COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When Heather Smith adopted her daughter from the Department of Social Services, she said she was dropped off with all of her belongings in trash bags. That's why she has been working tirelessly to make sure that's not the case for any child again.
While Smith works full-time for the Southern Strategy Group, in the corner of her office you'll find boxes filled with backpacks, a sign of what she does in her spare time.
"Since May, we have collected a total of about 2,000 suitcases and book bags," Smith said. And all of those bags are for children in foster care.
"When I got my daughter from DSS, she was delivered to our home with all of her belongings in trash bags, and when I discovered that is how the children in South Carolina are delivered to their new homes, I needed to do something about that," Smith said.
So for the last 14 months, Smith has been raising money and awareness. She started the Race for the Case run last May and it collected 1,200 suitcases for foster children in the first year alone.
"It's changing kids' lives because to be able to put your belongings in a suitcase instead of a trash bag shows a child that they're worth more, and they're not trash," Smith said.
Smith has now partnered with state Sen. Katrina Shealy and her non-profit Katrina's Kids to help reach more children and continue to spread the word.
"We had the 501(c)(3), and it seemed like a great marriage," Shealy said. "Let's put her great idea, Race for the Case, in with Katrina's Kids where we deal with foster children all the time, and it just seemed like a great thing to work together."
Now less than two weeks until this year's race, Matt Mungo surprised Smith with the news that she's our latest Community Builder.
Smith said she was taken back, but those who know her say it's an honor she most definitely deserves.
"Heather truly has one of the biggest and kindest hearts of anyone I've ever known," Russ Dubinsky, who nominated Smith, said. "She has so much going on in her life, and yet she's so passionate about each and every part of it."