The Story of Project Holiday Smile
Joseph Lewis is a 2019 St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) graduate. Lewis has started Project Holiday Smile, a fundraising project that provides gift cards and tangible gifts to families and individuals in need during the Christmas season. The project serves families located in Stark and Portage counties.
Lewis says Project Holiday Smile was born last year when he found himself eager to find a way to give back to those in his community. The project aims to take away some of the hardships many people face during the holiday season. This year, he is continuing the project and is looking forward to seeing it expand.
“Christmas has always been one of my favorite and most joyful times of the year,” said Lewis. “I know how fortunate I am because of that and I wanted to do whatever I could to help others feel that excitement, and happiness, and see the good in others.”
Lewis says his experiences at STA helped influence this project as it helped show him the importance of giving back. His time at STA showed him firsthand through various retreats and service projects the difference giving back can make.
“STA provided me with a great foundation academically and socially for life after high school,” he adds. “STA has also given me friends I still talk to, hang out with, and currently live with.”
Last year, Lewis met his goal of having 40 card games donated and collected nearly $1,000 worth of Giant Eagle and Walmart gift cards. This year, there is a gift registry for tangible items needed such as toys, stuffed animals, clothing, and more. In addition, gift cards are also being collected to help with essential needs and necessities. All items and money received go directly to the families and individuals in need.
Faith has played a large role in the formation of Project Holiday Smile. Lewis works with Catholic Charities to receive the list of families and individuals in need and their gift requests. Lewis says that service to others means a lot to him and to see so many people donate their time and money to give back to others is truly remarkable.
“I believe that we are all called to serve God and one way to do that is to serve those here on Earth; especially those going through difficult times,” Lewis said. “Actions so small can leave such a big impact on people's lives forever.”
Once a Knight, Always a Knight
When asked about his time at STA, Lewis mentioned that his favorite memories revolve around sports. Lewis fondly recalls great times at STA, including basketball, track meets and practices, Friday night games, and leading the student section for volleyball, football, and basketball games during his senior year.
“I would recommend STA to others because of its family-like atmosphere. At STA you can grow your connections with other students, teachers, and most importantly your faith, very easily and in a comfortable environment,” said Lewis. “One piece of advice I would give current, and future, students at STA would be to take advantage of everything that is offered, whether that is attending dances, going to sporting events you don’t usually go to, or taking challenging classes that are offered such as CCP courses or AP courses.”
While at STA, during his senior year, Lewis became the co-owner and co-founder of The Mulch Butlers, which is a landscaping company. After graduating from STA, Lewis went on to attend Kent State University. He is currently a senior studying business management and graduating in the Spring of 2023. He is the son of Joe and Sandy Lewis and the brother of Elena and Alexa. He is currently a member of St. Paul Catholic Church (North Canton).
To donate to Project Holiday Smile, visit www.ProjectHolidaySmile.com to shop the Walmart registry for available items. Monetary donations can also be sent via Venmo to “ProjectHolidaySmile” in which 100 percent of the money received goes towards the purchase of gifts.
To support Joseph and Project Holiday Smile, Aquinas is hosting two $1 (per day) Dress Down Days for students and staff on Monday, November 21, and Tuesday, November 22. Aquinas will donate 100 percent of the profits to the project!