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 UCP which was formerly known as “Easterseals 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 UCP 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 UCP, 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 UCP 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.
Learn more about the scholarship here!
About Easterseals UCP
Easterseals UCP North Carolina & Virginia is a trustworthy, compassionate partner providing exceptional disability and behavioral health services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,300 member team provides more than 9 million hours of meaningful support to 22,000 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home and community locations.