KYA'S SMILES FOUNDATION
In December 2011, nine months after losing our infant daughter to a respiratory virus on top of her leukemia, we returned to the halls of St Jude Children's Research Hospital. This time we were not heading to a check-up appointment or to the medicine room for chemo or to get a spinal tap, but we were there for a different mission. Instead of fighting for our own daughter's life, we were there to make the lives of other families still fighting a little brighter. As we handed out cards that included checks from the money we raised at our first annual Kya's Smiles golf tournament, we saw the look of relief and joy on the families faces. We may have helped a family who could not otherwise buy Christmas presents for their other children. Or our envelope may have assisted in bills that were going unpaid as a result of a parent quitting his or her job to care for their child. Or it could have been used for gas money for the other family members to travel back and forth to visit and help. For any of these reasons, we knew we were fulfilling the mission of Kya and we were carrying on the work she started here on Earth and truly giving back to these families who are in such a tough and devastating time. All of this is why Kya's Smiles foundation exists today.
My husband Pavan and I founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Kya's Smiles Foundation (www.kyassmiles.com), in honor of one of our twin daughters, Kya Bliss Kapur who was born on January 28, 2010 alongside her sister Jasmin. At 8 weeks old, Kya was diagnosed with infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (infant ALL) and we were sent from FL to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where we lived for a year receiving amazing care and support. She endured multiple chemotherapies and battled for her life at just a mere 5 lbs. After enduring a roller coaster year and with a compromised immune system, Kya caught RSV, a severe respiratory virus, in January 2011. Sadly on March 19, 2011 at just 13.5 months old, Kya was sent back home.
Kya inspired us to give back and to open our hearts to other families who are enduring what we went through. When your child is diagnosed with cancer, your world crumbles, your heart hurts, and you enter into a life you never imagined could be and you are completely devastated. We know; we experienced it. But we also learned the kindness of the human spirit and the love and generosity from people, many of whom were complete strangers. This uplifting and humbling experience changed us and made us want to do more and to truly live out our human kindness.
While we lived in the long term housing, Target House, and the hospital, we received many acts of kindness. Friends, coworkers, and strangers donated sky miles so Pavan could fly back and forth between his job and the hospital. We received care packages of diapers and clothing for the baby girls. When winter came, people sent us coats and cold weather attire since we did not have the time to go shopping. We received gift cards for coffee shops and local restaurants so we could have a treat and feel like we had some normalcy. We knew we wanted to provide this for other families.
The first year after Kya passed away we hosted our inaugural Kya's Smiles golf tournament. With the money we raised, we wrote out checks and put them in envelopes and visited St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and Target House and handed out the envelopes to patient families. It was the most amazing and heartwarming experience we have ever had and we knew this was what we were supposed to do and that we would truly honor our daughter Kya in the biggest way possible by continuing to do this. Then the thank you letters we received from patients and families really emphasized our mission.
Kya's Smiles work to date
We have an annual Kya's Smiles golf tournament that takes place in West Palm Beach , FL, where we lived until June 2013. This September 2015 will be our 5th annual event. To date we have raised about $180,000 from the golf tournaments. We have also hosted smaller events each year in Florida and now Las Vegas, which included a family fun festival, an art and wine event, give back nights with percentage of proceeds donations, Christmas caroling for a cause, a corn hole tournament, a "Sweat a thon" boot camp event, a family art and music festival, and the Inaugural Las Vegas Kya's Smiles Super Run in May 2015.
Currently Kya's Smiles provides financial support via cash and gift cards to various families who have a child with any form of childhood cancer. These families are from anywhere in the United States that we have learned about. We also give money directly to St Jude to work towards a goal to have a room named in honor of Kya in the leukemia wing of the hospital.
KYA'S SMILES 2015 GOALS
We are working to expand our impact to local families in the area and reach out to a broader group of families. By our annual gift to St Jude Children's Research Hospital, we do know that we have indirectly impacted families lives from around the nation because St Jude Children's Research Hospital has patient families worldwide. But our goal is to do more than that. We want to expand our network and not only give to children who are St Jude patients, since that is who we know best, but to also give to children from anywhere. We want to help local families since we can impact lives face to face.
Since we have experienced firsthand the life of cancer patient parents, we know how difficult and stressful life can be during that time and any little gesture of kindness can make a huge difference in these families' lives. With your assistance, we can expand our presence and truly give back and honor our daughter Kya.
ABOUT PEDIATRIC CANCER
Childhood cancer is a non-discriminating, life-threatening disease that affects millions of children and their families on a daily basis. As a society, we are capable of addressing this destructive disease that affects the world's most precious assets…..our children. Childhood cancer does not receive the funding that other types of cancers do and this makes our work that much harder. Forty three children are diagnosed daily with childhood cancer, and 7 children die every day. Those are 50 reasons to support Kya's Smiles.
Kya's Smiles is happy to be able to provide support directly to families fighting for their children's lives through monetary donations and gift cards to help ease their minds and empower them.
St Jude Children's Research Hospital is driven to provide care for ALL children from EVERY country, no matter if they can pay or not. It costs $1.8 million a day to operate St. Jude, and
public donations provide more than 70 percent of the funding. St Jude research and treatment sets the standard in treating childhood cancers and discoveries are shared freely with doctors and scientists all over the world. In fact, there are currently 20 official partner sites in 15 different countries around the world. St. Jude has embarked on an unprecedented effort to sequence the pediatric cancer genome and to identify the genetic changes that give rise to
some of the world's deadliest childhood cancers. St Jude stands behind its statement that no child will be denied treatments, even if they cannot pay. We experienced this first hand.
Kya’s Smiles is proud to be a contributor to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and we are so happy to give back in honor of our Kya Bliss Kapur and carry on her mission to help find cures for these deadly diseases and help save families from enduring what we have. In December 2012, we pledged to raise $400,000 in Kya’s honor and we appreciate you helping us work toward this goal!
QUICK FACTS ABOUT KYA'S SMILES
WHAT IS KYA'S SMILES?
- Kya's Smiles is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation that began from the loss of a 13 month old baby girl named Kya Bliss Kapur and was inspired by the amazing physical, emotional, and financial support her family received throughout their journey.
- During their year long stay in Memphis as patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kya and her family witnessed firsthand the courage, strength, and optimism each family has during their fight against pediatric cancer and unwavering support and care St. Jude provides.
- We hope to foster this continued support into a national movement for awareness, support, change, and ultimately a cure.
WHY KYA'S SMILES
- Majority of profits are given directly to patients and families from around the nation battling for their lives
- The remainder of profits are given to St Jude Children's Research Hospital to work towards our goal to have a room named after Kya in the leukemia wing
- Approximately 40,000 families in the U.S. are battling pediatric cancer today.
- 1 in 300 children under the age of 20 will be diagnosed with cancer.
- Approximately 2,400 children die from this disease each year.
- Currently 1 in 5 children diagnosed with cancer will die.
- Currently 3 in 5 children will have long term side effects from the current treatments.
- It doesn't have to take years and cost so many lives. We need to band together and rally for our children… and their children. Let's carry on Kya's mission.