Our Mission

Changing the Lives of Kids With Cancer, One Smile at a Time

We have one mission at Marlee’s Smile: Change the Lives of Kids with Cancer, One Smile at a Time. We serve that mission in two ways. The first is to provide a custom Build-A-Bear to every child fighting cancer, as well as their siblings; this is to honor Marlee’s giving heart as she knew the comfort a furry friend could bring. The second is to fund targeted research of pediatric cancers, specifically sarcomas; this is to honor Marlee’s dying wish that no child should have to suffer the pain and hopelessness of cancer treatments currently available to children.

heart made of stuffed bears
recipients of Marlee's bears
Marlee with stuffed bear


Marlee had two friends who went to every cancer appointment with her: Harold and Holly.  They were her constant companions for every poke, prod, scan and surgery.  When the time came for Marlee to choose a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she chose to give.  Her wish was that all the pediatric cancer patients at Colorado Children’s Hospital would know the comfort of a furry friend like Harold and Holly.  So she set up her own Build-A-Bear “store” in a ballroom at the hospital and hosted over eighty children that day, each one leaving with a smile and a newly dressed custom companion.  We hope ALL pediatric cancer patients feel more secure and less scared with a Marlee’s Smile bear in their arms.


In the four relapses Marlee faced in her cancer treatment, each one brought harsher and more toxic treatments in a vain attempt to cure her cancer and save her life.  It was after a particularly hard round of chemotherapy and surgeries that Marlee was given the opportunity for yet another toxic trial.  Her only question, “Will this cure me?” The doctors told her it would not.  That was when Marlee, along with her family, decided to end treatment and enter hospice care.  At twelve years old, she faced a choice no one, especially a child, should face: use poisons and chemicals to try and prolong a life of profound pain and suffering, or let go.  When her parents broached the subject of a foundation in her name, she loved the idea and insisted it include a research component so no child would have to suffer as she did. 

Our commitment is to fund pediatric cancer research–targeting hard to treat cancers like sarcomas– so that children have options in treatment, limb saving procedures, pain management, fewer long term side effects, and ultimately a cure.  We believe a collaborative approach allows us to partner with the most up to date and cutting edge research so that your donated dollars are accelerated in their impact and effectiveness.  We believe that unlocking cures and treatments for hard cancers will open doors to treatments and cures for all cancers.  We believe that children deserve the chance to grow up.  We believe all children deserve a reason to Smile.

Marlee in machine
Marlee with Doctor
Marlee at doctors