Say Hello to the 21-Year-Old Founder of Smiling While Sending Hope
Katie Haynes has a bit more experience in organizing non-profits than your average 21-year-old. She founded Smiling While Sending Hope eight years ago when she was just 13 years old after a young boy in her community passed away, and she felt like she wanted to do something to honor him and bring some joy to others like him who might be suffering chronic illness. Her youthful urge to help turned into an effort named after the boy, Paxton, and became “Presents for Paxton”—a toy drive at UNC Hospital. That grew into an annual toy drive that gathered momentum becoming a year-round effort of sending care “smile” packages and masks to people fighting chronic illness that is now known as Smiling While Sending Hope, which became an officially recognized non-profit this year. In 2020 alone, before Katie had even graduated college, the group sent out 200 care packages and 25 sensory packages to children and teens.
That would probably be enough extracurriculars for most. But Katie is also currently serving as 2022 North Carolina Miss Agriculture Advocacy Ambassador and the 2022 North Carolina People’s Choice Miss United States Agriculture. And she runs her own small photography and crafting business. Did we mention that Katie faces many of the same challenges as many of the people she helps, living with multiple chronic illnesses herself?
We’re fortunate to have a remarkable person like Katie—and others like her, and you—in the Super Nice Club. Let’s all get to know each other a little bit better.
What inspired you to start Smiling While Sending Hope?
Katie: I wanted a way to serve others who were going through hard times in their lives and let the community know how it affects the whole family and not just the patient.
My goal with this project is to bring smiles to people’s faces and to help spread awareness of many illnesses and diseases. To not focus on the illness but to shine light and show others that do not have them not to judge others that may have one. They can do everything you can do, they may just have to learn to adapt in certain ways.
Different not less.”Temple Grandin
One thing you’ve learned since starting the organization?
Katie: That everyone might not go through the same battle but everyone does share the same mission! No one is in this alone and seeing the joy I have provided to so many people is something I will never take for granted.
What does believing in a nicer world mean to you?
Katie: I wish more people would get out in the world and make an impact. That can be small or big! I also wish more young people would take this initiative.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Katie: The way they view the disabled community. Just because they might be different they all deserve to be treated the same way you want to be treated! As Temple Grandin says “Different not less.”
What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
Katie: Provided a sense of understanding and always being there when you need it most.
OK, you get to induct one person into the Super Nice Club Hall of Fame, who’s it going to be?
Katie: Charlie Jabaley with The Dream Machine Foundation.
Do you have a challenge for the Super Nice Club community? This is one small thing they can do in their lives (maybe even today) to make the world 10% nicer.
Katie: Find someone’s page that is an inspiration to you and share it so the world can see all the amazing folks in the world!
If you appreciate the work Katie is doing, why not reach out and say hello to a fellow member. Drop her a line at @smilingwhilesendinghope.