As a volunteer, S.M.I.L.E. will become the highlight of your week, just like it is for all of our kids. It is a community that will give back to you just as much as you contribute to it. You will learn and laugh, play and teach, be pushed outside your comfort zone, and probably cry (because there’s something in your eye…) when you have to say goodbye. S.M.I.L.E. will become the hallmark of your Acadia experience, and you will be a better person because of it. I can’t possibly quantify the impact that S.M.I.L.E. has had on me, both as a person and as a student, but I will say that the positive and supportive environment we try to create for our kids will rub off on you. In teaching our buddies to not feel defined by their disabilities and to be themselves, you will do the same. S.M.I.L.E. gave me the confidence to appreciate my individuality, and to live my life with an unwavering acceptance of diversity. S.M.I.L.E. helped me become my best version of myself, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
- Julia Whidden (former S.M.I.L.E. Student Director)
S.M.I.L.E. has been THE significant constant in Luke’s world for the past 23 years. Family, friends, teachers and caregivers come and go (some forever) and we remember and celebrate them, but S.M.I.L.E. is real, constant, caring and POWERFUL. It changes the lives of our children, youth, and adults with so many positive experiences and people; it changes how we view them, seeing them as independent, creative, engaged, and happy. S.M.I.L.E. is so much more than the program experience; it meaningfully contributes to the character and potential of who our children become.
- James Sanford (S.M.I.L.E. parent)
This is my son Jacob’s (age 10) 5th year participating in S.M.I.L.E. and he has enjoyed every moment- He impatiently waits during the summer break for it to start up again in the Fall! He has been lucky to have the same buddy, Liam, for most of his time and certainly loves him like the big brother he doesn’t have. His favorite things to participate in are the gym & swim time. I have seen first-hand how dedicated the leaders are, how much enthusiasm they have and how well they relate with the children. The leaders truly show up and give 100% to our children every time - Even if the start time is Saturday morning at 9am! We are so lucky to have this in our community.
- Amy Bullerwell (S.M.I.L.E. parent)
I love my school. Over the past few years, it has become very clear to me that Acadia has fostered a caring and accepting community. My time with the S.M.I.L.E. program has reinforced this truth time and time again. This wonderful program allows extraordinary individuals to learn, develop, and most importantly, be themselves. I truly believe that this program, and the countless volunteers that make it a reality, set Acadia apart from other institutions. The sheer volume of student volunteers never ceases to amaze me. It demonstrates that Acadia students are invested in the community, and that they are committed to making a difference. I have had the privilege of working with the same participant for the past four years, and I can honestly say that we have grown together through this experience. S.M.I.L.E. is not a one-sided relationship; I am firm believer that the volunteers gain just as much as the participants. In short, my experience with S.M.I.L.E. has been irreplaceable, not only did I gain a friend, but I became a better person along the way.
- Liam Russell (former S.M.I.L.E. Instructor)
As a young boy at S.M.I.L.E. Saturday morning, to weekly visits through school, and now the amazing Friday Night S.M.I.L.E., Nick has found acceptance
Hanging out with young people who spend time with him doing terrific activities as support - and as friends - is something he has only known through this program. It means everything to him, and to us. What a wonderful emotion it is to leave him for two hours knowing it is going to be some of the best hours of his week and feeling complete confidence in the buddies, leaders, and program supports.
Confidence, independence, the chance to interact with peers - priceless. My respect and love for The S.M.I.L.E. Program members and students is profound. You make a difference in so many lives and in our lives.
- Patty Isnor (S.M.I.L.E. parent)