By, Mark Borella
My friend’s son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 6 years old. Dawson was an active boy who loved hockey, fishing and hunting, even at such a young age. He loved St. Baldrick’s and it really became his passion.
I am a fine artist and I sat down in my studio one day to make a sculpture for his family that would be a remembrance of Dawson, one they could keep forever. But I could not do it. I was too emotional. After months of trying to come up with the right piece and still wishing for a miracle, I sat down and made a handful of Smiles out of clay.
On the night Dawson passed away, I drove the Smiles out to their house and told the family, "I wish there was some magic word I could say, or something I could do to make everything better, but I cannot. I did make you a handful of Smiles. I call them Seeds of Happiness. You can keep them or share with your family to remind you to try and get your smile back".
I didn’t realize how powerful this simple act was until I saw their reaction. This was the best sculpture I could have made for them. It was a moving moment in all our lives.
Over the next few months, I used my leftover clay to make a few more Smiles. I kept them in a jar in my studio and gave them out to friends going through tough times. I’d tell them, “Here’s a Seed of Happiness. I hope it grows.” They started giving them to their friends and before we knew it, people were asking us to sell them.
Seeds of Happiness has since become a small business with Smiles in 500 stores across 48 different states and sold on our website.
But going back to the reason why I created clay smiles in the first place. After Dawson passed away, I took a bag of Seeds of Happiness to the St. Baldrick’s event at Helen Fitzgerald’s in St. Louis, Mo. When it was time for our team to be shorn on stage, I took my bag of smiles with me. I told the crowd what they were and for a donation they could have a Seed of Happiness. To my amazement, the bag was gone in two minutes! Since that day, we raise money with the Seeds every year at the event.
This year we decided to keep them for sale on our website and donate $9 of every St. Baldrick’s Seed of Happiness to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. It’s a small way that we can help make this world a happier place by sharing smiles and I’m humbled to be a part of that.
Buy your own St. Baldrick’s Seed of Happiness or check out other great products that help fund childhood cancer research.