History

Even a blind man can see that one act of kindness makes the world a better place. That better world begins with you.

 - Robert F. Smith

History Apple

Robert F. Smith, who was born completely blind, is the son of the late O.C. Smith, a Grammy-winning soul and R&B singer best known for the song “Little Green Apples.” Not only was O.C. Smith well-liked in the music industry, but he also had a reputation for having integrity and doing good for others. He instilled these qualities in Robert from an early age.

“The one thing my dad always told me was that I could be and do anything I wanted, but to always remember to love people. That message really hit home with me.”

Life hasn’t always been easy for Robert. He’s experienced the fast life of having a celebrity father, and the discouraging realities of being a blind man living month to month on disability. He knows first hand what it’s like to be a Have, as well as a Have-Not. Three things helped Robert to persevere: a strong faith in God and Jesus, his lovely wife, Jennifer, who has stayed by his side throughout the good and the bad, and lastly, the words of his father, encouraging him to follow his dreams and to do good for others.

That’s where the seed for The Little Green Apples Project was conceived. Robert worked with an agent for several years who represented his blind a cappella doo wop group, Outasight. After the group disbanded in 2014, Robert stuck with his agent and told him about some of his dreams. Robert wanted to throw out the first pitch and sing the National Anthem at every Major and Minor League stadium in the country. He wanted to drive a racecar. He wanted to inspire intentional acts of kindness in others.

Robert’s agent was so moved by his story that he vowed to do everything in his power to make every single one of Robert’s dreams a reality. Robert trained for months to learn how to throw a baseball. He’ll freely admit, smiling ruefully the whole time, that his first time out, he was a miserable pitcher. “I couldn’t even throw the ball fifteen feet.” But on opening day at the Field Of Dreams, Robert threw a perfect pitch the full sixty feet to one of the original ghost players. He has since thrown out the first pitch and sang the National Anthem at baseball parks from coast to coast and he’s still gaining momentum!

Robert learned how to drive in an old sedan, with a white-knockled agent in the passenger seat saying, “Turn left! Turn right! Don’t crash!” He now has his own racecar and is on the verge of getting it wrapped.

Robert and his agent conceived and co-created the Toss to Target Game Towel, a fun and portable game that can be played almost anywhere. As the majority owner, Robert is one of the very few blind entrepreneurs in the country.

All of this success led Robert to meet all kinds of people. That’s how he met little Tyler Renfro. Tyler is a seven-year-old boy with autism and diabetes. He is low-functioning and non-verbal and can’t tell his parents when his blood sugar drops, which can cause life-threatening seizures. He needs to be monitored 24/7 and the constant vigilance has cost them jobs as well as a home. What Tyler needs is a $17,000 service dog that can sense when he’s in danger. Not only could this be a literal life-saver for Tyler, but his parents would be allowed to rebuild, secure in their son’s safety.

Tyler’s story moved Robert and he told his agent that they were going to help get that dog. The Little Green Apples Project is a 501c3 non-for-profit organization created to inspire a million intentional acts of kindness. The name is in honor of O.C. Smith and the song that earned him a Grammy.

In late 2016, while planning a concert to raise funds for Tyler, Robert introduced his agent to Sean P. Gorecki, a blind friend of his with a talent for writing and arranging music.Sean asked if he could write a song for the concert, but after playing an audio sample, Sean was brought into the whirlwind as a full-fledged part of the team. The first thing Sean was asked to do was to co-write a song with the legend that was the late Les Baxter.

Les Baxter was a film composer and orchestra leader with nearly two dozon number one songs and hundreds of film scores to his credit. Shortly before his death, he wrote a short Christmas song for a children’s book. After his death, the song sat unused for over 25 years. Sean was tasked with finishing the song and updating it to be released as a downloadable single to raise money for Tyler. Sean made the song his own, while still honoring the essence of what Les created and leaving the beautiful lyrics and melody completely untouched. It has been stated that it’s impossible to tell where Les’ lyrics end and Sean’s begin.

Sean brought in Peter K. Chudyba, a film composer and arranger, to write the orchestration for the track and in just over a month it was time to go into the studio! But not just any studio, the old Beach Boys studio! Marty Rifkin, a legendary sound engineer in his own right, having worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, recorded the vocals. Robert F. Smith, Sean P. Gorecki, and their good friend, Mark Giovi, a talented singer with Cerebral Palsy, lent their voices to give life to “The Best Gift Of All This Christmas”!

2017 is less than two months old and there’s already a great deal going on! Robert is being honored by the South Carolina House Of Representatives for all his good works on March 29. Robert and Sean are heading to the Carolinas again in June to do a tour of the Minor League baseball teams, fundraise for Tyler with a series of Toss to Target Tournaments, and do an a cappella Charity concert as an O.C. Smith tribute. Talks are being finalized with the Los Angeles Angels for some big events this year and next. Toss to Target looks like it will hit major retailers before the end of the year. And last, but certainly not least, plans are in the works to create a 50 person, all-blind choir, with one singer from every state by the summer of 2018! And there’s more to come that we can’t yet talk about!

Check out our Events Page to stay up to date about what’s in the future for Robert, Sean, and The Little Green Apples Project!