The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Smiles heal

Daughter's death leads mom to service

Walk upstairs in a Depression-era house in rural Dauphin, Pa., and you’ll find all three rooms on the second floor cluttered with ceiling-high stacks of coloring books, toys and art supplies. Continue upward and you’ll barely be able to walk through the attic stuffed with more of the same.

Cheryl Hornung, founder of Caitlin’s
Cheryl Hornung, founder of Caitlin’s Smiles, prepares care packages for delivery to children’s hospitals.
This cheerful chaos is the vision of Cheryl Hornung, founder and director of Caitlin’s Smiles, a nonprofit organization whose mission is spreading cheer to chronically ill children. The effort started with one room, 600 packs of markers and Hornung’s search for purpose in the face of tragedy. The house isn’t her home, but the church office of Zion Lutheran. Hornung was a new member of Zion in 2000 when her 7-year-old daughter, Caitlin, died from a malignant brain tumor.

“Back then, the world was dark and filled with doubts,” Hornung said. “You just have to hold onto the faith that you’ve grown up with—that there’s a reason, God has a cause with this, a purpose in life.”

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February issue


Embracing diversity