“A Smile Makes a Miracle”

On April 23 (Sunday), 2006, the flowers, which were more beautiful than forsythia and cherry blossoms in spring, were in full bloom on the path of Namsan Park. They were the brilliant smile flowers of the New Life Welfare Foundation members, who attended the 8th New Life Walkathon. Their happy smiles spoke for the slogan of the walkathon, “A Smile Makes a Miracle.”

The New Life Welfare Foundation held the 8th New Life Walkathon to deliver new life and hope to children suffering from heart disease, rare diseases and intractable diseases. As society becomes industrialized, people lose their smiles gradually. So the walkathon was planned as citizens’ festival to restore their smiles and make happier family and better society. It was sponsored by Ministry of Health and Welfare, Commission on Youth Protection, and Korea Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse Network [KAPCAN]. Over 10,000 members participated including 70 families with twin children. The figures of various social standings also joined the event: Lee Myeong-bak the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City, Choi Yeong-hee the Chief of the Commission on Youth Protection, Yi Bae-keun the Principal of Korea Youth Counseling Institute, Yang Gyeong-ja the Chairwoman of Seoul Social Welfare Council, Kim No-bo the Chairman of Save the Children Korea, Lee Sun-jae the Sponsor Chairman of the New Life Welfare Foundation and so on.

Through the opening ceremony, Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah thanked the guests, the members and the sponsors, and explained the purpose of this walkathon, saying, “Today, we’re gathered to bring smile to our neighbors whose faces are clouded with anxiety and pain, so that they will be full of life just like spring.” She also encouraged the beneficiaries, saying, “A mother’s comforting hand full of love and sacrifice has a miraculous power to cure all diseases and pains. With a mother’s hand and with a mother’s heart, we will make the most beautiful miracle in the world, consoling our neighbors in deep grief and helping them cure their diseases.”

Following the congratulatory message from Lee Sun-jae the Sponsor Chairman of the foundation, the guests made speeches of encouragement. Lee Myeong-bak the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City said, “I’m pleased to see your happy smiles. I’m sure that today your walk will make a miracle to save life and brighten society.” Choi Yeong-hee the Chief of the Commission on Youth Protection was surprised to see 70 families with twin children attending the walkathon in the age of low birth rate. He said, “It is more important to raise children well than to just encourage childbirth. That’s why today’s event, which is held to help children who suffer from diseases and poverty, is very meaningful.”

After a simple stretching exercise, the walkathon started with the foundation Chairwoman’s cue. The members walked along the path in showery cherry blossom petals, talking with their family. According to the events arranged along the path—riding the shoulders of parents and so on—children had fun as if it had been the Children’s Day.

A member Kim Yun-hui (36) said, “This is my second time walkathon. I’ve come here to give some help to sick children, but actually I’ve received more. I’m very happy and delighted.” Pointing at her husband who was having his child pickaback, she added, “Last year, my husband just followed me, but this year he first suggested me to come.” Just as one of the members said that she rather received more delight when she tried to give it to her neighbors, all the faces of the members were full of delight.

In this walkathon the children, who had recovered their health thanks to the member’s love and concern, also took part in. Koh Gyeong-hui was walking with his son, Jae-yeong (14), who had overcome his rare disease. He said, “The whole world seemed to be black when my son was sick, but now it looks bright and my home brims with happy laughter.” Lee Geum-suk, Jae-yeong’s mother, also said, “My son laughs very well after he recovered from his illness. He’s become more friendly to others and full of confidence.” Seung-jun (5), Sae-eun (9), Hye-yeong (9) and Mu-seong (11) had also overcome their diseases and were walking with their parents with bright smiles on their faces. They all gave thanks to Chairwoman of the foundation and its members who helped them restore their health.

At the Baek-bum Plaza the destination, lively music of the brass band, which consisted of the US army band and the New Life Welfare Foundation band, greeted the participants. The university student volunteers, who belonged to the foundation, prepared ten events; at a booth named the “Message of Hope,” the members delivered hope to the children suffering from diseases with the words like “Don’t give up though you’re sick. Cheer up!”; at a booth named “Carnation Messenger,” children wrote some words of thanks for their parents on a ribbon and gave it to their parents with a carnation; at a booth named “Balloon Art,” the student volunteers made a hat, a flower or a stick with a balloon for children; at a booth of “Old Days’ Games,” the adult participants were reminiscent of their childhood, playing slap-match game and eating sugar biscuit that they ate when they were young. All the families had a great time.

All through the walkathon, beautiful petals fell like a rain. When the walking finished and the participants enjoyed their own happy time with their family, real rain came down. The members had to go back home, but their smiles during the whole event made another miracle; 27 children—7 children with heart disease, 7 with rare diseases, 13 with intractable diseases—received smile and happiness together with medical expenses.