Who we are and how we started
Having spent some years volunteering for a large wish granting charity, founder, Karen Rainford decided it would be the natural progression to start her own charity. (She didn’t think it through!) But what?………………..
It had to be for children. It had to be local. It had to be run by volunteers – no paid staff at all ever. And importantly – It had to make children smile. In her time with the wish granting charity, Karen had become aware of two things: Firstly, whilst the fundamental objective of the wish granting charity was joyous – it involved the saddest situations with children who often had a short time to live. However, one of the main things she had noticed was the smiles of the youngsters concerned. Massive smiles. Big beamy smiles. Wonderful, wondrous smiles.
And secondly, that the siblings of the ill youngsters were often overlooked. Through no fault of anyone really, and it was completely understandable in the circumstances. Karen thought they needed a bit of something to make them feel like someone was thinking about them, cared and to make them smile.
Decision made – local, volunteers, smiley and for the siblings of seriously ill children. Many discussions took place over the days and weeks and – akin to being on the road to Damascus – we realised that we should include all young carers. Youngsters who spend their days and nights caring for someone else. Youngsters whose lives are ruled by the clock and time (or lack of it). Youngsters who have forgotten how to be young.
And so it started……………………………… Miles of Smiles had begun.
What do we do?
Our aim is to make youngsters feel special and put some sparkle, love and a few giggles in their day.
Some children for whatever reason, aren’t always able to be children and have to grow up very quickly. They may face daily burdens – perhaps having to care for a parent or have a sibling whose condition takes up most of mum and dad’s attention or because of the situation they are going through – a struggle themselves. These are children who deserve – and need – a ‘smile’ in their day.
So, what do we do? Well, we organise treats, or as we call them, ‘smiles’ for just these youngsters.
What is a smile?
A ‘smile’ is often something really modest and unassuming like a meal out with the family because ‘we never get to do that’. It may be modest to us but to a young person who has never been out for family time – it means a lot. Over the years we have arranged many days out – shopping trips, trips to football matches or concerts or theme parks or the cinema. We have had pamper days and photo-shoots. We have bought bikes and trampolines and made dens in the garden. We have made princesses for the day and had a singer on the stage in a pantomime. There have been many, many meals in MacDonalds. We have had a captain on a boat and a recital on the organ in a cathedral. And we have bought many gadgets…… phones, tablets and the like.
Sometimes we are asked to supply a little bit of joy for a young person for their birthday. Generally this is when money is tight within the family but it makes a big difference to our ‘smile’ youngster. The Birthday Bag isn’t filled with anything luxurious or exclusive but it makes someone’s birthday a special day.
In some very desperate circumstances, we’ve been asked to help in a very basic way to fund a school uniform or to pay for a school trip. We try to take the ‘desperate’ out of the circumstance and help make life a little easier for the young person whose life isn’t always easy.
‘Making Memory’ Smiles
Occasionally, we have arranged ‘smiles’ in what can be sad situations. St Catherine’s Hospice has contacted us and told us about a family with young children and who are going to lose a mum or a dad. Or we have heard about a family who are going to lose a child. They ask if we can help. Who can say ‘No’?