May 17 declared DIPG Awareness Day

Pictured alongside Gov. Branstad as he signs the proclamation naming May 17 DIPG Awareness Day are, from left, Sally Deeb, Annette and Kevin Smith, Britt Smith holding Colt, Kris and Jeff Weers, Mikinzie Smith holding a picture of son Austin, Alyssa and Travis McNally with their daughters Kennedi and Blakelyn.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Last week, Britt and Mikinzie Smith and their son Colt were at the State Capitol in Des Moines for Gov. Terry Branstad’s signing of a proclamation declaring Wednesday, May 17 Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) Awareness Day.

     The Smiths were joined by several members of their family and close friends for the occasion.

     Austin Smith passed on May 20, 2016, almost a year ago, from DIPG, brain cancer. He was only 6 years old.

     Mikinzie said across the country, DIPG families have started a movement to make May 17 a national awareness day.

     “Britt and I were happy to lead this charge for Iowa,” she said.

     They submitted the required paperwork to the Governor’s Office in Des Moines to get the ball rolling.

     “They contacted us almost immediately upon receiving the request,” said Smith. After reviewing the information, she said they were contacted again to check on their availability to attend a proclamation signing “which we were able to attend last Thursday in Des Moines in the Governor’s formal office.”

     Smith said the foundation that is leading the charge on the nationwide initiative chose May 17 as the official date for DIPG Awareness Day because that is the date their own son passed from DIPG two years ago. Ironically, Austin’s one-year anniversary will be three days later.

     “So with the date being so similar,” Smith said, “we thought what better way to honor our son than getting Iowa on board for DIPG Awareness Day.

     “We are so very proud that Iowa was the 15th state to have a proclamation!”

     Obviously, this week will be a difficult one for the Smith family.

     “As we reflect back on our first year without Austin, it feels like 20 years and a split second all at once,” shared Smith. “But when I think of what we have accomplished in the last year in his honor, I know he would be so proud.”

     She said one of their fears is that their child will soon be forgotten as time goes on.

     “I can confidently say that with all of the wonderful support our family and his Foundation (the Austin Strong Foundation) continue to receive, and now with a statewide DIPG Awareness Day in his honor, Austin is still very much alive, and we will make sure his legacy lives on.”

     The Smith family wants to encourage people in the Monticello community and beyond to honor Austin Smith on May 17, as well as all those affected by DIPG.

     “Wear your ‘Austin Strong’ gear, make a small donation to the Foundation for DIPG research, or simply tell Austin’s story,” encouraged Smith. “Anything to help spread the word

     “The first step in curing this awful disease is awareness.”

     You can visit the Austin Strong Foundation on Facebook, or visit their website at


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