Charlie's Sibling Surprise
November 27, 2019
Topics: Cancer (oncology)
Charlie Smart's Thursday morning began with an unusual sight. It was the expanse of the Indianapolis skyline just outside his window. "You could see Lucas Oil Stadium to the right. The Conrad. You could see the Hilton. It was really nice," said Charlie.
Charlie and his family spent the night at the JW Marriott ahead of their big day. The breathtaking view from their room gave way to an early breakfast and rehearsal. The Smart family would play a central role in Riley Children's Foundation’s "Be The Hope Now" Luncheon. More than 1,000 guests would learn about their courageous journey. Charlie was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in December of 2017, but thanks to his sister, and treatment at Riley Hospital for Children, the Smart family gathered to tell their story. Family members took their place at the table in the Grand Ballroom as the anticipation grew. The audience watched a series of videos chronicling Charlie's road from diagnosis to treatment to celebration.
Once onstage, Charlie and Lucy shared their story. "Cancer has changed me on two levels: physical and mental," Charlie explained. "On the physical side, the stuff that will stay with me, like my scars. But the mental side, it gives me a different perspective on life and how I lived it."
"That day was the best day of my life," said Lucy as she shared what it was like to be the donor for Charlie's stem cell transplant. "There are no words to describe how happy I was for Charlie. And I was extremely exhausted. I looked terrible!" The audience laughed as Lucy continued with the heartfelt description of that unforgettable morning. "I held his hand and I wanted him to know I was there for him and that everything was going to be ok. And I could tell because he relaxed and everything was perfect."
Their onstage appearance proceeded as planned, but there would be one big surprise for Lucy. It was when Charlie went off script. "It threw me off guard,” said Lucy. “He flipped the paper and I thought 'What are you doing?' and it brought tears to my eyes, because it was just amazing, no words can describe how perfect everything was."
Riley Children’s Foundation President and CEO Liz Elkas joined the family onstage for the surprise presentation. "So Lucy," said Liz as she held up a small box, "Charlie is so appreciative of everything you have done and he has your unwavering gratitude for all you have done. He has a very special present for you. It is a beautiful silver bracelet and on it is engraved your family’s favorite saying: ‘#LetsGo! Love Charlie.’ This is for you."
Afterward, Lucy said the presentation was what she'll remember most. "Definitely the bracelet because it caught me off guard and I'll never ever forget it. And just seeing how much our story impacted everybody else. It really does change your perspective on life and today, I think we changed other people's perspectives too."
Lucy continued, "It feels surreal. I remember in the beginning I was like at rock bottom. Because Charlie's my best friend and my brother. And now that we're here it's like everything's been laid out. And it's perfect. I don't have words for it, because he's here, we're all here."
Charlie said the day went really well from his perspective. "I've been feeling great lately. I'm just glad to be back and doing things," said Charlie when asked why it was important to share his family's story. "Because I think it still needs to be heard all over, in Indiana or all over the U.S."
To make a gift to Riley this holiday season, please visit BeTheHopeNOW.org. All individual gifts made by midnight on December 31, 2019, will be doubled by French Lick Resort (up to $200,000).
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