Captain David Runs (and Sails) for Smiles

July 16, 2018 | Smile Train

Fueled by wanderlust, Captain David Hagner went off to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1980 seeking an education and the respect of working as a shipboard officer. David was also attracted to a schedule where four months at sea would be followed by four months of paid vacation at home.

David Hagner on boat

Traveling the world isn’t without hardships, as most days there are many miles and time zones separating David from his family. However, he makes time to video chat regularly, and prioritizes family time when he returns home. His vacations at home have offered a succession of varying interests and pursuits over the years — many of them oriented toward home improvement or travel.

While he has remained “casually-active” most of his adult life, with hobbies like skiing and windsurfing, he never cared for the discomfort of running more than three miles. However, in 2017, David wanted to cross an item off his bucket list to run in the world-famous London Marathon. While looking for a place to register, he saw that Smile Train Team EMPOWER had an open spot on their team. “I had long been familiar with Smile Train and was attracted to their deed-for-dollar simplicity. I sensed it was fate that they still had spots available and signed up — I never imagined how much that moment would improve my own life,” said David.

After finishing the London Marathon, David continued training, running, and raising funds for Smile Train for the Jacksonville Marathon. David commented, "To my surprise, I came in fourth for my age and qualified for the Boston Marathon with over 18 minutes to spare. Not too bad for someone who couldn’t run more than a few miles months before."

While fundraising for Smile Train Team EMPOWER, David began reading more of Smile Train’s stories, which brought him closer to the cause. “As a father, I was especially drawn to the stories of parents doing anything to save their kids from a lifetime of pain and exclusion."

In May of 2018, Smile Train's Area Director for South East Asia Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano learned that David’s ship, the LUMMUS, was participating in an exercise in the Philippines. Kimmy invited David and the crew to visit a local Smile Train partner in Pampanga. David and crew members Mike Fagan, Cliff Ward, and Charles Catunao gladly accepted.

David Hagner meets Smile Train partners

First, the LUMMUS crew had lunch with Kimmy and local Smile Train Partner Surgeon Dr. Edmund Mercado. “I was immediately impressed with Dr. Mercado and the pride he had in his work. He made it clear that Smile Train’s local model of follow-up care and comprehensive services allowed for vastly superior outcomes over the mission groups who come to the area and leave without these services.”

David Hagner meets Smile Train patients

Next, the group went to the local hospital and were amazed seeing Dr. Mercado in action. David shared what he saw, “There were a few toddlers there for pre-op assessments, including a girl in a white dress who had captured everybody's heart with her engaging warmth — she was obviously bathed in love by several family members in attendance. There were a few single moms, barely adults themselves, whose faces reflected solemn determination and accelerated maturity.”

LUMMUS crew gives check to Smile Train

The team passed along their thanks for the personal tour with a generous $1,000 gift to Smile Train from the entire crew of LUMMUS.

Reinvigorated by seeing the impact of his fundraising efforts firsthand, David is currently training to run the Chicago Marathon with Team EMPOWER this October. Next April, he intends to run the Boston Marathon. David said of his commitment:

“I wouldn’t call myself altruistic or even overly-charitable, but I am thankful for my own fortunate circumstances and am sensitive to the hardships of others — I’m willing to help when asked. I've discovered that I also have a wonderfully supportive family, friends, neighbors, and professional colleagues — my generous donors — who obviously feel the same way. Seeing those children receive cleft treatments in the Philippines was very gratifying, and I am very pleased to report back to these donors on the great work they have made possible.”


If you would like to donate to David’s efforts, please visit his Chicago Marathon fundraising page. If you are interested in turning miles into smiles, visit our Smile Train Team EMPOWER page to learn more and sign up for a race today.