Smiles for little faces

Little Smiles started more than a decade ago, when two young men stopped at a gas station, bought $10 worth of candy and took it to a children's hospital.

"They wanted to put a smile on someone's face," said Margi Kyle, founder of Lake Norman-area chapter of Little Smiles. "The nurses were taken aback by two young men doing this."

One of those men was Kyle's stepson, who had helped found Little Smiles in Florida. The agency is somewhat of a "mini-Make-a-Wish" group, providing gifts and fulfillment of smaller wishes to children in hospitals.

Kyle recently started a chapter here - the third in the nation - at the urging of her stepson. Little Smiles does everything from monthly pizza parties at a hospital to toy giveaways for children.

Little Smiles works through the nurses, Kyle said.

"They know what those kids need," she said. "Our biggest treat is when a nurse goes online and says they have a child who has a very serious illness and the only thing he wants is a Wii and a birthday party."

Those things Little Smiles can provide. It has given away boxes of toys, blankets and cameras to children.

After a recent toy giveaway, "The parents came and thanked us and said, 'You have no idea how much this means to us,'" Kyle said.

Though Kyle works with children in Hospice, not all the children Little Smiles serves are terminal. The agency has given computers to teenagers who need to keep up with school during extended hospital stays.

Kyle said they don't emphasize giving at Christmas.

"We're showing up all the time," she said. "We're not just showing up once a year."

She hopes the agency will continue to grow, offering more gifts and experiences for children in hospitals in the area.

"We go all-out for these kids," Kyle said. "As (one nurse) says, 'The days when you come are just so much happier.'"

Little Smiles is always looking for donations of cash. The agency also can use crayons and coloring books, dolls and "anything you think will put a smile on a child's face."

Volunteers are welcome, but they must go through tests and training to work with children. Other volunteers are needed to help with fundraisers.

For more information and other opportunities to help, visit or contact Kyle at or 704-200-9322.