MaryAnne Smith’s Life’s Mission

December 8, 2011


MaryAnne and Lovie Smith give back in myriad ways


By: Mary Frances Bragiel


Click Here to read the posted article on Today’s Chicago Woman

If you want to understand MaryAnne Smith’s passion for giving back, simply ask her how she feels about people who find excuses for not doing what she has for more than three decades. “It’s that person that does nothing for anyone else and thinks they’re such a great person,” she says. “I want to look at them and say, ‘Get over your cheap self.’”

And if you want to know from where that fiery passion originated, just look at her upbringing. Ms. Smith was raised in northwest suburban Des Plaines and credits her parents, both strong-willed, loving individuals, with teaching her to make life count. That’s exactly what she and her husband of more than 30 years, Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith, have done while raising three sons, now all adults.

Take, for example, The Lovie and MaryAnne Smith Foundation (LAMAS), which has helped send 22 teens to college since its inception in 2005. The couple’s commitment to education was the driving force behind the foundation. “No one has let us down,” Ms. Smith proudly explains. In fact, the first young man they accepted graduated from Northern Illinois University last year.

The LAMAS Foundation, which grants scholarships to “worthy young people who otherwise face barriers in reaching their education goals,” receives hundreds of applications annually. For Lovie and MaryAnne Smith, as well as their sons and daughter-in-law, it’s a family affair. They review the applicants, monitor the grades of those chosen and ask that the students blog about the experience.

These days, Ms. Smith’s time is also heavily devoted to the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s, currently under construction at 211 East Grand Avenue and slated to become the largest Ronald McDonalds House in the world. It was a chance encounter with an infant at Children’s Memorial Hospital that sparked the project.

“When your baby is born, it’s a right from God that you should be holding your baby when they take their last breath,” Ms. Smith says. A mother from a northwest suburb didn’t get that right when her baby daughter died because a heart transplant didn’t come through; during the time their daughter was in the hospital, the parents, who lived and worked in Elgin, had nowhere to stay overnight.

Call it coincidence or fate: due to a Bears player’s child’s hospitalization at the same time, Mr. and Ms. Smith were witnesses to the experience and saw first-hand what happens when parents have no affordable place to stay during a long-term hospital stay. The experience broke Ms. Smith’s heart, and prompted her to meet with the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. As founder of the Women’s Auxiliary of Ronald McDonald House near the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, she is committed to helping raise more than $30 million for the new Ronald McDonald House. To date, $22 million has been raised and the 14-floor housing facility, with 86 guest rooms, will open in July 2012.

Ms. Smith has lived by her philosophy of “give until your heart knows it’s right” for years by lending both her name and time to another Chicago nonprofit, Misericordia Heart of Mercy. The home supports more than 600 adults and children with developmental disabilities. Ms. Smith’s 20-year-old niece, Corey, has Down syndrome and autism.

Last year, Mr. and Ms. Smith were honorary chairs of the Misericordia Artist In All event, which highlighted the resident’s artwork. The Smiths are once again honorary chairs for the event, which takes place in May 2012. “MaryAnne and Lovie are two of the most compassionate, loving, amazing people I know and Misericordia is blessed to have them as close friends,” says Lois Gates, assistant executive director at Misericordia.

The old saying is that behind every good man is a good woman, but Mr. Smith would be the first to tell you it’s the other way around. “She is a nurturing spirit and a truly caring and unselfish woman who looks to give of herself to anyone in need,” the Bears coach says. “She’s always been a Chicago girl, no matter where our life has led us.” Ms. Smith is determined, yet humble, and it’s clear she has no desire to slow down in her philanthropic endeavors.