Smile Books Project

Smile Books Project

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    A local woman launched an organization dedicated to helping children battle life threatening illnesses, and leaving a legacy by making them the superheroes of their own stories. Click here for all the page-turning details.

    Photo: Angie Lipscomb Photography

    Sarah Curry Rathel has been working with children battling life-threatening illnesses since 2004. 

    “I’ve met hundreds of sick children from around the world,” she explains. “None of them asked for these terrible and scary battles, yet they have no choice but to face them. Some are born fighting for their lives and never know anything other than being sick. Others experience a trauma or the onset of an illness and the life they knew changes instantly. Either way, these kids go through so much that other children, and even adults, don’t understand. Yet, they still want to laugh and be ‘kids’ just like everyone else. Their hearts are pure but they are put into a life that isn’t conducive to just being a child. They deal with the effects of steroids or chemo, they have tubs running in and out of them, they need oxygen to breathe, feeding tubes to eat, and wheelchairs to move. Even though this forces them to become ‘old souls’ in a way, inside, they are still innocent children.”

    The desire to help these sick children be children is the inspiration for Curry Rathel’s nonprofit organization the Smile Books Project.

    The Smile Books Project is dedicated to bringing smiles to children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. 

    Curry Rathel, alongside her illustrator and co-founder Robert Kelly, create personalized books to make each child the main character of their own heroic story, with the sales of each book being donated back to the child. 

    “Smile Books Project doesn’t keep any money raised,” says Curry Rathel. “By doing this, not only can we share the stories of these heroes, lift their spirits and even their legacies, we can also help raise money to support them.”

    Together, Curry Rathel and Kelly work with the families of the children they write about, which she believes is what makes the Smile Books Project so impactful. 

    “These books become such a huge success when the community rallies behind the kids and puts that extra support in place,” says Curry Rathel. “Working with children all over the world has allowed us to see the power behind strong communities and that is something I wish everyone could see. The love and support these kids feel through their own book is priceless.”

    Curry Rathel wants to do her part in making a difference in the lives of children with life-threatening illnesses by bringing a little joy to their lives with these books. 

    “Not only do we bring smiles and give these children an outlet, but we share their messages and leave their legacies,” she says.. “One of the most heartbreaking things I have been told by children is that they are afraid people will forget them. This book helps ease that fear if that is their situation. For the parents we have written books for, we give them the chance to share things with their children who will grow up without them. These parents share with us only things they would know or be able to tell their children, including words of advice and wishes for the future. For both children and parents, I’ve seen the relief that this brings. As truly devastating and heartbreaking as it is, this is one gift we can offer them in a creative way nobody else can.”

    Also, the Smile Books Project writes books about courageous adults with terminal illnesses to share their leagues with their children as well as for organizations to spread the word about their work, when possible. “With any book we do, proceeds are donated back,” adds Curry Rathel. 

    Curry Rathel says that the Smile Books Project is always taking referrals. Currently, she’s in the process of starting a book for a little girl born with a rare disease and a little boy with a rare form of cancer. “Both of these children are under the age of 5 and have already gone through more than most people will their entire lives,” she says. “We can’t wait to share their stories with the world.”

    New books for sale are featured on the Smile Books Project website. There, you can view the project page to meet the inspiring children, adults, and organizations we have written books for and purchase a copy there.

    You can find the Smile Books Project on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. There are also blogs and stories about the books they write on their website, smilebooksproject.org. “After a long day and in the world today, there is something inspiring and hopeful about those we write about and we hope that anyone following the Smile Books Project feels hope just by reading along,” adds Curry Rathel.

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