Honoring mothers in assisted living

What do newlyweds do for Mother's Day Weekend? Aaron and I visited an assisted living facility to sit with mothers who were in a difficult season of life. Some had lost their children, or didn’t have any family - each wanted to hold our hands and hug! It was incredibly humbling and eye-opening - a little compassion goes a long way.

Keystone Assisted Living

March for Life: Orlando Edition

I couldn't make it to Washington D.C. for the March for Life this year, but I could echo my thanks, to women who are making a difference in my corner of the world for the born and unborn too. Stopped by the First Life Pregnancy Center to thank the staff - from tests, to counseling, to baby showers, the team does some amazing things for women in my city.


Embarking on the first "community joy ride" of 2017

Third time's the charm, and in my case, this is the third year of my "joy ride" journey. Every other month of 2017, I'm dreaming up larger-scale "joy ride" initiatives...to build up to #JoyFriday! I can only do so much alone...but incredible things happen, when we join together.

Up first, for the month of January: a sock collection for our neighbors in need. Socks were donated from four states - by car, by mail and by "drop off-delivery," yielding an impressive 270 pairs! Socks were sorted for men, women and children, and distributed to several community partners: Coalition for the Homeless, Women's Residential Counseling Center and the Orlando Union Rescue Mission ✨

#JoyFriday escapade

t's funny how "plans" sometimes fall apart, so something greater can come to pass.

I had my heart set on visiting plumbers today, because I read that Black Friday was an exceptionally busy day for them. Aaron and I had quite the adventure trying to find some, only to resolve that our search was not unfolding the way we'd planned.

So...Aaron suggested a different course of action - let's find some maintenance men at Disney - surely they've had their hands full with the holiday burst of tourists - and so, we journeyed to one of the resorts.

Upon arriving, we explained #JoyFriday, and the front desk team let us know they'd page maintenance. Moments later, two gentlemen from the engineering team approached, asking if we were there "as a joke". (People are so surprised by kindness!) I explained we were there to thank them, and recognize their efforts, and uncertain faces turned into smiles, followed by hugs, followed by a request for a selfie!

(A memorable interaction we'll treasure!)


Thanks to Hurricane Matthew helpers

When I heard 30k-some homes lost power from Hurricane Matthew, I was set on finding some electricians to thank today. Sadly, both Duke Energy and OUC are protected like Fort Knox!

So, I changed my plan and went to the Reedy Creek Emergency Services Center and our Celebration Town Hall, both places where people worked diligently for the safety of others. Our city's been through a lot this year, but we know we're better together.


Gift return at Khol's

Early-bird shifts on a weekend may not be the most desirable, but surprise breakfast helps! Ventured to Khol's to bring their returns department something a little different!


Joy ride for the joy rider

Aaron and I frequent Cracker Barrel – we have favorite seats, servers and sides – but this dinner was extra-memorable. It just so happened that the CB management team was meeting at the corner of the restaurant adjacent to where my car was parked, and they took notice of her “Sara Smiles Joy Rides” emblems, and googled to see what it was all about.

Instead of receiving a check, we received this card, and our meals cost-free. A precious reminder that people take notice, even when you don't expect it...#peoplematter


Orlando Strong

Tonight marked a first of its kind, community "joy ride". People from across the country pitched in, to recognize emergency care workers and counselors, here in Orlando.

70+ gift cards, Disney comp tickets and words of encouragement were shared with workers at ORMC and the Zebra Coalition. Tears of joy and hugs were abundant. Thank you, to so many, who helped with this special expression of love.

"Only in darkness can you see the stars." - MLK

Familiar spot, given new meaning

I've driven past this home countless times in the six years I've lived in Florida. Little did I know it would be the location of a "joy ride".

May is Foster Care Awareness month, and I have known that I wanted to encourage someone in the foster care arena for several weeks. In my search, I found this organization, Covenant Kid's Manor, that was dedicated to fostering teenage girls.

Fast forward to this morning - while confirming directions, to my surprise, I realized this organization operates out of a very familiar home. One that many people may label a "mansion" - it's stunning. (I never would have guessed it was a foster care group home.)

So encouraged to see families using their resources to make a difference! I have so many new reasons to admire this home...