As October 2, 2020, World Smile Day® approached, it was clear to everyone at Smile Train that the world could use a smile now more than ever. Though we knew we couldn’t host our usual in-person celebrations due to the pandemic, we never back away from a challenge — or the opportunity to bring smiles to all in need. So, we got active and organized World Smile Day® Live: A Virtual Celebration, a star-studded, music-filled extravaganza sponsored by Data Axle, INWK, and MarkeTeam and hosted by Grammy® Award-winning performing artist Ciara.
The goal was simple: Raise enough donations in multiples of 540 — $5.40, $54, or $540 — to meet our goal of $54,000, enough to sponsor a lifesaving surgery for each of the 540 babies born on World Smile Day® — and every day — with a cleft, all while bringing smiles to thousands of viewers tuning in from around the world.
The celebration began with a preshow starring Elizabeth Henstridge of ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and her fiancé, Zachary Burr Abel of Make It or Break It. They kicked the night off in style from Zach’s parents’ basement in suburban Indiana wearing their finest leopard-print vests.
They were soon joined by their good friend Troy Reinhart, Smile Train’s SVP of International Development, who has been with the organization since 2001. Zach and Elizabeth found this quite impressive and asked him to recount what’s kept him here so long. “Who else can say they go into work and put a smile on someone’s face every day?” Troy answered.
Troy’s memories brought back the hosts’ own of visiting patients and partners in Mexico and Indonesia. “One of the most incredible things that Smile Train does is it creates this local infrastructure to… teach the community how to care for people with clefts,” Elizabeth said. “It really creates this sense of community and of hope and is such a wonderful thing to be involved in and to have seen.”
In the spirit of the night, some of Elizabeth’s former castmates from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chloe Bennet, Clark Gregg, Henry Simmons, Iain De Caestecker, and Jeff Ward, shared a video of what makes them smile.
The musician Jake Miller closed the preshow by sending love to Smile Train and our patients then giving an exclusive performance.
Then it was time for the main event! First, Smile Train’s President and CEO Susannah Schaefer set the mood for the night. “On World Smile Day®, the whole world is encouraged to perform acts of kindness…. Your support today will help us give more children with clefts the opportunity for a full and healthy life. Your generosity will invest in a sustainable model that empowers communities all around the world. And, most importantly, you’ll be bringing smiles to the faces of children. And that is exactly what our world needs right now.”
Susie then passed the show over to Ciara, who spoke about why Smile Train means so much to her:
As a performing artist, I do what I do and love what I do because I’m able to connect with people through music. And there’s no better way to connect with someone than through a smile. As a mother, my highest calling is to create an amazing life for my own children, and I’m so moved by how Smile Train focuses on helping some of the most vulnerable children in the world.… When you give to Smile Train, you are making a difference. You are helping to serve communities who need it most, and your support makes an incredible impact.
An hour jam-packed with smiles followed, featuring performances from Elle King, a cavalcade of celebrities — Gabrielle Union-Wade, Kevin Smith, Ginger Zee, Prince Royce, Amanda Cerny, Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, and Miss Teen USA Kaleigh Garris — sharing the things that make them smile, and a feature on one of our patients, Arturo from Mexico.
His touching story reminds us of the children and families whose lives are changed by Smile Train’s locally based, holistic cleft care model each day.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity to make people smile or help provide lifesaving cleft care for children like Arturo, a point made powerfully by 18-year-old Andi Kezh, who has been raising funds for Smile Train since she was nine. And she’s far from alone — after her, we met even more people from across the country and all walks of life who have devoted their time and talents to spreading smiles.
We then heard from Dr. Esther Nyambura Njoroge, Smile Train’s VP and Regional Director for Africa, for an update from her region, including how Smile Train is helping local medical systems safely resume cleft surgeries and come back stronger after COVID-19.
Many of our Smile Train Ambassadors have been given the chance to meet Smile Train’s patients and partners in the field, and Christie Brinkley, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, and NFL star Kenyan Drake were eager to share the eye-opening impact their visits had on them.
Next, Susannah introduced a video from our longtime partner GSK Consumer Healthcare celebrating all the smiles we’re creating together. “We believe that our mouths should be a source of joy and not pain, and in this respect, we share a common focus with Smile Train,” said Jayant Singh, Global Head of Oral Health at GSK Consumer Healthcare.
And just like that, the night was almost over — but not before Troy delivered the biggest smile of the night with the news that we had just officially surpassed our $54,000 goal!
At a time when so many of us need more to smile about, World Smile Day® Live: A Virtual Celebration was truly a night to remember. And it came with a memento. Besides the main event, there was also an online photobooth where viewers could add their own smiles to a smile-filled montage in honor of the day. Just like with their donations, people jumped at this opportunity to spread even more smiles, and by the end of the night, we had a beautiful tribute to one of the best things about smiling — that we all smile brightest when we smile together.
Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft charity and has brought lifesaving cleft care to 1.5+ million children in need since 1999. Become part of a movement that’s saving children’s lives and sharing smiles. Donate now.