Live Like Norah foundation reflects teen’s ‘heart of service’

Norah Smitherman with her parents Jennifer and Rodney, twin Annah and older sister Miah.

The inaugural Live Like Norah golf tournament fundraiser planned for Saturday at Silo Run is already sold out, a testament to the hard work of a mother determined to keep the spirit of her daughter alive. The Live Like Norah foundation is a 501(c) 3 established by Jennifer Smitherman in memory of her daughter Norah.

Smitherman said following her daughter’s untimely death last November at the age of 17, the support from friends, family and the community was immediate. Even as she navigated her grief in those early days of the loss of one of her children she knew she wanted to ensure her daughter’s legacy by way of a charitable foundation.

“It was because of the outpouring of support from the community,” she said.

Her husband Rodney supported the decision and Smitherman applied for 501(c)3 status for the Live Like Norah foundation just 17 days after her daughter’s death.

The Foundation’s first fundraiser was the sale of yard signs bearing the phrase “God not Dead” in Norah’s own handwriting, against a backdrop of purple, Norah’s favorite color.

Smitherman explained that she discovered the phrase in Norah’s handwriting on the back of a picture frame. From the childlike writing and missing apostrophe s, Smitherman gathered Norah had been fairly young when she wrote this message but said that it summed up Norah’s strong Christian faith.

Norah was an active volunteer at her church and in school at Forbush High School where she was an National Honor Society member, athlete and friend to all.

Smitherman said that having been the target of bullying in elementary school Norah remembered how it felt to be an outsider and therefore always took great effort in being kind to others.

“She made it her purpose to include everyone,” Smitheman said. “Norah was sensitive to others, she never left anyone out… she checked up on every one.”

“She had a heart of service,” Smitherman said simply.

It’s that heart of service that will continue to beat in support of the local community thanks to the Live Like Norah foundation. Smitherman said the sale of yard signs was an early indicator that others wanted nothing more but to be a part of that spirit of caring.

Hundreds of signs were sold and there is now other merchandise bearing the God Not Dead logo in Norah’s signature color.

“It’s not about the money,” said Smitherman. “It’s about what the money can do for someone else.”

Three scholarships, two at Forbush and one at Starmount, have already been given out. Smitherman said they want the foundation to support Yadkin County schools in any way it can and plans to continue the scholarships as well as make them renewable for prior recipients.

“We are so very appreciative of the Live Like Norah Foundation and the entire Smitherman family for the continued support they provide to our students,” said Yadkin Schools Superintendent Todd Martin. “Norah was an outstanding student. More than that, she was a kind, caring, considerate person who cared deeply for others. She had a strong faith in God, and her faith was evident in everything she did. The Live Like Norah Foundation reflects all of these positive traits. Norah was a support to so many. The Foundation did as Norah did – it serves as a support and helps others to accomplish their goals and dreams.”

Norah was a supporter of Compassion Care, Hands of Hope medical clinic and a dedicated volunteer at school blood drives and the foundation will continue supporting those causes as well.

“She worked every blood drive at Forbush,” Smitherman said. “That was important to her.”

“If it was important to her, we made it important to us,” she added.

Smitherman said keeping the support local to Yadkin County is important to her, though she does also want to support Dogwood Camp in Iredell County, a program sponsored by The Lions Club.

Smitherman said the Lions Club was her own personal passion as her grandmother was legally blind and benefitted greatly from the club’s services.

This weekend’s golf tournament, Smitherman said she hopes too see will raise an additional $5,000 to $10,000 which will go to support the causes that Norah believed in.

A favorite saying of Norah’s was ‘heck yeah,” said Smitherman and she feels that is exactly how Norah would react to the work of the Live Like Norah foundation.

“That’s what she would say to me is ‘heck yeah, mom.’”

For more information on the Live Like Norah foundation or to donate, visit