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Smile Train Celebrates 20 Years of Impact and More than One Million Lives Changed

May 3, 2019

The World’s Largest Cleft Charity Hosts Star-Studded 20th Anniversary Gala, with Alexa Ray Joel, Kelly Rutherford, Dikembe Mutombo, Rev Run, Kenyan Drake, Real Housewives of NYC’s Kristen Taekman and many others

NEW YORK – Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, hosted their 20th Anniversary Gala on May 2nd at New York City’s iconic landmark Capitale. The star-studded event included a special performance by Alexa Ray Joel, followed by an after party with REV RUN + DJ RUCKUS.

Smile Train’s 20th Anniversary Gala honors the memory of the organization’s founder Charles B. Wang and officially launches the organization’s year-long global celebrations of impact. Throughout the year, Smile Train’s regional staff and local medical partners in the 85+ countries where the organization has helped children will join in the festivities.  

“Smile Train-supported cleft programs have grown significantly over the last 20 years. And with the support from our local medical partners, corporate partners, donors, patients and their families, ambassadors, and local community members, we have been able to reach such a huge milestone,” said Susannah Schaefer, President and CEO, Smile Train. “Our focus for the future is growing our comprehensive cleft treatment programs to help as many children in need as possible.”

The evening featured remarks from honorees including Graham Elliot, Owner and Chef of Coast at MGM Cotai; Dr. Larry Hollier, Chairman of Smile Train’s Medical Advisory Board; and Paula Shugart, President of The Miss Universe Organization.

“My family and I have been supporters of Smile Train since our son Conrad was born with cleft, so we know how cleft surgery is often just the beginning of a child’s journey,” said Graham Elliot, critically acclaimed chef, restauranteur and television personality. “My family and I had the chance to see these local medical professionals in action in Mexico and China—and it’s something I’ll never forget. I think the biggest takeaway for me is that Smile Train wasn’t only there to help repair the clefts of newborns, but also teenagers and adults too. No one looking for treatment was turned away.”

“On a personal level, both Pia and I had the opportunity to see Smile Train’s cleft programs in action — for me, in Haiti and for Pia in the Philippines. Meeting the local medical professionals providing cleft care and the children and families in the communities benefiting from cleft treatment was truly life-changing,” said Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan, referencing Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach—and accepting the award on behalf of Paula Shugart, President of The Miss Universe Organization.

Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, resources and education so that they can provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in their own communities. Unlike other cleft charities, Smile Train strengthens local health systems; building hope and confidence for both patients and communities-at-large. Smile Train believes that It Starts with a Smile and that cleft surgery is just the beginning of the journey toward a full, healthy life for a baby born with a cleft.

“We would like to give a special thank you to all of our supporters over the last 20 years, including our generous sponsors Bank of America Private Bank and Good Apple,” added Schaefer. “We look forward to the next 20 years focused on continuing to support comprehensive cleft care to provide patients with nutritional support, orthodontic care, social and emotional support, and speech therapy — to ensure every child has the best opportunity for long-term success.”

For more information about Smile Train's global efforts and to make a donation, please visit smiletrain.org. Supporting Smile Train gives a child access to a full range of treatment services they would otherwise never receive and ultimately the opportunity for a better life. 

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About Smile Train
Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive. To learn more about how Smile Train's sustainable approach means donations have both an immediate and long-term impact, please visit smiletrain.org.

Smile Train Press Contacts

Shari Mason
Vice President, Communications
212.689.9316
[email protected]

Nijha Diggs
Director of Public Relations
646.751.3231
[email protected]