LIMA — Having spent most of her time in hospitals, Emily Fisher knows smiles aren’t always a part of the decorum.
But when the 13 year old walks into a room, slippers in hand, smiles aren’t too hard to find.
Such was the case when she and her Happy Feet Helpers visited the pediatric floor Friday at St. Rita’s Medial Center. There, she met 5-year-old Laila Ballinger, who received a pair of bright blue “Frozen” slippers.
“I know no one likes those socks,” Fisher said. “And I like to make other kids smile.”
Having been diagnosed with APECED type 1, an auto-immune genetic disease, when she was 4, Fisher has had a lot of experience with hospitals’ not-so-favorable foot accessories.
Now, every one in her family has “at least three” pairs of slippers, she said. Personally, her favorite include a pair of pigs and the Minions from her favorite movie, “Despicable Me.”
But instead of stopping the slipper aficionado there, when she was 10, Fisher decided to make a mission of sharing comfy slippers with kids in hospitals. With help from her parents, Sarah and Brian, they created the foundation Emily’s Happy Feet.
Emily’s mother, Sarah, said its a way for the family of five to “stay positive” and “pay it forward.”
Three years later, the Florida native and her family travels to different hospitals across the country, always with 100 or more slippers of various shapes, sizes and colors, in hand. When she’s not feeling up for a trip, however, the Fishers have happy helpers across the country.
Sometimes — like in Toledo where they ask for about 200 slippers every six weeks — it’s the only way to keep up with the demand.
The family gets most of their slippers from donations, Sarah said. But sometimes, Emily has the chance to pick pairs out herself. Just a few weeks ago, she filled two carts with more than 200 slippers.
“She was on cloud nine,” Sarah said.
To date, the Fishers have delivered more than 8,000 pairs and have 11 deliveries scheduled for the next four months. At some point, Emily hopes to make it to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in New York and the Macy’s Day Parade.