Professional athletes, stars of television and film, and #SmileMakers from around the world recently gathered for Smile Train’s 20th Anniversary Gala at New York City’s iconic Capitale with the common purpose of raising funds and awareness for children born with clefts.
To kick off the festivities, Smile Train’s President and CEO Susannah Schaefer shared with the crowd the meaning behind the event’s “It Starts with a Smile” theme:
“Reaching our 20th anniversary provides a great opportunity to focus on how Smile Train will continue to ensure that all children with clefts receive the quality care they deserve. We’ve learned that our patients’ journey to living a full, healthy, and productive life starts with a smile. Then, comprehensive treatments like nutrition programs, dental and orthodontic care, speech therapy, and social and emotional support are needed to give the patients we support the best possible outcomes.”
To help the audience visualize the comprehensive care journey, Smile Train shared a short film in which we caught up with a few of our former patients at various stages in their recovery — including the very first patient Smile Train supported, Wang Li, who is thriving with her family in China.
Next in the program, Gala attendees were introduced to the first recipient of the It Starts with a Smile award: critically acclaimed chef, restaurateur, and television personality Graham Elliot. In his remarks, Graham shared his journey of becoming a Smile Train supporter and advocate after his son Conrad was born with a cleft.
Then, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and Miss USA 2015 Oliva Jordan, helped to honor Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart, who was a driving force behind her organization’s partnership with Smile Train and has brought increased awareness of the availability of Smile Train-supported cleft care through regional titleholders around the world.
The final honoree of the evening, Chairman of Smile Train’s Medical Advisory Board, Dr. Larry Hollier, said in his remarks, “I would also like to thank Charles Wang for the confidence he showed in me by naming me as chair of the medical advisory board of Smile Train. It has been the honor of my professional life.”
Then, former NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutumbo shared about the impact of the hospital he founded becoming a Smile Train partner in the Congo. “Together, we are empowering local medical professionals. We have helped more than 180 children born with clefts receive the life-changing care they need… they don’t just survive, but they thrive!”
What would a celebration of smiles be without great music? Next, the Gala crowd was blown away by a special performance by Smile Train supporter Alexa Ray Joel.
By the event’s end, the goal of the event was accomplished, and many in attendance were energized to do even more for children living with clefts around the world.
On behalf of Smile Train and all the children we have been able to help together over the past 20 years, we thank you. We will work together to help change the world one smile at a time. We hope you will continue to join us.
If you would like to learn more about Smile Train’s history or see images of some of our proudest moments over the past 20 years, check out the “It Starts with a Smile” page on our site. Additionally, check out the #ItStartsWithASmile hashtag to see some more pictures of the event.
A special thanks to our Gala sponsors. This event wouldn’t have been possible without your generosity.
Bank of America Private Bank
GSK Consumer Healthcare
The Aivee Group
Texas Children’s Hospital
Smile Maker Sponsors
Citi Private Bank
HSBC Bank USA
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
Richard Peloquin and Mary Bucaro
Roy and Melissa Reichbach
The MASY Group, LLC
William D. Lautman, Nexus Health Capital
Arnold and Porter
Baylor College of Medicine
Edelman New York
Grosvenor Capital Management