Why We Exist > Our Story

Our Story

From Eric Kolb, Executive Director (also known as our Director of Songs):

My wife, Sheryl, and I started Songs & Smiles to help other families navigate the challenges of the Alzheimer’s journey. We know firsthand how tough it is to care for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia.

We lost Sheryl’s grandmother, Olive, to the disease in 2006. Then Sheryl’s mom, Trish, was diagnosed with memory loss in 2008 at the age of 68. Lessons learned during our journey live at the heart of Songs & Smiles.

It all started as a birthday party.

Sheryl enjoys planning events for family and friends, and her mom loved to celebrate. When Sheryl would ask her mom who she should invite, Trish always wanted to “invite everyone.” For her, and for us, “family” meant more than just relatives. Family extended to include neighbors, co-workers, friends, and friends of friends.

We had originally dreamed of a big party for Trish’s 80th birthday, but due to her memory loss, we decided not to wait two more years. Instead, we decided to celebrate her 78th birthday in a big way!

Sheryl planned a weekend filled with fun activities, including a trip to the ballpark to see Trish’s beloved Texas Rangers play baseball. She also asked some of Trish’s grandchildren to “get the band back together” to play for grandma and the rest of the family.

Well, the Meyerband (Trish’s grandchildren John, David, Mary, and Jimmy) did agree to playing for the family, but they ended up playing for a much larger group of people, because we decided to turn our Sunday afternoon festivities into a family-friendly music and comedy fundraising event, which we called Songs & Smiles.

Many people joined us for an afternoon of fun entertainment on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Many others sent best wishes and donations, and we raised more than $20,000 in support of the Alzheimer’s Association through that single event.

Celebration of Life

We realized then that the idea of bringing joy into the challenging journey of Alzheimer’s resonated with people. Many asked about the future of Songs & Smiles.

Well, the next two years were tough for us as we had to focus more of our time and energy on caring for Trish. My mother-in-law faced Alzheimer’s with courage and she held on to her positive spirit to the end. In August of 2019, our family gathered for a quieter, but joy-filled celebration of Trish’s 80th birthday. Less than a month later, she passed away suddenly, and our family gathered once more — this time for a special Celebration of Life service at the memory care facility where Mom had spent her final years.

Honoring Trish and Olive, we decided to expand Songs & Smiles into a nonprofit organization with the mission of helping families stay connected through the Alzheimer’s journey. And, as Trish would want, we plan to “invite everyone.”

The First Songs & Smiles Event in 2017 on Vimeo.

Our Story: The Three of Us on Trish's 80th Birthday

Co-founders Eric and Sheryl Kolb with Sheryl’s mom, Trish, on Trish’s 80th birthday in 2019

Olive, Trish, Sheryl, and Trish’s younger sister, Mary, in 2002

Our Story: Welcome to Songs & Smiles

Sign outside the first Songs & Smiles event on July 30, 2017

Our Story: Our First Event in 2017

Meyerband (Trish’s grandchildren John, David, Mary, and Jimmy) performing at 2017 event

Libby, Jimmy, Trish, Eileen, Andrew, and Tater Tot

Trish celebrating her 80th birthday with four of her grandchildren (Libby, Jimmy, Eileen, and Andrew) and Tater Tot

Trish’s oldest son, Larry, delivering a tribute to his mom at her Celebration of Life event in 2019

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