In 1967, when Mary Child Smoot’s youngest brother, Kevin Child, was born with hemophilia, her family “knew nothing about” the bleeding disorder. But they learned quickly, Smoot recalls. In addition to being proactive about Kevin’s care, the Child family made giving back to the bleeding disorders community an essential part of family life.
Kevin died in June 1989 only days before his graduation from Bucknell University. Today, his sister continues to lead her family in organizing and awarding the Kevin Child Scholarship, which each year provides $1,000 to a student with hemophilia who is pursuing higher education.
A tradition of volunteerism
After Kevin’s birth, his mother, Dorothy Child, became a dedicated volunteer with the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF), helping to spearhead development of the Hemophilia Association of New Jersey. Dorothy set a powerful example for Mary and her six siblings, Smoot says. When Smoot graduated from college in 1981, she began following in her mother’s footsteps as an NHF volunteer.
“I always had a sense of a need to give back,” Smoot says. “I was starting out on my own, and I just wanted to do something to help others. Kevin was the youngest of seven kids, and our family just always wanted to make a difference for him and others like him.”
Over the years, Smoot has chaired gala fundraisers and special events, served on the NHF Board and helped recruit volunteers. In the early 1980s, Kevin contracted HIV after a transfusion of contaminated blood, ultimately leading to his death.
“After Kevin passed, I wanted to help even more,” Smoot says. “I wanted to spread the word about AIDS, and it was a way to work through my grief.”
A fitting memorial
In 1990, Smoot and her family launched the Kevin Child Scholarship to help make it easier for students with hemophilia to pursue a college education. While NHF manages the administrative tasks, including collecting applications and announcing the award, Smoot and her family determine the award recipient.
Each July, Smoot’s siblings and their children gather at the family’s house on the Jersey shore. Smoot narrows the scholarship applicants to a handful and hands them over to her siblings and other family members. “My family really enjoys reading them and trying to find someone who was like my brother,” she says. “They don’t have to be the best student. It all comes down to the essay. We love it if someone is involved as a volunteer with hemophilia.”
The Kevin Child Scholarship helps offset education costs for the winner, but it also helps Smoot and her relatives honor Kevin’s memory. “It helps keep his memory alive to award the scholarship in his name, and it helps us to spend time remembering him by talking about the different applicants,” Smoot says. “My children and my nieces and nephews who never met Kevin get to learn about him through this process, so it means a lot to us.”
• Get more information about the Kevin Child Scholarship, including a downloadable application, at NHF’s website
• Learn about additional scholarships available to students with a bleeding disorder