Abby’s Super Sweet 15 for Smiles

June 23, 2020 | Smile Train

Growing up with scoliosis taught Abby more about her body and mind by age 10 than many people will learn in their entire lifetime. It also taught her to never take good health for granted. “Going through a time where I couldn’t do everything I wanted helped me to become more empathetic to others going through medical issues,” she said. Her condition was treated with a spinal fusion surgery when she was 12, but the lessons remained. When she discovered Smile Train a few years later through a school reading assignment, she knew she had found the cause for her.

She applied to and was accepted to become a Student Ambassador, Smile Train’s national fellowship of high school students committed to raising funds and awareness in their communities for children with clefts around the world. “Before joining Student Ambassadors, I hadn’t really ventured outside of my ‘bubble’ very much,” she said. “Then once I took the chance to work with this international organization, my world view widened, as did belief that I have ability to make a difference.”

Abby holding a '1' balloon in her right hand and a '5' balloon in her left

When her 15th birthday approached, she knew exactly what she wanted: To use it as an opportunity to bring lifesaving smiles to kids in need around the world. And what makes kids of all ages smile more than ice cream sundaes?

Abby posing next to her Smile Train-themed birthday cake

Her whole family got to work planning the party. Her mom made a red-and-blue Smile Train-themed cake, along with matching mini cupcakes (Abby’s favorite); her dad and sister decorated the whole house in balloons, streamers, blue-and-red decorations, and Smile Train posters. Meanwhile, Abby posted about Smile Train weekly on her Facebook and Instagram pages, complete with links to her personal donation site at the bottom. When the day came, she was ready to greet her guests with Smile Train brochures, stickers, and videos.

Between the cake, sundaes, laughter, and family time, it was one of the sweetest days of Abby’s life, but the sweetest part of all was the smiles it brought to those not in attendance. Abby’s efforts collected $1,716 on the day of the party, then went on to raise over $1,000 more in the weeks that followed, bringing her total to $2,750 — enough to fund lifesaving cleft surgeries for 11 children in need.

Abby holding a large fake check for the amount her party raised for Smile Train

“This experience taught me that fundraising takes lots of planning, dedication, communication, and promotion,” Abby reflects. “I learned how to get information out to my community using consistent social media posting and word-of-mouth. This experience showed me how giving people are if you connect with them and share your passion. Knowing how much this experience has helped me grow makes me want to push even harder toward my goals and future work with Smile Train.

Abby with her friends at her party

“I have also learned that every person has their own unique talents, beliefs, and story and that we can all do something to make a difference!”

Black-and-white photo of Abby with her back to the camera wearing a shirt saying 'Changing the world one smile at a time'

Know a high school student passionate about saving lives? Learn more about Smile Train’s Student Ambassadors program.