Update Extra: Demi's Difference

Members of the Smith family and representatives from Demi’s Difference present a check for $25,000 to Texas Children’s Hospital to help families dealing with a child’s illness pay for extra expenses.

DANBURY — Since founding Demi’s Difference, Jarrod and Hayley Smith have succeeded in honoring their daughter’s memory by lending a financial hand to families of sick children.

Since the organization’s inaugural fundraiser in April, the Smith family has coordinated with Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston on how best to use the estimated $300,000 that was raised.

Jarrod and Hayley Smith, along with other representatives from Demi’s Difference, presented the children’s hospital with a check for $25,000 in July. The money was deposited into a restricted fund for hospital officials to disperse to families in need.

“That means whenever they identify a family there that may be from out of town or have been there for a long period of time, and they need a hotel stay across the street, they’re able to make that happen,” Jarrod Smith said.

Demi’s parents wanted to provide Texas Children’s Hospital with the lump sum because officials there can better identify which families need the assistance more, he said. Plus, Demi’s Difference has been able to reach more families by going though the hospital.

The Smiths also are continuing to pay it forward with their original method of handing out gift cards. The family and volunteers travel to the medical facility every two to three weeks, going from floor to floor to pass out envelopes filled with prepaid parking cards and gift cards for restaurants in the area surrounding the hospital, Demi’s father said.

‘We don’t pry, we just go in and say ‘Hey we just hope that this will brighten your day a little bit,’” Jarrod Smith said.

Jarrod said the group also takes extra envelopes to give the Texas Children’s social services workers so they also can provide aid for families when the group isn’t there.

“We’ll go to make 100 of these things to take to Texas Children’s, and we’ll divvy them up amongst that department so that when those social services workers go into a room, identifying a family needs help, they don’t have to call us. They’ve got them right there in their office.

Demi’s Difference has been able to provide this service because of the community’s help, Hayley Smith said. The organization receives donations every week to help pay for the gift cards.

“We continue to have so much support from people,” she said. “We kind of want to shout out to everyone in the community how thankful and grateful we are for that continued support.”

Although she was alive for only three short years, Demi served as an inspiration, Hayley Smith said. It’s been almost a year now since Demi’s passing.

The Smith family wants to reach as many people as possible, and it’s not necessarily all about money, Demi’s mother said.

In honor of their daughter’s birthday Oct. 6, Jarrod and Hayley will challenge people to perform three random acts of kindness through the Demi’s Difference Facebook page, Hayley Smith said. A countdown to Demi’s birthday will be posted on the social media page.

Hayley Smith said the acts can be anything from paying for a meal to sending a note of encouragement.

“It doesn’t have to be anything monetary,” she said.

Coinciding with Demi’s birthday, pre-made tags with an inspiring quote and the organization’s website will be available to be used along with the random acts of kindness, Hayley Smith said. The tags can be printed from the website, www.demisdifference.com.

For information and updates on what the group is doing, visit the Demi’s Difference website or its Facebook page.

Andy Packard is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0155.

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