As the temperature outside in Auburn climbs toward sweltering, the organization Smile-A-Mile, which provides relief and hope for children and their families going through the cancer journey, is trying to get the Auburn-Opelika community involved with Lemonade For S.A.M., a weekend-long event in early June that looks to raise not only funds but, more importantly, awareness of organization's impact on those affected by childhood cancer in the community.
"There are areas in Alabama with significantly more children and families that are impacted by cancer, and Auburn-Opelika is actually one of those areas," said Tonya Prewett. "Smile-A-Mile is really committed to reach those families in the community.
"We are really excited. This is going to be something that we hope the whole community will jump on board and be a part of."
Lemonade For S.A.M. will take place June 7-9. Children and their parents can register to host a lemonade stand and find all other event information at crowdrise.com/lemonadeforsam.
Smile-A-Mile offers an array of programs and services for children and families going through the childhood cancer journey, from college scholarships for those children in remission from cancer to summer camps for children, siblings and families, to a number of therapeutic programming efforts at Smile-A-Mile Place, the organization's physical location across the street from Children's of Alabama in Birmingham.
"It is a huge facility where families can get away out of the hospital and go over — they have a workout room, they have a meditation room and an activities room for the kids," said Prewett. "Our staff actually goes into the hospital, goes on the eighth floor with these kids and we do programming with them at the hospital, but we also offer programming at the Smile-A-Mile Place facility, just kind of an escape for these families who are stuck in the hospital for months at a time."
Prewett said the summer camps, held at Children's Harbor at Lake Martin, are the organization's biggest program offered through raised funds.
"We offer these summer camps for families. We actually offer them directly for the children who are in the cancer journey," she said. "We also have a siblings camp, so siblings can attend a camp. We have family camps, therapy camps for kids who have gone through the cancer journey but are in remission, for their families to attend at no cost to the family."
Smile-A-Mile also offers bereavement care for those families who have lost a child to cancer.
"There’s always that connection with the family for life, just where we follow up with the family and stay in touch and always remember that child, always remember their name and make that family know that we’re here for life," said Prewett, who also noted that S.A.M. offers a fellowship for an aspiring doctor in the cancer field.
"Anybody who has any part with childhood cancer is going to be impacted by Smile-A-Mile and the different things that we do," she said.
Getting children involved in the quintessential summer activity of hosting a lemonade stand is hugely important, Prewett said, because of the impact it can have on them throughout their lives.
"One of the main reasons it’s such a big deal to make kids aware is because as they develop into teenagers they’ll have decisions to make with community outreach and just understanding that the focus a lot of times needs to be on others, that your own friends could potentially go through this one day," she said, adding that Smile-A-Mile relies heavily on not only its sponsors but volunteers.
"Without the volunteers, we would not be able to do what we do, so that is a very strong part of our organization. By reaching these kids at a young age and helping them get involved and understand what we do, a lot of times it will inspire them to become a part of it as they get a little older," she said. "As the children get involved, the parents get involved. The parents understand that, ‘This could be my kid, and if I can help someone’s kid in the community that’s going through something I’m able to make a difference in.’
"We would just love for it to be a full family participation."
More on Smile-A-Mile can be found online at www.smileamile.com.