The Strauss family established the Maddie Smiles organization five years ago after Maddie Ross unexpectedly died following complications from a gall bladder surgery.
“It was very unexpected,” said Paula Strauss, Maddie’s mother. “So to get through every day and our grief, we decided to do more random acts of kindness.”
Maddie had spina bifida, but Strauss said she was always happy and “never met a stranger.”
“We started off doing a toy drive for Riley (Hospital for Children) our first Christmas without her, and it’s just grown from there,” said Strauss, a Lawrence resident. “Every August, we do a toy drive for Riley.”
This year, the toy drive looked a bit different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They weren’t accepting toy drop offs, so we just did a virtual toy drive and they had a couple links to their wish list that people could order and it could be sent directly to them,” Strauss said.
Other events the organization conducts each year include an “Eggstravaganza” around Easter time, various toy drives, random acts of kindness, care packages for soldiers fighting overseas and more.
In addition to the toy drive, Maddie Smiles recently received a $7,500 grant from the City of Lawrence. Strauss said the money will be used to conduct random acts of kindness.
Currently, Maddie Smiles is conducting a winter toy drive to benefit families in need during the holiday season. Donated toys will be distributed by the Firefighters’ Family Assistance Fund on Dec. 18. Donations of new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at Sharp Cars, 10320 Pendleton Pike, each Monday from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more, visit maddiesmiles.com.