Name: Rashika Smith
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Alma Mater: Florida A&M in Tallahassee
Volunteer history: I did AmeriCorps City Year and Pfeiffer Camp. I also volunteered with CASA, Red Cross, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Why did you choose VISTA? I chose VISTA because of my experiences with the AmeriCorps in the past through City Year and Pfeiffer Camp. When I had the opportunity to move to a new city, I knew the skills that I would continue to gain while giving back to my new community would AmeriCorps would be exceptional. This was also an opportunity to develop skills for graduate school.
Tell us a little bit about what your organization does and your role in it: Epilepsy Foundation helps lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy. My role is fundraising and community outreach.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a VISTA so far? I was able to increase the fundraising efforts for the entire organization. I was able to help increase volunteerism.
Rashika Smith is serving with the Epilepsy Foundation Texas as the Community Outreach VISTA. Education outreach for epilepsy is what Rashika primarily markets to potential funders and supporters. As part of her professional development, Rashika attended the Epilepsy Foundation’s seizure first aid training. As with any training like CPR and first aid you hope you never have to use it, but when 1 in 26 people develop epilepsy in their lifetime this type of education is important. The Epilepsy Foundation offers seizure first aid training so those in the community are aware and know what to do and not do when coming into contact with an individual experiencing a seizure. Rashika never imagined the training she attended and now assists with would ever be used. However, one Thursday afternoon, the sound of a loud scream prompted her into action when a co-worker was in the throngs of an active seizure. Rashika jumped into action, administered seizure first aid and stabilized her coworker until paramedics arrived. According to her supervisor, Rashika remained calm and administered the first aid flawlessly, even remembering to time the seizure. When paramedics arrived, they asked her how she knew to time the seizure. She was very proud to explain to them what Epilepsy Foundation does and the services offered.
Last month Hurricane Harvey caused financial challenges for Epilepsy Foundation Texas. The Foundation made sure every affected patient needing their medication received it at any cost to them. VISTA Rashika Smith made it her personal goal to double the in-kind donations from last year in order for the silent auction at the “Race on Over” fundraising event in November to be successful. The word “no” became a common word she heard but that one yes kept her motivated to reach for another yes. Thus far, Rashika has garnered 78 items for the silent auction for a total value of $41, 364. She was also able to network with different business to set up a fundraiser day, such as Kendra Scott Jewelry. Kendra Scott has agreed to not only donate jewelry for the auction but also set up a giving day (Oct. 20) where 20% of the money is donated back to the Foundation. Monies raised will help Epilepsy Foundation Texas provide medical services to patients with epilepsy, education to patients, families and the community and will help send children to summer camp.
Hurricane Harvey shifted the dynamic in fundraising efforts for Epilepsy Foundation’s Community Outreach VISTA, Rashika Smith. The Dallas office took over the calls for the Houston clinic August 25, 2017. The Epilepsy Foundation wanted ensure the crisis would not have a big impact on patients receiving much needed medication. The calls Rashika received helped her understand how important funding is to keep the clinic open. Epilepsy Foundation staff worked with the doctors and pharmacies to make sure patients received their medication wherever they were. Rashika took on a personal challenge to increase the in-kind donation for our upcoming fundraiser in November, Race for the Cure. In August, Rashika sent out over 343 inquiries for donations and has received over 43 items so far with a value of $10,000. She has also helped secure sponsorships worth $38,000. The secured donations increase the likelihood the fundraiser will bring in more money than before.
Stephanie De Los Santos, a Camp Resource Development VISTA with the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas (EFTX), wrote and submitted 6 grants asking for a total of $72,600 in July. Two of those grants, totaling $13,600 from the CH Foundation and CNS Pantex were approved. These grants will fund programs to send children with epilepsy to summer camp, provide free medication and diagnostic testing to adults, and education programs for school nurses and personnel to ensure safe environments for children attending school with epilepsy.
The smell of bug spray and the sound of children laughing indicated summer camp had begun. The Epilepsy Foundation of Texas hosts three camps with over 300 kids in attendances. Community Outreach VISTA, Rashika Smith was able to assist with Kamp Kaleidoscope located in Anna Texas. She had an amazing experience witnessing the results of her advocating, fundraising, and pushing for these past couple months. She learned from the children how they cope with their condition and the saw the bravery demonstrated as they continued to participate in the camp activities. Rashika used the information the campers shared with her when she attended a school nursing conference. She spoke to over 100 school nurses and educated them on how children with epilepsy felt during a seizure and what helped them cope better after having one.
Stephanie Del Los Santos is serving at the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas in the Houston office as the Camp and Resource Development VISTA. Stephanie keeps everyone informed of the Foundation’s activities and events through the monthly CEO Update. The CEO Update reaches over 7,000 people and includes board members, major donors, and involved participants. The Update allows the community to stay informed about the Foundation’s activities and learn about the people they serve.
When running a race and you see the finish line, people have a way of pushing harder and finishing as strong as they can. The month of June was no different for the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas. This was the month to make every fundraiser and in-kind donation matter because it was the start of Camp! Epilepsy Foundation-Texas host three camps and send over 325 kids to camp for free. On average, the cost to send one kid to camp is $1,200. Community Outreach VISTA, Rashika Smith was responsible for obtaining in-kind donations of water and snacks for participants for two events which took place in west Texas. The Lubbock Landmark Lope, a 5k trail run at the Lubbock Lake Landmark and Sharon’s Ride. Walk. Run in Amarillo raised $22,876.57 which will support medical and educational service provided by the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas. The final June fundraiser brought the heat, sweat, and money. The Cornament was an entertaining and unique event featuring a cornhole tournament, side games, entertainment, beverages and food. Rashika obtained in-kind donations of gift cards worth over $1,040, to be used for prizes for participants. During the event a parent spoke about how the camp provided a place for their kid to be a kid and how no other camp was willing to give the child a chance to attend because of their medical condition. Over 100 people attended the Cornament and raised $29,412 which will send approximately 24 children to camp at no cost!
Rashika Smith is the Community Outreach VISTA serving at the Epilepsy Foundation Texas’ Dallas office. In May, she received the sad news that a five year old passed away in his sleep from epilepsy. Hearing about his death was hard and knowing he was just a child was even harder. Rashika met this child at Sharon’s Ride in Fort Worth. Sharon’s Ride is a fundraising and epilepsy awareness event. This was the first Epilepsy Foundation event the child and family attended and Rashika remembers seeing the child smiling and having fun. Rashika has learned first-hand that creating events is more than just making money. These events also help to make precious family memories. As a VISTA, Rashika’s work is behind the scenes where she creates positive impact and sometimes she does not get to see the results. The thought of the little boy gives her fuel to keep going and work even harder to raise money and awareness about epilepsy so one day another family does not wake up to their child not being able to say,” good morning”.
Stephanie De Los Santos, Camp and Resource Development VISTA serving with the Epilepsy Foundation Texas, began her year of service in March and dove right in to grant writing. Stephanie has been able to submit 3 grants for a potential outcome of $33,600. If awarded the funds will be used to send children with epilepsy to summer camp. The Epilepsy Foundation Texas camping programs provide children and youth with epilepsy a safe, structured, FUN and encouraging home away from home. In order to learn more about how epilepsy effects individuals and families, Stephanie interviewed a father and son. The son has a seizure disorder and the father was away at work while most of the testing/diagnosis process was ongoing. They told her about the fear, worry, and anxiety of having to go through the medical testing. They also told her about the relief of becoming involved with the epilepsy foundation and how the agency has helped them. At that moment, Stephanie felt like she was a part of something important.