Monticello couple keeps son’s legacy alive through “Austin Strong Foundation”

by Mitch Fick
Sunday, November 3rd 2019

MONTICELLO, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — Last week was a special one for Britt and Mikinzie Smith. It always is.

The second of their three boys, Colt, celebrates a birthday on November 1. He’s three this year.

October 28 is their eldest’s birthday. Austin would have been 10. Instead, his younger brother’s birthday is also now a celebration in Austin’s memory – the Austin Strong Foundation‘s annual Fall Family Fun Night in Monticello.

“I definitely think it’s been healing for our family more than anything,” Mikinzie Smith says. “This is the way I get to parent him now.”

The event – and the foundation – started in 2016 after Austin died from Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It’s an aggressive brain cancer – a death sentence for whoever is diagnosed.

“Nobody ever thinks that they’re gonna be a cancer family until they’re a cancer family,” Britt says.

Britt and Mikinzie’s mission now is to do everything they can to battle back against childhood cancers.

“I want another family to have a better outcome than we did,” Mikinzie says.

“We’ve been there – so wanna make sure that the families that ever have to go through this don’t have to worry about some of those things,” Britt adds.

In the 3.5 years since Austin’s death, they’ve made some major strides in trying to make that possible.

“I don’t think I knew…what kind of numbers we’d be looking at,” Mikinzie says of starting the foundation.

ASF spent Friday collecting $10 donations (in honor of Austin’s 10th birthday) – pledging $50,000 to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. It’ll be the second time they’ve made that high of a pledge to UI Children’s, Mikinzie says.

The goal of the fall fundraiser is to cover the cost of a special Vitamin C treatment for somone fighting DIPG. It’s a treatment the Smiths wanted for Austin, but never got to give him.

Friday is the party they wish they could throw for him – with a guest list full of the people that have been by the Britt and Mikinzie’s side through it all.

“(Austin) was so proud of our town too,” his mother says. “He always was like, ‘I’m from Monticello!’ when we’d be in the hospital.”

“It’s in honor of his birthday – but it’s for everyone in our town.”