Kristen Taekman's Journey to Mexico

February 10, 2015 | Smile Train

On January 21, 2015, Smile Train supporter Kristen Taekman had the opportunity to visit our local partners and patients in Mexico.

For Kristen, the visit was really emotional. She got to experience what Smile train does on every level, how many lives are changed, and hearts that are touched (including hers, she notes). Says Kristen, “It is one thing to hear or read about it and see pictures, but when you are actually there in a patient’s home, you think wow, I want to make every difference I can.” 

Kristen continues, “I wouldn’t be a model without a great smile, so I know the importance of being able to smile. Most of us take our smiles for granted. I found that children with unrepaired clefts many times have to cover up their smiles, but a free cleft surgery from Smile Train allows them to share it with the world.”

One moment in particular during her visit to Mexico stuck out to Kristen. She met a boy named Jose at one of our partner hospitals and his parents were rocking him before his surgery in a cozy blanket. She instantly thought about how much her kids would have loved being swung in a blanket like that.

Kristen explains, “Our kids at home would normally be in a stroller or mechanical swing to try and fall asleep. Baby Jose didn't have those things. What a simple, sweet, effective thing, two parents rocking and soothing their baby to sleep in a blanket. I am sure the swinging calmed both parents and little baby Jose. When we visited Jose in his home that Sunday the blanket was on the bed and I remember looking at it and having a moment. Jose’s Dad told me that I was an angel for coming to help his child. He cried, I cried. I really had no idea how much I would be able to help out in just two days. It was all so rewarding, humbling, and life-changing.”

Kristen returned from her visit to Mexico energized and ready to share her experiences at a Smile Train event she hosted in New York City on February 5 called Denim + Diamonds. The event helped raise money and awareness for children with clefts. Kristen’s Real Housewives cast member and friend Heather Thomson was also in attendance and 100% of the proceeds from the on-site sale of her Yummie brand jeans went directly to Smile Train.

“The Denim + Diamonds event was a huge success!” says Kristen. “I think it really resonated with people that a high-end pair of jeans can cost as much as $250 dollars and that is the price of a life-changing cleft surgery with Smile Train!”

As a mother of two young children herself, Kristen’s love and passion to help as many children with clefts as possible is clear. “Since I learned about Smile Train, I am proud to say I’ve helped to provide more than 100 smiles, it is such a lovely charity. You can be a third grader in elementary school and raise $25 and Smile Train will be over the moon. You don’t have to raise $10k to make a difference. Smile Train knows every penny counts and however you can help is great,” she explains. Kristen is making a real difference in the lives of children with clefts and in doing so is changing the world one smile at a time.