Sadie’s Smile Foundation
On August 9, 2011, my five-year-old daughter Sadie Grace Ablard joined her angel friends in heaven after sustaining a head injury while rollerskating. But rather than starting at the end of Sadie’s story, let’s start closer to the beginning.
I clearly remember Sadie’s first smile. Not just a reflex smile but her first real smile. She showed me that first gummy grin when she was eight weeks old and she never lived a day without beaming several times during the day. Even on grumpy days, she would find things to look delighted about…a funny passage in a book, the crazy antics of the goats on our property, finally getting through that difficult violin piece, finding colorful yarn for her next knitting project, watching a butterfly land on a flower…Sadie found joy in so many areas of life.
Sadie wanted to give others the chance to smile too. Not just a partial smile but a wide-open grin. She was troubled that some people are born with cleft lip and cleft palate and that millions of children born in developing countries are unable to afford surgery. Not only can they not smile, but they often have trouble eating or speaking properly. They often aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. They can face difficult lives because they are too poor to afford a simple surgery. Sadie wanted to provide them a chance to smile.
Sadie first learned about SmileTrain when we were walking through Dulles Town Center. She saw banners promoting the cause with often-seen photos of children with cleft palate. She asked, “What’s wrong with that boy?” I explained as best I could that afternoon and then we went home and learned more online. She showed great compassion for these children, and she wanted to help. That Christmas, we asked for donations instead of gifts, and we raised $500 which fully funded two “smiles.”
With Sadie’s death, I’m continuing her cause. It’s my goal to raise enough money in my lifetime to fund a child’s smile for every day that Sadie lived. That’s $250 per smile for 1,913 days for a total of $478,250. It’s a bold goal, but then Sadie lived with a bold heart and with much compassion for this cause. With each smile we fund, we help improve the life of a child, and we’re doing so in memory of my joyful Sadie who blessed us with her beaming, contagious smile. She would be delighted to have contributed to sharing more smiles with others.
Since one of Sadie’s other passions was running, I’m organizing a 5K run on what would have been her sixth birthday on May 12, with all proceeds going to SmileTrain. She loved to run longer and longer portions of our 3.5 mile loop, sometimes taking a break in the baby jogger but just as often challenging me in a race. When I was having a hard time keeping up with her sprints, she’d look back and shout “Now you’re getting it!” while cheering on our “girl power!” At only five years old, she was on her third pair of running shoes.
In our short time together, my daughter taught me empathy, generosity and the benefits of living with an open heart. Now that she’s gone, I sustain myself by continuing her good works.