Putting smiles on kids’ faces is her goal

Shirley Schmidt helps children’s wishes come true

KAUKAUNA — Shirley Schmidt is a firm believer in sharing her time, treasure and talent, especially for things involving children. “I’m one of those people, if it has anything to do with children, I have a soft spot because they should be our most precious gift and many times they’re not treated as such,” said Schmidt, who with her husband of 33 years, Albert, has a grown daughter and son and two granddaughters.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Shirley A. Schmidt (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Growing up on a farm outside of Kaukauna, helping was a part of daily life — whether it was with neighbors or at church. “We were taught as small kids to help. I saw my parents helping their neighbors. I saw men come to our house and help thrash the wheat and my mom fed all these men. We always were helped by our neighbors on the farm and my parents helped them. That was just a way of life.”

Another passion for Schmidt is Disney, or more specifically, Mickey Mouse. She admits to having been in love with Mickey Mouse ever since she was a little girl.

“Mickey always had a smile and he always seemed happy and he brought a warm, happy feeling to your heart,” said Schmidt. She’s a huge fan of the Magic Kingdom. In fact, she’s been to Walt Disney World 82 times. Some years she visits there as many as six times. “I like when you walk through the gates, you leave the world behind you and you feel like you’re in a safe, happy place, even if it’s just for the day. Plus the happiness you see with families and the kids enjoying themselves and the characters, it’s all together.”

Schmidt has found a way to combine her passion for volunteering and Disney. For 19 years she’s been volunteering with Make-A-Wish of Wisconsin. “The number one request for wishes for kids is to go to Disney World,” she said. “I went from office help to wish granter and I was on the board. Now we help financially and we also help sponsor some events like the golf outing in July and Gourmet Wishes in June.”

Schmidt also like to get personally involved. “They have a closet at the Appleton and Milwaukee offices with ice breakers for the wish kids. I like to send them Disney things to help fill the closet,” she explained. “We also help with Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, Fla. That’s where a lot of the Make-A-Wish children go to stay. I have volunteered there several times in the kitchen and we financially try to help them out as well.”

There are other non-profit organizations that Schmidt supports, including The Community Clothes Closet and The Donald Driver Foundation. She is also a member of the board of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay.

When not assisting Make-A-Wish, Schmidt helps Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin by donating stuffed animals and games for children in foster care.

“I like hands on so we went shopping for the day for them,” she said. “At Catalpa Health in Appleton (which serves children with emotional, behavioral and mental health concerns) they work with a lot of teenagers and we give them personal hygiene products and socks and we always include some Disney things. We also help out the behavioral health unit at St. Elizabeth Hospital.” At The Family Birth Place at St. Elizabeth Hospital she helps stock Mickey’s birthday closet with Disney gifts that are given to newborn babies one day a month.

“I personally believe that we were put here to help one another,” said Schmidt. “If you have the opportunity to help another human being make their life better or give them a smile for the day or a warm fuzzy, that’s what we’re here for. What we have was gotten by the grace of God or what we did. We’re fortunate to be able to do that.”

Donating isn’t just about giving money, Schmidt said. “If you have the opportunity to spend time with someone who normally doesn’t have someone to talk to or if you’re able to give of your time or your talent, that’s a huge gift for a lot of people, especially children. If a child is from a home that is not a safe environment, those kids need to hear that somebody cares. That to me is so huge.”

“I will never meet most of these people we’re helping, but it doesn’t matter,” she added. “It just matters that they get the message that somebody out there cares for them — that’s what most important.”

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Shirley A. Schmidt
Parish: St. Katharine Drexel, Kaukauna
Age: 53
Favorite saint: Francis
Words to live by: Prayer of St. Francis