Secret Smiles of Dayton to deliver beds, mattresses to kids in need

A child just receiving a bed hugs a stuffed animal during the Day to Dream event in 2019.
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A child just receiving a bed hugs a stuffed animal during the Day to Dream event in 2019. CONTRIBUTED

Dayton non-profit and Morris Furniture company partner to deliver beds, comforters, books and toys to local families.

An area furniture retailer and two nonprofits are partnering to ensure Dayton-area children have a safe place to sleep at night.

Volunteers with Secret Smiles of Dayton and Morris Furniture Company will deliver beds to families on Saturday, Sept. 11 in memory of the organization’s founder, who died in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Kristy Irvine Ryan, a ‘93 University of Dayton graduate, co-founded Secret Smiles with friends in New York City. The organization initially provided household items for individuals leaving homeless shelters.

“We copied that when we brought it to Dayton, but found that it was hard to get beds. Many people would give donations for other household items, but no one donates beds,” said Tracy Janess, Ryan’s sister and Secret Smiles of Dayton president.

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The abundant need moved the organization to change their model, focusing on mattresses and beds for kids. Over 8,000 beds and cribs have been provided to Dayton area children in the last 20 years, in addition to comforters, pillows, stuffed animals and books. On average, the organization donates 500 beds a year.

Beds and mattresses are purchased through donations. Additionally, Morris Home and Ashley HomeStore locations donate a portion of retail mattress sales to help Secret Smiles provide the beds. The event is held in partnership with Dayton United Way.

“There are plenty of kids here in Dayton that are sleeping on the floor, sleeping in chairs, or sleeping with a family member,” said Rob Klaben, communications vice president at Morris Furniture Company.

Families are pre-selected based on need, and there’s no typical recipient.

“Sometimes it’s new, young mothers in search of cribs,” Janess said. “An area that’s grown a lot is grandparents caring for grandchildren suddenly due to issues at home. Whenever there’s a crisis: the tornado, and now COVID. We’ve seen it all.”

“It’s such a basic need, and yet so many kids go without it,” she continued.

In past years, Day to Dream was an event, in which families would come to the University of Dayton Frericks Center for the reveal of 50 beds.

“The curtain would be pulled back and kids would run to find their name on their very own bed,” Klaben said. “Because of COVID-19, we were not able to have an in-person event. United Way, Secret Smiles, and members of Morris Furniture Company were determined to continue this event.”

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Janess said providing children a place to sleep is “truly a community effort.”

“Every delivery, every child I see, I feel like Kristy’s there with me. It’s a blessing,” Janess said. “So many people do little different things, and it helps. Honestly I feel like anytime we have a need, it’s taken care of. There’s a magic to Secret Smiles.”