Greenville, NC, March 9, 2021
As we pause to recognize Cerebral Palsy month in March, we honor a special hero, Bill Smith. A day doesn’t go by when Steve Smith doesn’t think about his late brother, Bill, who lived with cerebral palsy. For years, Steve and his wife, Bonnie, wanted to do something to honor Bill so they created a disability scholarship at Steve and Bill’s alma mater, East Carolina University where both are alumni (Steve 1972, Bill 1976 respectively).
Steve admired his brother who earned a master’s degree in health care administration, got married and had a family. Bill lived in pain and had difficulty walking, but he always worked hard, persevered and pushed through his challenges.
In 1966, Bill was the poster child for Easterseals which was formerly known as “Easter Seals Washington D.C. Society for Crippled Children.” (Click poster for larger view and other articles honoring Bill Smith).
Steve said, “Bill was grateful for the role that Easterseals played in his life - helping him from a young age to live a normal life,” said Steve. Through hundreds of hours of therapy from Easterseals, Bill was able to walk and inspire others with disabilities.
Sadly, Bill’s fight with pancreatic cancer ended in 2008. However, in an Easterseals newsletter Bill is remembered as saying, “Easterseals gave me a full life filled with the thrill of victory and most assuredly the agonies of many defeats but this is the stuff of life. I am the luckiest man in the world.”
To honor Bill, his family created the Stephen C. and Bonnie S. Smith Endowed Scholarship and in 2020, Haley Sanders was the first recipient. Haley was a senior and theatre major with a disability called cone-rod dystrophy, which is an eye disorder causing pain from natural and fluorescent lighting.
Each year, Steve and Bonnie will select a scholarship recipient in Bill’s honor. The criteria includes being enrolled as an ECU student and living with a diagnosed disability. ECU Public Communications Specialist Erin Ward said, “This is a very special story and scholarship as it helps students like Bill Smith, and shows love and honor towards a sibling.” Not only do Steve and Bonnie hope to help ECU students with disabilities, but they intend to create awareness about the challenges of living with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
For information about Easterseals UCP grants and equipment needs, contact Karen Fraller at email@example.comABOUT EASTERSEALS UCPEasterseals UCP provides meaningful and exceptional services so that children, adults and families living with disabilities and behavioral health challenges can live, learn, work and play in their communities.