Our Story and Mission

Sara Burke was a vibrant, energetic, fun-loving five year-old. She loved arts and crafts, mac ‘n cheese, music, her Big Wheel, and her big brother and big sister. On July 6, 2007, Sara was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She underwent many surgeries, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and procedures of all sorts. Sara’s initial brain surgery left her with significant deficits such as left-sided weakness and double vision. Sara worked very hard in a variety of therapies to regain her strength, coordination, and independence. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became a home away from home for Sara and her family. She and her mother lived there for seven months.

Tragically, on May 12, 2008, Sara lost her courageous battle with cancer. She leaves behind a legacy of hope and love that is truly inspirational. Sara battled her disease with fierce determination and an unwavering positive attitude, living every moment to its fullest, even under the most adverse circumstances. Although physically distant from the world she knew, Sara was able to harness the power of love and support. This energy filled her heart, brightened her outlook, and strengthened her resolve to fight.


Sara’s Smiles Foundation, a designated 501(c)(3) organization, was created by Sara’s family to carry on her memory, spirit, and legacy of hope, determination, and cheer. Sara made many, many happy memories in the hospital and this was the primary inspiration for the foundation. The mission of Sara’s Smiles is to help create a warmer, more positive, more empowered experience for children diagnosed with cancer.