Lindsey Peters, 11, of O’Fallon, said that bringing a smile to the face of others makes her happy.
Lindsey is the founder of a nonprofit charity called Sharing Smiles. Throughout the past few years, Lindsey has collected hundreds of hats, socks and toys that were then donated to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. This past year, Lindsey and her team of volunteers have made hundreds of small, stuffed bears used to brighten the days of children at the hospital.
Because of her efforts, she is also one of 200 recipients of the $1,000Cares Regional Scholarship for Impactful Community Efforts. The scholarship program began in 2001. It recognizes kids who make an impact with their volunteer time, Julie Gardner, Kohl’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer said in a press release.
Four of the 200 recipients were from the St. Louis area. This year’s scholarship program had more than 37,000 nominees.
Bobbi Peters, Lindsey’s mom, said the idea for Sharing Smiles took root in October 2008 when Lindsey was in fourth grade and suffered a serious asthma attack. The experience got Lindsey thinking about the struggles patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital face each day.
That same year, Lindsey, a student at , was doing a book report at school. The book was about a girl who coordinated a toy drive at Christmas time. The book report was to include a small project that reflected the book. Lindsey asked her teacher if she could coordinate a similar toy drive as her project.
Her teacher agreed that it was a great idea.
That year, Lindsey delivered more than 650 toys to the hospital. Her mom said even though Lindsey was unable to meet the kids and deliver the toys in person due to hospital protocol, Lindsey walked away with a great feeling.
“She was able to make kids smile without even meeting them,” she said.
Driving home after delivering the donations, Lindsey said, “I feel really good. Can I keep doing something like that?”
In the spring of 2009, Lindsey collected donated fleece material and assembled more than 40 fleece blankets for the kids at the hospital.
The following year, Lindsey came up with a new idea—a hat-and-sock drive. She came up with that idea, recalling particularly how her own feet always get cold while sick and in bed. The hats, she thought, would brighten the young patients’ day and give them a bit of individuality in an otherwise sterile feeling and often bleak environment.
Lindsey’s mom said that Lindsey realized that she could not do that one alone, so she approached the Cardinals, Rams and Rascals organizations and ended up securing 475 items for her hat and sock drive.
In the fall of 2010, Lindsey came up with a new idea to share smiles. This time, she asked friends from school and dance, plus family members to come and make small stuffed bears. After 12 hours of cutting, stuffing and sewing, the crew had assembled 120 bears.
For Lindsey’s second annual Sharing Smiles bear making extravaganza, she had more volunteers for the day, and they produced 155 bears to take to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Lindsey said she does not do this for thanks or attention and stressed that she could not do this without her family and friends, particularly her best friend Nikki.
“It’s not just me. It is my friends who help me,” she said.
When asked why she did something for kids she would never even get to meet, Lindsey said: “It doesn’t matter. The best part is knowing that in the end we are making kids happy and sharing smiles.”