Smile Bus takes kids to NYC for Christmas Show

December 06, 2018 01:08 PM

GUILDERLAND - The holidays can be a joyous time, but they can also bring people down, especially after a tough year. That's why one local man started the "Smile Bus."

The Smile Bus has been taking kids and their families to New York City for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for 10 years now, and reached a major milestone on Thursday morning.


It all started back in 2007, that's when Clare Mertz won a radio contest that allowed her to take 50 people down to NYC for a holiday trip.

The following year, Mertz's colleague, Todd Slingerland decided to continue the trip on his own dime. Ten years later on Thursday morning, the 500th passenger boarded the Smile Bus.

"You know selfishly, it's for me. I have great feelings for this event every year," Slingerland said. "It's the best day of my life. He gives these kids, like I said, something to look forward to, you know, something on their calendar."

Every year, 50 people who have had a rough time due to illness, family issues, financial woes or other hardships are invited on the trip to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular.

It's a first for Scotia resident Jennifer Fogg. She is riding the Smile Bus with her husband Kevin.

"I've actually never been to see the Christmas Spectacular, so I'm super-duper excited," Fogg said.

Fogg's son Logan was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor as an infant. The past few years have been extremely stressful, but the Foggs have gotten good news recently.

"He just turned 2 years old, finished treatment, is cancer free, still a long road ahead but it's just a nice way to do something for us," Fogg said.

Riders are nominated to the Capital Financial Planning by employees, clients, not-for-profit organizations and former riders.

Slingerland said he could see expanding to multiple buses in the future.

"The demand is there," he said. "It's such a fluid undertaking. I know I mentioned we had a family drop out last night at 8:00, a family of six. Fortunately and unfortunately, we were able to fill their spots in by 9:00. So we're pleased with that. That just speaks to the amount of people out there that could use this."

Slingerland said not only has this become a community tradition, but it's also become a tradition for his own family. His daughter was 5 years old when that first trip happened in 2007. She is now 16 and she goes on the trip every year helping out wherever she can. He said it's something they look forward to as a family every year.

For more information on the Smile Bus, visit the Capital Financial Planning website.


Emily Burkhard

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