Since being honored with the President’s Volunteer Lifetime Service Award in 2006 for contributing over 4,000 volunteer hours over her lifetime in youth mentoring, disaster relief and humanitarian work, Stephanie Smith continues to serve by example, contributing another 2,000 hours over the past fifteen months alone. Her work in sports medicine, specializing in treating concussions and emergency management, has provided international opportunities for service from Ground Zero, to the Winter Olympics to humanitarian exchange athlete trips. However empowering others to “live out their calling” more effectively and efficiently has been what has guided her more recently to serve as a catalyst for strategic partnerships and chase a bold vision.
Stephanie envisions creating a youth mentoring campus designed to house over twenty nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. Although she has worked on the plan for nine years, her passion for this project was really ignited after serving at the 2002 Winter Olympics where she witnessed how special events and sports can be used as a platform for a unified community response to social issues. The amazing milestones of her Northern Lights Athlete Village project clearly demonstrate that one person’s efforts can make a tremendous positive difference. She has invested her time in casting this bold vision to community leaders and potential funding sources, in networking and team building, in researching and writing business plans.
The target campus location for her vision is the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark District located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, connected by light rail to the Minneapolis Saint Paul Airport and the Mall of America. The location was recently listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Eleven Most Endangered Historic Properties” in the United States due to the disrepair of over twenty historic buildings on the Upper Post. Through the Northern Lights Athlete Village project Stephanie aims to bridge advocacy efforts for public health, environmental stewardship, economic development, historic preservation, youth mentoring, natural resources and volunteer service. She envisions that this nonprofit complex would be located within a reunified historic district Peace Park that would welcome national and international guests to explore the beauty and culture of the area while experiencing Minnesota hospitality. Stephanie states that even if the full vision does not come to fruition, that the results of community bridge-building has been worth all her effort and investment.
On October 14, 2007 Stephanie’s leadership was instrumental in rallying veterans, students and preservationists for an event proclaimed by the Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as “Fort Snelling Day.” Concurrently, she led the planning of a “National Make A Difference Day” project with volunteers that have created a GPS historical photo “treasure hunt” to be available to scouts, school groups and families throughout the 2008 Minnesota Sesquicentennial Celebration. But she’s already envisioning next steps in helping showcase the importance of saving the resources within the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark and in bringing together local youth mentoring agencies. In May 2008, a Sesquicentennial covered wagon train will arrive at Fort Snelling and she is serving as a catalyst for youth involvement at this event, culminating in a 10 mile wellness hike to the Capitol for the statehood celebration.
She and her husband Ross cofounded the Northern Light Junior Hockey team six years ago where he continues to volunteer. Together they have found ways to involve their three year old son Caleb in many of these “family projects including their international service trips: Caleb loves being part of the action and has amazing energy and joy while blessing others. It is apparent to all those who work with the Smiths that their passion is driven by a profound faith in God and their belief that He motivates and uniquely equips each person to serve others. They lead by example, investing talents, time and energy, with significant personal financial sacrifice to fund “what needs to be done when it needs to be done” even if the organization doesn’t have the budget. They are especially grateful to those who have enabled Stephanie to serve more effectively including the Academy of Holy Angels for providing flexible employment, to churches that give to the Cooperative Programs for missions and to those who have invested themselves alongside their family to make their vision a reality. As a Rotarian she has found a new network of community leader who are committed to serving around the world and she is quick to thank them for welcoming her and her bold ideas.
Over her lifetime, Stephanie has lived what she believes and motivates those around her to step up to the challenge. She earned the Congressional Award and Girl Scout Gold Award as a high school student, but with new skills, education and experience, her giving is profound and in the hands of God, the results are nothing less than extraordinary.