Project SMILE

Project SMILE is a community outreach, primarily to children, in memory of my son Stan Engelke. Stan died at age of 17 in a freakish accident in May, 1983.  I began Project SMILE (Stan’s Memory Includes Loving Everyone) that December by taking gifts to 12 children at a Youth Center.  In 1984, I began going door to door in various Fort Bend neighborhoods, gathering information about children in need.  Project SMILE since has expanded; we now have volunteers in each neighborhood. Thanks to the invaluable aid of special assistant Eva Donalson and volunteer Dave Grice, we are able to keep our database updated.  Within the past 33 years, thousands of children have received school supplies and Christmas gifts from a generous and caring community through Project SMILE.

For the past 21 years, Project SMILE has been supported by Santa’s Exchange.  We counted the children benefitted by our outreach for a five-year period and, during that time, 14,667 children received three gifts each at Christmas.  Project SMILE also does a lot of outreach work through Bethel Ministry.  These projects are supported by many wonderful organizations such as Sugar Land Baptist Church, the Oyster Creek Rotary Club, Sugar Land Lions Club, and Sugar Land/Fort Bend Optimist Clubs. We’re also supported by the Sugar Land Rotary Club, Sugar Land Exchange Club, and Fort Bend Exchange Club, which are service clubs that make up Santa’s Exchange. They have now been joined by Toys for Tots and Second Mile.

In Book of Isaiah, God told His people that He would give them a crown of beauty for ashes.  Through Project SMILE, God has shown me that beauty can arise from the ashes of tragedy.  He has shown that through the efforts of many generous and service-minded people who have made Project SMILE a beautiful tribute to my son Stan, as well as a great blessing to thousands of children whose smiling faces reflect their joy in receiving school supplies and Christmas gifts.

While I will never forget the horror of Stan’s death, I will always remember the blessing of his birth.  He brought me more joy and happiness – with a few challenges along the way – than I could have dreamed possible.  His death reminded me anew about priorities; the most important thing in life is the relationships you build (first to our Creator, and then to each other), not material possessions or anything of the secular world. Through my son, I learned the true meaning of love that is so intense that it is almost sacred – love that can only be exceeded by God’s love for us all.

All of my love and hopes and dreams were in my precious son, and the pain of his death never leaves me, but the joy of his life is always present in my heart.  I am thankful that I know he lives forever in the presence of our Risen Lord and I WILL SEE HIM AGAIN! What a glorious day that will be!  Because Stan was my only child, I won’t be a grandmother. However, I am so very grateful that I will always be Stan’s Mother.  He gave me more beautiful memories in his 17 years than a lot of mothers have in a whole lifetime.  Even if I knew I would lose him, I would run the risk again.

There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to the many caring and altruistic people of our great community who make Project SMILE possible. I wish them all a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

For additional information about Project SMILE and how you can help, contact Carolyn Engelke Tarver at (281) 491-5234 or email