CLEARFIELD – During the largest-ever Color the Night fundraiser, Matt and Annie Hinton, co-founders of Brady’s Smile Inc. celebrated the growth, success and beauty of the lives their organization has touched over the past five years before hosting its “Make a Difference Derby” Saturday night at the Expo I Building at the Clearfield Driving Park.
Brady’s Smile is a 501(c)3 children’s organization that’s based in Fairfield, CT. In 2008, Matt and Annie established the organization to love, memorialize and honor their son, Brady, whom died on his second birthday. Their son’s short life was medically difficult and presented him with many challenges. However, Brady inspired many with his smile.
In reflecting back to five years ago, Matt said Brady had just died. Despite their sadness, he and Annie searched for ways to make the lives of children and their families easier, while they were staying in intensive care units.
In 2008, he and Annie established Brady’s Smile with the foundation of four basic programs – Comfort Bags, Brady’s Blankets, Music in the ICU and Meals by Matt and Annie. At the time, Brady’s Smile was only felt by the children, families and staff in three hospitals in two states.
Five years later, Matt said those four programs are still the foundation of Brady’s Smile. Only difference now, these programs are touching the lives in 15 hospitals across seven states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia.
“If you take a look around this room, there are about 400 people here tonight. If you multiply that by two-and-a-half, that’s our impact every single month,” he said. Since its infancy, Brady’s Smile has touched the lives of 38,000 people.
Further, it’s delivered 10,169 comfort bags, 8,872 blankets, 7,352 meals and 695 music players and CDs. It has opened one pediatric asthma center, one children’s library and one rolling cart program. In addition, it’s created a developmental sensory/feeding children’s therapy program and purchased one transport cart.
For the past year-and-a-half, Matt said the couple has embraced its new role, which is to listen. He said they’ve been listening to patients, families and hospital staff, which, in turn, are diversifying the Brady’s Smile programs. He said it’s resulted in the creation of one children’s library with another being planned to open next year in DuBois.
Matt said Brady’s Smile just recently started a photography program that has professionals capture the lives of dying children for their families. However, he said the photographer is there seeking to capture “some of the good memories” for families to hold onto.
“We’re doing a lot of different things. We’re not your typical brick and mortar organization,” he said. “We’re constantly looking for ways to impact lives.
“And, you all make that happen. Without every single one of you all, we’re just two people who can’t make it happen alone. We need you, you and you.”
In her moments of reflection, Annie not only recalled the first year for Brady’s Smile, but also the constant impact her “special Guest of Honor” had on the couple’s children’s organization. Each year the couple recognizes a “special person” who goes above and beyond for Brady’s Smile.
This year, it’s different,” said Annie, “because this person – [Dr. Gregory S. Sheffo] – is no longer with us. But he had a tremendous impact on our charity. He’ll be missed by all, especially his littlest patients.”
Annie said during Brady’s life, he always needed to be close to children’s hospitals. She said Sheffo became a “magical” member of her son’s “special team,” so that he could have memories with his grandparents and family in Clearfield.
“He loved this event, and he’s here tonight in spirit,” she said. She said the couple would continue to work closely with the Clearfield Hospital to achieve Sheffo’s goals for Brady’s Smile.
In closing, Annie shared the verse “Welcome to Holland.” It was shared with her as the mother of a child who had many special needs. It was written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987.
Welcome to Holland
When you’re going to have a baby, it is like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. There will e the Coliseum, The Michelangelo David and The Gondolas of Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It is all very exciting.
After months of anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bag and off you go. Several hours later, your plane lands and the stewardess comes in and says, ‘Welcome to Holland’. ‘Holland?’ you say. ‘What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I am supposed to be in Italy. All my life, I have dreamed of going to Italy!
But there has been a change in flight plan, they have landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they have not taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It is just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met before. It is just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy. It’s less flashy than Italy. But after you have been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips and Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, ‘Yes, that is where I was supposed to go, that’s where I had planned.’
And the pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss, but if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
“I’m proud to have all of you here tonight on this trip to Holland,” said Annie. “I’m glad you’re here to see the beauty of Holland.”