Buckets of smiles: Teen spreading cheer

Published 2:14 am Saturday, December 9, 2017

A 15-year-old Andalusia student is making a difference one bucket at a time.

Like many teens, Ella Kate Nichols is involved in extra-curricular activities. She’s in the marching band and on yearbook staff at Andalusia High School. But in her down time, she’s raised $15,000 to find better treatments for cancer, and founded her own non-profit organization called Buckets of Smiles.

Nichols has been involved with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research since she was 10.

Inspired by seeing others go through childhood cancer, she decided she wanted to do something about it.

“I realized that kids really don’t have much to do sitting in the waiting room of a hospital,” Nichols said. “Buckets of Smiles are small buckets filled with activities and fun things for kids to do while they are inpatient at hospitals in the area.”

In the past, Nichols has delivered 30 buckets to the Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham.

“This is something that has always been close to my heart,” she said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

Now she plans to deliver 35 to 40 buckets to benefit patients in Nemours Children’s Clinic in Pensacola and the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile.

The buckets are six inches in height and eight inches in width.

“There are so many children I’ve seen, just in our small town, that have been diagnosed with cancer. My main goal is to bring awareness to childhood cancer,” Nichols said.

Since her 501(c)3 non-profit Bucket of Smiles started back in September, Nichols has already inspired other “Bucket Ambassadors” across the United States who also assemble buckets for children and teens.

“I don’t necessarily give only to children with cancer, I’ve also given to children with blood disorders,” Nichols said. “My main goal is making these children smile.”

Using an approved list of items from the Chidren’s of Alabama in Birmingham, Nichols has a set list of items that are sorted by age appropriateness that people can donate.

Those items include small board books, teething rings, onesies, pop-up books, journals, Soduku, word searches, earbuds, pens and an assortment of giftcards. For a complete list, or to donate, visit bucketsofsmiles.org or www.facebook.com/smilebuckets/.

Donations will be accepted until Dec. 18.

Drop-off locations include Big Mike’s Steakhouse, Andalusia Dental Group and Covington Eye Care in Opp.