2142 Boyce Street, Suite 402
Columbia, SC 29201
Carol and Mike Smith grew up in Oklahoma City, the home of Lincoln Park Zoo, a place they visited often as children. These visits inspired their lifelong love of zoos, a passion they passed on to their daughter, Laura. In 1973, the Smiths relocated to Columbia — a year later, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden opened, and the family became frequent visitors.
Laura enjoyed a normal, happy childhood, but she later faced challenges caused by developmental and medical issues in her teenage and early adult years. Sadly, she passed away in 2003 at age 33. Growing up, Laura had a black cat that inspired her love for all cats, especially the Siberian tigers at the zoo. Mike and Carol established the Laura Smith Memorial Fund at Riverbanks to honor her memory. A grant from the fund supported the Laura J. Smith Tiger Overlook, a raised platform that allows visitors to view the tigers easier.
Every year, the Smiths donated to the fund to support the care and well-being of the zoo’s mammals. When Carol died unexpectedly this March, Mike wanted to ensure his family’s support of the zoo would continue after his death. To accomplish this, Mike worked with Central Carolina Community Foundation to establish the Michael, Carol, and Laura Smith Endowment for Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, housed at the Foundation. The Smiths’ designated endowed fund will provide annual funding, in perpetuity, for the care and well-being of the zoo’s mammal collection.
Designated Endowed Funds provide a straightforward way for individuals and families to support nonprofit organizations. After the donor has signed the agreement, the Foundation administers the fund, ensuring that organizations receive annual distributions without any effort from the fundholder. The Community Foundation connects charitable individuals, like Mike Smith, to areas of need in the Midlands through collaborative philanthropy.