Paving the Road to Greatness One Smile at a Time:
Oklahoma Gamma President Adam Graham Turns A Family Tragedy into a Foundation for Families of Seriously Ill Children
When Sydney Paige Medley died from an unknown illness at the age of nine in 2010, Adam Graham, Southwestern Oklahoma State ‘16 was just a child himself. There was nothing he could do to stop the untimely passing of his cousin. But that doesn’t mean he stopped trying to figure out why it happened. In the years that followed, Adam grew to understand the facts around Sydney’s illness and discovered a problem: many families with a seriously ill child cannot afford the extensive medical equipment and treatment necessary, even with “good” insurance. Now, as a sophomore Political Science major and chapter president for Oklahoma Gamma, Adam has done something to solve this problem: started the Sydney’s Smiles Foundation.
The Sydney’s Smiles Foundation is a 501(c)(3) for families with seriously ill children in need of medical equipment and a source for finding additional care and support. Established in 2010, Adam and his staff of just one have served families throughout Oklahoma City and brought a smile, even if just for a minute, to many faces.
In 2012, the Foundation assisted with up to $300,000 of medical equipment and $100,000 in financial support alone. In addition, Adam works with insurance companies on behalf of families to clarify coverage and travels to the homes of the families in need to set up the equipment. The Foundation does not pay medical bills and all children helped are under the age of 18.
For Adam, this experience has shaped his road to greatness. Here are Adam’s words about why he did something about the lack of support for families and how being a Phi helped:
How did you get the idea for helping families?
From the time I spent around sick children during my cousin’s illness I noticed a gap in insurance coverage and equipment needed for children battling illnesses. I couldn’t believe that kids didn’t have what they needed. Then, in my entrepreneurship class I decided to put a Board together as the first step.
How do you raise the money to help?
We do a golf outing which raises the most money. We also have established relationships with equipment companies in our area and have some private donors. We didn’t hold the golf outing in 2013 though because of the tornado in May. We didn’t want to take away support from the community.
What is your philosophy of giving?
People need to think of others. There are a lot of people in need and supporting them is part of being a good citizen. I would check out an organization first before making a gift to make sure the work it does fits your priorities.
How has being a Phi helped?
I have become a more well-rounded leader since becoming a member. I served as treasurer last year and am the chapter president in 2014. I have also figured out that I would like to practice Non-Profit Law and be a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Another part of Adam’s road to greatness was his active role in helping his chapter reach 100% participation in the 2013 Knights of Pallas campaign. The dollars raised from this effort directly support Phis all across North America by helping with the cost of educational programs such as the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute and the Presidents Leadership Conference.
It’s easy to see Morrison’s Philosophy of “To do what ought to be done, but would not have been done unless I did it; I thought to be my duty” in this up-and-coming Phi.