News Story

Mormon Volunteers Give Children With Cancer a Reason to Smile

For the past 20 years, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hamilton, Ontario, have hosted Help a Child Smile (HACS) Christmas parties at their local meetinghouse. Each year, the event attracts up to 250 children with cancer, creating tender feelings that linger long into the new year. HACS ( provides support to 1,200 families whose children are being or have been treated for cancer at Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital. The organization, founded in 1987 and run entirely by volunteers, gives opportunities for these families to smile and have fun.

Hopes and dreams of children with life-threatening diseases are oftentimes fleeting. “Rainy day, sunny day, any day — to us, it’s just an extra day, an added bonus to our short lives,” commented a child supported by HACS.

Dave and Ruth Mifsud of the Burlington, Ontario, congregation of the Church have co-ordinated the Church’s involvement with HACS for 16 years. They have enlisted the support of many Mormon families and youth to cheer up these children who are facing serious illness and uncertain futures.

“[At these parties] there has always been a reverent feeling … for the sanctity of life,” Dave said. He remembers the experience of a little girl with no hair who was wearing a beautiful pink dress and grinning from ear to ear as she played a game at one party. Watching her, he realized the Church members weren’t simply providing a venue with food, decorations, tables and chairs — they were helping children smile. “Such a small thing,” he said, “but so important for each little soul and their families.”

Bertha Bertrand, HACS family events co-ordinator, knows first-hand how much support these families need. Her daughter, Charlene, learned of a fundraiser for HACS and begged her mother to get involved. Three months later Charlene herself was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away nine months later at the age of nine, but not before getting her mother’s promise to continue helping other children like her. Bertha has been an HACS volunteer for 29 years now.

“Losing yourself in the service of others can give your heart quite a workout. … Only the joy we give to others finds its way back to us,” says Church member Eileen Gibbons Kump (“Aerobics of the Heart,” Ensign, September 1986).

Church President Thomas S. Monson encourages, “Let us ask ourselves the questions: ‘Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need?’ What a formula for happiness! What a prescription for contentment, for inner peace. … May we ‘[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad’” (“Now Is the Time,” Ensign, November 2001).

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