Mark Smith is not only one of the cofounders of Hand in Hand but continues to be a volunteer for the organization even in retirement. He continues to volunteer during Camp Hand in Hand and our bowling league and is using his expertise at other area nonprofits in the Quad Cities as well.
“Hand in Hand unquestionably changed my world. It has been one of the biggest events in my life and a vital part of my family’s life too! I also truly believe Hand in Hand has made a difference for countless children, parents, staff, and volunteers in our community. Better still, Hand in Hand continues to make an impact every day in the Quad Cities,” he said.
“One unexpected impact that gives me great joy is the influence volunteering at Hand in Hand has made on young people. Former volunteers who are now in their twenties, thirties, and even forties received lifelong insights from serving our participants. First, they nurtured hours of fun and learning for individuals of all abilities while bowling, at camp, or countless other activities. Years later many of these former volunteers are healthcare professionals and educators of every discipline you can imagine. Hand in Hand helped many choose that career path. Furthermore, many of these volunteer alumni are also owners of businesses, directors of their own non-profits, and many have become amazing parents. In each of these roles, their time as a Hand in Hand volunteer has added to a foundation of service, caring and advocacy that will be felt for decades to come. Personally, I could pray for no better outcome in my time at Hand in Hand than this.”
He said one of his fondest memories is asking his friend, Happy Joe Whitty, to bring his antique fire truck over to Hand in Hand to surprise the participants. Whitty thought it would be great fun for the participants to see Mark dressed up in the Happy the Dog dalmatian costume and, willing to do anything for Hand in Hand, Mark obliged.
“For our Hand in Hand kids? Sure, why not,” Mark said. “The dog costume included spotted mittens that were less than helpful as I was holding on to the back of that fire truck for dear life! I kept thinking what a memorable obituary I would have if I lost my grip. Happily, we soon arrived at Hand in Hand with the fire truck’s horn and siren announcing our arrival. It was a big hit with the participants and staff alike.”
He said these interactions with participants and the relationships he has built over the years are what make Hand in Hand a special place. “Soon you are part of a new family and place with a special spirit whose receipt is equal parts caring, energy, friends and learning new skills,” he said.