Caitlin Grabowski #SmileMaker Recipe: Food, Community, and Fun

November 4, 2019 | Smile Train

The following was written by Smile Train Student Ambassador Caitlin Grabowski about her fundraising successes in her community.

Smile Train Student Ambassador Caitlin Grabowski

After being selected as a Smile Train Ambassador, I was challenged to organize a fundraiser.Having been involved for many years and running several, small fundraisers, I wanted to do something a bit more significant. I wanted to create an event that would bring my friends and family together that would educate everyone about this cause that was near and dear to my heart. Most importantly, I wanted to raise a lot of money for smiles.

On a conference call with some other student ambassadors, I pitched the idea of holding an event at a restaurant, which received really positive feedback. I hoped to have live music, raffles and a silent auction.  It would take a lot of planning and support, and my mom and dad were behind me so I decided to go for it.

I wanted to hold the event at a local venue so I reached out to a friend from work, Jill, whose husband Sal owns an amazing Italian restaurant. When I asked if they’d be willing to host my fundraising event, they graciously agreed. We worked it out that half of the ticket sales would cover food expenses, and the other half would go to Smile Train.

To raise additional funds, Jill and I went to local businesses asking for donations for our silent auction and raffle.  I was amazed at how generous my community was.  People really came through, and we got great donations.

Caitlin Grabowski with her mother

After months of planning, I was so happy to see a full room the day of the event. While everyone was enjoying Sal’s delicious food, I gave a small speech about Smile Train. Many of my friends and family hadn’t known of the hardships that children born with a cleft must endure or of the life-changing impact a Smile Train-supported surgery can have on their lives. By the end of the speech, I saw that people were genuinely moved and wanted to do all they could to raise as much money as possible!

There were several ways that people could support the cause.  Guests were able to bid on silent auction items and buy tickets for our raffle or 50/50. Also, my dad donated multiple wine bottles for a “wine pull”.

Caitlin Grabowski speaking at the fundraiser

The local band “Still Undecided” performed an acoustic set, and my best friend Emily Higgins sang a few songs. The music brought a relaxed, fun vibe to the afternoon, and the event wouldn’t have been the same without it.

When the room had cleared and all the donations had been tallied, I learned that the event had raised an incredible $14,600+ for Smile Train — it’s absolutely amazing how many children’s lives will be changed after that one fun afternoon.

The event taught me that it’s not difficult to throw a successful fundraising event; it just takes a lot of work!  However, my family, friends, and community were there to support me every step of the way. It’s amazing that one small idea could turn into something with an incredible impact.  How beautiful!

Caitlin Grabowski shares her story at Smile Train Student Ambassador Conference

The Student Ambassador Program has been such a rewarding experience. I loved seeing the inner workings of Smile Train and how much goes on behind the scenes. It taught me that a small group of passionate people can make a difference by working together. Being a Student Ambassador has had a profound impact on me.  The lessons learned will stay with me forever as I continue to support the cause in different ways as I enter adulthood.  I hope to always help create smiles via the Smile Train.


Visit the Student page of our site to learn more about the Student Ambassador Program.