SMILE Mass - Bringing Smiles to Children

In 2009, Lotte Diomede and Susan Brown launched SMILE Mass (Small Miracles In Life Exist), a non-profit with one goal in mind: helping children and young adults with disabilities to have equal opportunities, and to provide them with happy memories that will last a lifetime.

Lotte Diomede, president and co-founder of Smile Mass says,

“SMILE Mass was created after our success in building a handicap-accessible playground. This seed project gave us the momentum we needed in order to create the non-profit. My son, who is now fourteen years old, was the driving force behind SMILE Mass. He was really the one who inspired me to take action. I wanted to help give young adults and children with disabilities an opportunity to get out and enjoy the everyday adventures without frustration.“

“SMILE Mass was designed to build up young children who have disabilities, so they will one day help run the wonderful world we live in,” Diomede explains.

“After having a child with a disability, I soon realized the world is not set up equally for children and young adults with disabilities. I found that I could either bark up everyone’s tree, or I could try and make a difference. We decided that with SMILE Mass, we could make a difference. Over the last five years, we have worked on a variety of projects that have done just that.”

SMILE Mass earned their name when Diomede visited a variety of playgrounds asking children what a playground meant to them. The majority of the answers were simply “the playground makes me smile.”

Diomede states,

“After the success of creating our first accessible playground, we shifted our efforts to placing beach wheelchairs on public beaches around Massachusetts. Our goal is to go nationwide. Every year we designate around twenty wheelchairs to public beaches, and in 2013 we donated an additional twenty floating beach wheelchairs to public beaches on Cape Cod. All beaches should have a wheelchair available for those who may need one. The beach should be for everyone, not for some."

“This summer, we expanded our equipment loaner program, and now have ten floating beach wheelchairs, six jogging strollers, two high performance strollers, one kick sled and two adapted bicycles. With our loaner program, we give families an opportunity to test out a piece of adaptive equipment before they buy it,” she says.

“If a family has one member in their household with a disability, it doesn’t just impact that one person. It impacts the entire family. When you’re raising a son like mine, who is severely handicapped and needs care around the clock, you are constantly dependent on other people’s opinions and other people’s knowledge for what’s helpful or not,” Diomede adds.

She concludes

“Our goal is to give families with children and young adults who have a disability the “yes you can” spirit. If there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s really how I go about life. If you’re thrown a curve ball, you may drop it a couple of times, but keep at it and you’ll eventually learn how to throw it back. I don’t have all the answers, or the cure to all the problems, but I do know that we have two choices. We can sit back and not say anything, or we can learn to speak up and provide a solution to the problem.”

For more information, visit the SMILE Mass website at http://www.smilemass.org/

Lisa

Editors Note: Lisa has helped create several online social communities (Wheel:Life.org) for friends who use wheelchairs to help people discover new relationships, lifestyle resources and web-based support groups. Lisa guides healthcare providers in creating support programs and communication resources for people who have disabilities. A frequent speaker and guest columnist, you will find her presenting at disability and healthcare conferences nationwide.

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