NORMAN — Sydney Medley was a little girl who loved to dance, do gymnastics, ride horses and loved animals. She also loved helping others, so it only seemed fitting that her cousin, Adam Graham, dedicate a foundation in her honor.
Celebrating two years of incorporation this month, Sydney’s Smiles Foundation is a nonprofit that assists children and families in Oklahoma with serious medical conditions by providing medical equipment to those families in need. It is estimated that the foundation has helped 20 families. But Graham hoped to help even more.
Sydney was born on Oct. 13, 2000, to Mike and Kerri Medley. She seemed like the typical, outgoing little girl and attended Northmoor Elementary School. Then in October 2007, Sydney became very ill.
“It started when she woke up one morning pretty much paralyzed. That was four years before she had passed,” Graham said.
Several tests and many hospital visits only resulted in doctors never diagnosing Sydney’s illness. She died Sept. 2, 2010.
“She was perfectly normal before she got sick. She used to do gymnastics and she danced. She was an energetic, fun girl. She liked to ride horses,” Graham said. “Her body was shutting down, she couldn’t see, eat or walk.”
Through Sydney’s journey, Graham realized that there were families with children in desperate need of medical equipment that either couldn’t afford it or their insurance had capped out.
“I wanted to start something to help these families,” Graham said. “It helps take a lot of the worries off of them. They don’t have to worry about buying a $10,000 hospital bed. It also helps the child not worry as much.”
While in Nancy Holt’s entrepreneurship class at Moore Norman Technology Center, Graham, at the time a Moore High School junior, had the idea to form the nonprofit Sydney’s Smiles.
“I like helping people, and I think this is a good way to honor my cousin and help families. The amount that some of that equipment costs is just crazy,” Graham said. “Mrs. Holt was awesome. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you’re crazy. Why do you want to start a nonprofit?’ And she was really behind me in getting it going and she said do whatever your heart tells you to do.”
Now a freshman at Southwestern Oklahoma State University studying political science, Graham is surprised that it’s been two years this month since the beginning of Sydney’s Smiles Foundation.
“A lot of people said you will do it for six months and stop, but I am in it all the way,” Graham said.
The organization is funded mostly by private donations and foundation events, such as Smiles in the Park, Two Steppin’ with Sydney’s Smiles, an annual golf tournament and T-shirt sales.
Sydney’s Smiles Foundation also has become a family event. Sydney’s parents, Kerri and Mike Medley, and Mykah Medley, Sydney’s sister, all serve on the foundation’s board of directors.
“I think she would love it. She loved to give back. She loved to help people,” Graham said.
To celebrate its second anniversary, members of Sydney’s Smiles will deliver care packages of toiletries to families with children at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. Items can be donated at Moore Chamber of Commerce, 305 W. Main St., Moore; Landmark Homes, 1400 N. Porter Ave., Norman; the office of Dr. Max Venard, 705 City Ave., Moore; and the Republic Bank and Trust south Oklahoma City branch.
To apply for a donation or make a donation, visit www.sydneyssmiles.org. Sydney’s Smiles Foundation can help any child that is an Oklahoma resident and under the age of 18.