Few of us know the pain of losing a child. As a parent of three, I cannot imagine having to send one of them home to be with God, yet I know that every year, thousands of parents fight through the pain of just that as childhood cancer claims another life. In all my life, I have never met a more faith filled family than the family of Matt and Caron Smith, who endured such a tragedy in December 2018.
The Smiths’ second youngest child, Amber Grace Smith, became sick with a rare brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, when she was only 6 years old. After being hospitalized from a stroke caused by the cancer as well as enduring multiple brain surgeries, Amber succumbed to her illness at the age of 7, leaving her mom, dad and sisters, Marie and Brianna and brother, Ryan, with a gaping hole in their lives and hearts.
Rather than turning inward this very special, close-knit family looked outward. Marie, an eighth grader, submitted an essay about her Catholic education and faith as part of the Seton Scholarship Dinner Essay Contest. Selected as the winner, Marie was asked to read her essay at the dinner in November, which she did with the poise of someone much older. With not a dry eye in the room, she described how her faith helped her and her family process her sister’s passing and how she knew that her sister was at peace with God.
Clearly, Matt and Caron Smith have instilled an exceedingly strong faith in their children, as they too live their faith every day. During Amber’s illness, her school, St. Joseph School in Baltic, provided much needed support to Amber and her family. They held Holy Hours and prayer sessions, delivered meals to the family, held fundraisers and made donations to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Despite her many challenges, Amber wanted to return to school in September of 2018, which she did do. Her secondgrade teachers, Miss Masucci, Mrs. Siebert and the principal, Sister Mary Patrick Mulready, “went above and beyond to aid, help and encourage her in any way they possibly could,” Matt and Caron shared.
Remembering Amber, Sister Mary Patrick said, “Amber was such a spirited girl who met all obstacles with such courage. Her sense of humor, spunk, and her positive outlook on life was a source of inspiration to all of us.” After having gone through Amber’s illness with the support of the St. Joseph School community, Matt and Caron decided that Amber would want them to do something to benefit the school.
Carrying out her wish, Matt and Caron established the Amber Grace Smith Scholarship Endowment within the Catholic Foundation this past November. The endowment will be used to provide tuition assistance to students in need. “We know that Amber would be touched and grateful for scholarships for her fellow students as well as incoming new students,“ Caron said. “This endowment is important to us because it encompasses a lot of what was meaningful to Amber: her school, her teachers, and her friends,” her parents said.
“What better way to remember such an amazing and inspiring girl than to have this endowment scholarship fund set up in her name. Amber’s giving spirit will live on,” Sister Mary Patrick said.
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, I will be thinking about Amber and the Smith family. Their hearts, full of love and faith, remain so strong and reflect the love that their beloved Amber gave and continues to send to them every day from Heaven. I am sure their story will inspire many of you as it does me.
-- By Mary Ellen Mahoney
If you are interested in contributing to Amber’s endowment or any of the endowments of the Catholic Foundation, please contact Mary Ellen Mahoney, executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (860) 886-1928, ext. 13.