As parents who lost a teenage son, Kristin and Dean Huibregtse decided to do something special for the first anniversary of his passing.
The result is Miles for Smiles, a benefit 5K plus a whole lot more scheduled for July 25.
“The event is really a remembrance walk honoring the life of Bennett,” his mother said. “We want to continue with our promise of trying to create smiles for children with health challenges and disabilities.”
Also in Bennett’s honor, the Huibregtses recently formed the nonprofit Always B Smiling, with the mission of doing whatever they can to help make youngsters with special needs happy.
Miles for Smiles is being presented by Horses With Hope, another nonprofit organization, at its new location on the grounds of Gilfillan Farm, 110 Orr Road, Upper St. Clair. On event day, registration starts at 7:30 a.m., and the walk begins an hour later.
Throughout the morning, refreshments will be served by Gasoline Street Coffee, Millie’s Ice Cream and Dunkin’. Activities for children include games and a petting zoo.
For parents and caregivers, a Resource Fair will feature representatives from UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Continuum Connect – CHC Solutions, the National Kidney Foundation, the Children’s Institute and, Horses With Hope and its therapeutic riding program.
In conjunction with the event is a blood drive from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., conducted by Vitalant at Upper St. Clair Volunteer Fire Department’s main station, 2001 Washington Road, across the street from Gilfillan Farm. Donors can sign up at donateblood.centralbloodbank.org, using group code C787.
“Because Bennett used so much blood products throughout his life, we thought that was a really important piece,” Kristin said.
Born with autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, Bennett nonetheless loved to make people laugh and, appropriately, loved to smile during his 16½ years.
Regarding Miles for Smiles, there is no charge to participate, with all fundraising coming through tax-deductible contributions.
“We decided that Bennett lived his life solely on donations and the kindness of others through his two kidney transplants, through the blood transfusions, and just through all the support he had throughout his life,” Kristin said.
For those who are not able to make it to Gilfillan Farm, Miles for Smiles also has a virtual component.
“We know that a lot of people might be out of town, and a lot of our family and friends live out of state,” Kristin said. “So you have the option to walk wherever you are.”
Since its relatively recent founding, Always B Smiling has launched a successful adaptive bicycle riding program on the Montour Trail in Cecil Township, and plans call for the establishment of an activity center for children with special needs, along either the Montour or Panhandle Trail.
The nonprofit’s mission appears to be striking a chord with donors, as Miles for Smiles already had raise nearly a quarter of its $26,000 goal a full month before the actual event.
“Dean and I are absolutely humbled by all the support we’re receiving from our family, friends, schools, businesses, other nonprofits, trusts,” Kristin said.
“We’re extremely touched by that and very excited for the future of Always B Smiling.”
For more information, visit alwaysbsmiling.org.