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February 25, 2024 (SUDBURY, Massachusetts) – SMILE Mass, a 501c3 nonprofit founded in 2009 with a mission to create equal opportunity for kids and adults living with severe disabilities by providing education, recreation, and vacation experiences, continues to make huge strides to create a world of inclusion and accessibility for the population that they serve. As a result of a well-documented need for programming throughout the state, SMILE Mass has launched a Capital Campaign to create “A Community within a Community” in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts.

Kristen is all SMILES with SMILEY Ball
Kristen is all SMILES with SMILEY Ball

“Over the last 14 years, we have been instrumental in providing services that allow anyone with a disability to do everyday things a typical able-bodied person takes for granted,” explained SMILE Mass founder and president Lotte Diomede. “We focus on the 12.2% of the citizens with disabilities who are difficult to service and often the most expensive for the state to support. As a result, they live in a broken system with a medical world that makes groundbreaking advancements every day yet creates gridlock for some of our most underserved community members.”

SMILE Mass was established in 2009 by Lotte and co-founder Susan Brown, both mothers of children born with severe disabilities. Their goal was to create an organization to benefit and support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve the highest quality of life through individualized services, life-enhancing strategies, education, and advocacy with particular expertise in meeting the needs of those with complex health issues.

“Today, it is estimated that we service over 30,000 families throughout Massachusetts,” continued  Lotte. “What makes us unique is our ability to transform everyday spaces that create inclusion, independence, and incidental learning opportunities, allowing anyone with a disability to do many of the same things you and I take for granted.”

“As the founder of SMILE Mass, I always knew I wanted to create a space for kids and adults with disabilities that allowed continued learning, fun, joy, and inclusion in a space that provided meaning and belonging to the whole family and much-needed peace of mind to the loved one caring for the family member with disabilities and knowing they have a financially sustainable and meaningful program for their loved ones well into adulthood.”

As a result of Lotte’s vision, the Club SMILE Mass program began in 2020. The genesis of the program came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down many of the day programs attended by children and adults with disabilities.

“In 2020, we consciously launched Club SMILE Mass, offering all our clients a hybrid program with a twist, providing an adapted bike to every client who joined the Club. Every member would have access to nine Zoom offerings, including music therapy, book club, storytime, and so much more. The pandemic made things more difficult, but we have become masters of pivoting and are often referred to as trendsetters. Kids and adults with disabilities were grossly left behind, leaving families scrambling to care for loved ones who relied on medical and specialized services daily to stay healthy and safe. Parents became nurses, PTs, OTs, and full-time caretakers. Many families had no other option than to become one-income households to care for their loved ones with medical complexities. This added additional financial stress to an already stressed household.”

Emma enjoying a social group with her SMILE Mass friends
Emma enjoying a social group with her SMILE Mass friends

Once COVID-19 became manageable and people could be together in small groups, SMILE Mass added in-person one-on-one gym and swim classes. One of Sudbury’s local businesses, Get in Shape for Women, allowed the Club to utilize their space for free. In the first month, SMILE Mass contracted with a coach once a week and serviced seven clients; in month two, the program increased to two days of coaches and space, welcoming another 18 clients; the rest is history. Since 2020, Club SMILE Mass has been the fastest-growing program SMILE Mass has created.

As the program grew, Club SMILE Mass moved to a local gym in Framingham, signed every client up with a discounted rate to the gym, hired a full-time coach, and got liability insurance. Once again outgrowing the space due to the high demand for the program, Club SMILE Mass pivoted the program to L.A. Fitness in Natick, only to learn, after transferring all their clients, that the gym would close the pool.

Today, Club SMILE Mass services about 70 clients a week at L.A. Fitness and provides swim lessons at the local pool in Sudbury. SMILE Mass now employs two full-time gym coaches, six part-time swim coaches, a communications director, a part-time fundraising support staff, and three executive directors who donate their time. Two are focused on the back-end invoicing billing, database, and more.

Lotte continued, “What started as a pilot and good idea has become a full-blown program that is making real change. Our youngest client is 7, and the oldest is 56, with most kids between 16 and 30. Every client has experienced weight loss. Our parents frequently say their kids are more vocal after their swim or gym session, sleep better at night, and are happier and healthier kids overall.”

Andy taking a swim during his Club SMILE Mass swim session.
Andy taking a swim during his Club SMILE Mass swim session.

“Many factors make our program unique. First, there are no programs around us that offer an adaptive program and provide a holistic environment. Our program is all-encompassing; our members can participate in multiple program offerings and activities that stimulate the brain, igniting movement and creating a social space for individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be with like-minded people.”

“We offer a one-stop shop for multiple programs under one membership. Secondly, our program is affordable to make them sustainable for life. The cost for Club SMILE Mass members is $375 for those 22 and older and $275 for those 21 and younger. Zoom-only clients pay $125 per month. Third, one can never age out of our program.”

“Our main goal is to provide a full life of continued health and wellness to create confidence, happiness, and a sense of belonging. Caring for a person with disabilities can have a substantial financial burden on the family. By keeping our membership affordable, we help each client advocate for appropriate funding and support from D.D.S. while being mindful of our costs to stay within the parameters of D.D.S. while providing a valuable program to our clients.”

One of the many clients that has found value in the program is Emma. Before Emma received the proper program to support her mental and physical disabilities, her mother reported that she would be sleeping during the day and have no interest in her surroundings or other peers while her physical abilities were declining to the point of her barely being able to walk to the bathroom without full support. Her baseline heart rate was high, and her body fat percentage was borderline obese. Emma needed a meaningful, inclusive program to stimulate her mind and body. Emma joined Club SMILE Mass, and after just 14 months of individually adapted gym, swimming, biking, stimulating music therapy, and so much more, Emma has lost over 22 pounds, and her baseline heart rate is now normal. Emma no longer naps in the daytime unless she has worked extremely hard at the gym. She is making eye contact and can now walk over 20 feet independently using only her walker. This affirms that when the right program and opportunities are available, everyone can succeed, regardless of their disability.

Through results like Emma’s and so many others, once we get to our own space, we can increase the number of clients we service, eliminate our waitlist, and build a wrap-around service through Club SMILE Mass, where we can offer OT, PT, and speech therapy. Those services will be billed through each client’s insurance and ensure anyone with a disability can have the right program and support in their community.

SMILE Mass has identified the perfect property for their “Community” in MetroWest, the state’s largest region next to Boston, as it is vital to service the clients in their community. The property contains 37-plus acres of land, woods, trails, and a large horticulture area, with a single-residence home of approximately 6000 sq. ft. The property needs updates, primarily cosmetics, and the organization has launched a Capital Campaign to fund the purchase and renovation of the property.

Lotte explained her vision for the property, “The house and rooms are large, making it easier to upgrade, so we can

Nicholas and other Club SMILE Mass members get huge benefits from exercising the brain’s frontal lobe.

make all the suitable accommodations to make the house fully handicapped accessible. It will soon become our clubhouse and gym.  Phase one would be to create a parking lot and front gate driveway, clean up the landscape around the house, and update and renovate the house to make our clubhouse while building about a mile and a half of accessible trails. We need about $1.2 million. We have an extensive list of contractors, landscapers, and other skilled labor workers committed to pro-bono work.

To donate to the Capital Campaign, visit SMILE Mass’ website at or call Lotte at 617-967-7755.


About SMILE Mass: Small Miracles in Life Exist (SMILE Mass) is a 501 C3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping families raising children or adults with disabilities enjoy happy, healthy memories through vacation and recreation experiences. For more information, visit

Contact information: Lotte Diomede- President-Founder  617-967-7755

Susan Brown-Vice President- Co-founder  978-460-7410

Todd Civin- Director of Communications-todd@smilemass.org978-502-1453