Sophia Smith, is the Founder and driving force behind Strong A.R.M. Foundation, a local 501C3 tax exempt nonprofit organization that financially assists women and youths for placement in guidance programs as well as Arts, Recreation, and Multicultural Activities.
The inspiration for Strong A.R.M. Foundation was born when Smith’s nephew was unable to wrestle due to his mother and father’s inability to pay $300 in fees that were required for his participation. Seeing her nephew sitting at home, frustrated, and left with nothing to do but play video games when he could’ve been out playing sports lit a fire in Sophia’s heart. Reminiscing, she says, “Playing sports as a youth gave me some of my greatest childhood memories and gave me many life lessons that have greatly impacted my business and personal life. I learned how to win and lose gracefully, how to be a team player, how to be tenacious with my goals, and most importantly, how to persevere through losses and learn from them. Youth sports is also what gave me my first taste of what self-confidence feels like. I truly believe with all my heart that participation in extracurricular activities is a great blessing for kids, and all kids deserve the opportunity to experience that blessing regardless of their family’s financial Situation”.
With this core belief in mind, Smith began looking into how many children in the Las Vegas area might be suffering his same or similar plight. Through her research she realized the need was even greater than previously imagined, in helping children, and felt an immediate call to action. Within a year, Strong A.R.M Foundation was officially formed and registered as a 501C3 and Ms. Sophia Smith has been blazing a path sponsoring youths into various recreational activities ever since. Eventually, that fire for sponsoring children into programming grew into a desire to assist at-risk women as well. Smith states: “In the process of approving applications for assistance for many of our kids that we sponsor, I was meeting so many women with heartbreaking stories. Some had just been released from prison, some were just recovering from drug abuse, or escaping abusive relationships, and all they want is a little help finding some of the resources available for them to help themselves. This was exactly what I needed at one point in my life, as well, so, this is exactly what Strong A.R.M. Foundation helps these women with”.
Smith’s life was not always about helping others. There was a time when she was in dire need of help herself for alcohol addiction. In speaking about the time in her life when she felt mired and trapped in a lifestyle of chronic drinking, she states, “Not only was I suffering physically from the toll that such a lifestyle was taking on my body, I was suffering tremendously internally, as well, from all the inner turmoil and drama that usually ensues from such a habit. It was a time when I felt really lost and, I guess you could say, utterly purposeless. In hindsight, it’s hard to say whether my drinking was making me feel purposeless, or if my purposelessness was making me drink”.
Thankfully, the solution to that profound conundrum came for Smith in the form of being in a alcohol program. The program utterly changed her life and helped her realize that living a life of service gave her more fulfillment and joy than any other lifestyle. A purposeful life’s calling was found as she created Strong A.R.M. Foundation and embarked on her mission to help as many women and children as possible find purpose in their lives through arts, sports, and recreational activities. Without the helping hand she received when she was at her lowest point, Smith doesn’t believe she would have survived; now, her life’s mission is to pay that gift forward.
All of Smith’s efforts are supported by the valiant battle cry of Strong A.R.M. Foundation: We Believe, We Encourage, We Support.
Former President of the Kiwanis Club, Sam Lybarger joins Strong A.R.M. Foundation. With over 40 year of management experience in the non-profit and safety industry. Sam’s extensive background includes achievements in leading, developing and motivating others. He has years of experience in training and development, establishing teams and exceeding goals. Sam holds a Bachelor of Science in physical/safety education from the University of New Mexico and a Masters of Education from UNLV.
Sam has multiple awards and honors from the Kiwanis, the American Society of Safety Engineers and is an Eagle Scout. In addition to being an Eagle Scout, as a child and young adult, Sam's participation in sports gave him a chance to reach goals, instilled discipline and was a way to express himself in a positive manner. Sports paved the way for Sam to play college football at the University of New Mexico and outside of work Sam managed recreational swimming pool for the City of Albuquerque.
Sam's experience in after school activities as a youth helped give him the tools he needed to be a successful adult. He knows that when children are active, they have purpose and they are given the tools to build their social skills. This is why Sam is so passionate about the Strong A.R.M. goal and mission. We are so honored to have Sam’s expertise and partnership. Sam is a very compassionate leader and wants to do what he can to help the kids in our community.
Strong A.R.M. Foundation has a very simple and powerful goal; to provide financially disadvantaged youths the opportunity to be a part of a team, participate in dance, art, music. Sports, arts, and music can bring so many wonderful things to a child’s life. It teaches teamwork, responsibility, discipline, helps them strive towards goals, to maximize their minds in a creative way: all skills that will help their transition into adulthood much easier.
My parents were involved in art, music, and sports growing up and as children, myself and my siblings were exposed to all three as well. Although we couldn’t afford to be involved in activities with a high cost, my family found a way for us to stay involved. I played music for over 7 years, which kept me focused, and taught me so much about practice, patience, and tested my abilities. Both of my younger siblings also played an instrument and participated in sports, which led to college scholarships and degrees in creative fields: Art and English.
Without my parent’s support and the free and low cost music programs I had available to me as a child, I would not have developed in to the person I am today. The values of respect, teamwork, and hard work were instilled in me at a young age, which contributes directly to my professional business career and my drive for success in my personal life. I am involved with Strong A.R.M. Foundation because I believe in the foundation’s goals, and I know Strong A.R.M. will help give many children a chance to a part of something greater now, and in their adult lives.
Jes Castor is a mother of three. She has spent many years working in the Las Vegas community, working extensively to support autistic children & their families: volunteering her time, donating her artwork to Artists for Autism and raising money to support FEAT (Families for Early Autism Treatment).
Jes’ youngest son plays several sports and she understands the tremendous financial burden it can put on the family. The benefits of participating in extracurricular activities outweigh the financial strain, and no family should have to struggle to give their children the best chance at success, growth and building character.
Jes grew up in a single parent family. She and her siblings couldn’t participate in sports due to the cost and this is one reason why Jess is passionate about the Strong A.R.M. Foundation mission. Jes is very dedicated to enriching the lives of children in our community and we are very lucky to have her with us at Strong A.R.M. Foundation.