this year, I knew it was not about me. It was about our volunteers, card artists, decorators, students, teachers, principals, civic group leaders, donors and corporate participants that believe in what we do. It was about every senior that needed a smile and every person willing to help deliver it. It was about a little dream that definitely turned into a very big reality.

Have a great weekend and remember to be the reason someone smiles.


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