Four La Cañada Flintridge residents will be among those who will be honored at the annual Cardinal’s Awards Dinner, presented by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, this Saturday evening in Beverly Hills.
Brothers Mike and Tim Smith, who have lived locally for decades, will be joined by Siena Dancsecs and Josie Hull in receiving the prestigious honor.
Mike and Tim Smith attribute their strong values and Catholic faith foundation to their service to the community.
The siblings’ father, Bob Smith Jr., also received the Cardinal’s Award in its second year of existence in 1991, and the brothers’ oldest sibling, Rob Smith, received it in 1998.
“I’m very humbled and grateful, but Lord, I am not worthy,” said Mike Smith.
Mike Smith achieved this honor for his work on a transformative St. Francis High School board, fundraising for the Dolores Mission, integrating his business with the Verbum Dei High student work program, and distributing communion to those unable to attend church services.
Tim Smith had a near-decadelong run as the chair of the Catholic Education Foundation. He has also sat on the boards for Holy Family Adoption Services (his first of three children was an adopted son who had special needs), his alma mater, Santa Clara University, and the parish council at his home parish, St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church.
The brothers, who are two of six children, credit their willingness to serve to their Smith DNA.
The Smith brothers agree that their parents’ modeling was exceptional, along with the teaching of the Sisters of St. Louis from Ireland at their elementary school. Their father’s love for the Jesuits when he attended St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco was another significant compass direction for them to follow.
“The messages in our family life were consistent with what were taught at all levels,” said Tim Smith. “That education — having a foundation of moral thinking — remained throughout. Doing things for others was strong all the way through.”
In elementary school, Mike and Tim Smith rode their bikes to be altar servers at 7 a.m. daily Mass. After school, they shared an afternoon paper route.
As Mike Smith attended St. John’s Seminary for a brief time and then gravitated to Loyola Marymount, and Tim Smith eventually went off to Santa Clara, their dedication to service was reinforced. They both credit the Cursillo Catholic retreats as energizing their faith journey.
About 30 years ago, Tim Smith joined the Catholic Education Foundation and helped raise money for scholarships. He was nudged into the role as their board president by his brother, Rob Smith.
“St. Francis was extremely important to me because I learned how to serve Mass in the chapel with all the heroes of my childhood,” said Mike Smith.
JOSIE HULL AND SIENA DANCSECS
At age 12, Hull and Dancsecs had a moment of inspiration.
Hull, who has spent most of her life in and out of the hospital, told her adoptive mother, Jenny Hull, that she wanted to decorate another patient’s room just like she had done to hers, because Hull knew how hard it was to be in the hospital.
Hull saw how doctors and nurses had reacted positively to her room makeover, so she made a late-night call to her childhood friend, Dancsecs, who jumped into action and came up with the name, Once Upon a Room. Not long after, Dancsecs began writing a grant proposal for the idea.
Hull’s mother began figuring out how to create a nonprofit organization. They reached out to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where Once Upon A Room was born in 2014.
Since its inception, Once Upon A Room has decorated more than 5,000 rooms in more than 30 hospitals around the country with the help of Hull and Dancsecs, as well as volunteers, family, friends and other supporters.
As both have reached age 21, Hull and Dancsecs have grown up with this program in profound ways. Their leadership and passion to inspire others to see the power of a simple act of kindness has transformed their own Catholic faith journeys and has led the pair to be honored at the Cardinal’s Awards celebration.
Hull and Dancsecs’ friendship started at age 5. They became best friends at Paradise Canyon Elementary and through La Cañada High School. They also went to church together at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church in LCF.
Once Upon A Room operates at Southern California at Children’s Hospital L.A. and Orange County and two UCLA medical centers, among many other locations.
As Dancsecs navigates her junior year at Texas Christian University, majoring in journalism with a minor in child development, she manages the program’s expansion with the Hulls, and Thomas Gonzalez, a junior at Gonzaga University studying business.
“It’s very heroic and inspiring to see them evangelize,” Monsignor Cacciapuoti said of the two longtime friends. “They can be like young girls we have seen in the church over the centuries — St. Clelia Barbieri and St. Agatha of Sicily — who were willing to sacrifice for Christ. We see the ability of Josie and Siena to allow Christ to be among us.”
First published in the March 9 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.