To provide assistance to low-income families with
special-needs children in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and
Philadelphia counties, with a particular focus on the needs of
siblings in those families.
After Rachel Teresa Scarcelli was born in January 2004,
her undetected heart defects became immediately evident. Open heart
surgeries repaired the damaged heart, but left Rachel too weak to
eat on her own. Gastroesophageal reflux complicated the feeding
situation, so Rachel never learned to eat.
Until she was 4
years old, she was dependent on a gastrostomy tube for feedings. While Rachel was
being treated at Childrenís Hospital of Philadelphia throughout her
first year, her parents sought assistance from friends and family
who lived close by to help with the care and emotional support of
her two older brothers. Without that strong network of help,
Rachelís brothers would have had a much more difficult time dealing
with not only an ill sister, but also with significant disruption to
their daily routines. The realization that many families do not have
a support network inspired Rachelís mother to take action.
Begun as a gesture of human kindness
to one family in need, The Hearts and Smiles Foundation has grown
into an organization providing assistance for many low-income
families who have a special-needs child.
With the help of
social workers at local agencies, the Foundation maintains a Wish
List Program to identify families in need. These families struggle with
disabilities such as autism, developmental delays, genetic disorders
and physical deformities.
The Hearts and Smiles Foundation was incorporated as a
nonprofit organization in the state of Pennsylvania on June 12,