Peter James ‘Bringing the World Together’

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Peter James, of Market Harborough, plans to launch a local festival to raise money for Smile Train, following his ‘life-changing’ trip to Vientiane, Lao PDR.

After supporting Smile Train for several years, Peter James decided to visit Smile Train partner Children’s Hospital located in Vientiane, Lao PDR, so that he could witness the impact his donations were making in the lives of local children.

During his time at the hospital, Peter met with Smile Train Country Manager, Dzung T. Nguyen, and Senior Surgeon, Dr Chay Phachanh, who educated him on the process of sourcing and treating children with clefts in the region.

Peter 300 2“The trip was an unforgettable and life-changing experience — It completely opened my eyes to how vital cleft surgery is for children living in Lao PDR and similar parts of the world. I learnt that children with clefts are often hidden away from their community, so the first – and most difficult – task for Smile Train is to reach out and find them,” said Peter.

Peter continued, “Smile Train is such a great charity because the surgery they help fund for children is totally life-changing. The opportunity to have a procedure to treat their cleft is a gift and can have a huge positive impact on the whole family — it’s like a rebirth for the family.”

Following his trip, Peter has decided to launch an internationally-themed festival called “East West Fest- Bringing the World Together” in Market Harborough and Bournemouth to raise additional funds for Smile Train. The festival will invite local residents to join together and experience arts, crafts, foods and textiles from all over the globe.

We were so pleased to hear that Peter was inspired by his trip to our partner hospital in Vientiane. It’s always fantastic to hear that our fundraisers are inspired by our work and have seen first-hand the impact donations have for children in developing countries. We are delighted to have Peter as a Smile Train supporter, and are very much looking forward to his ‘Bringing the World Together’ festival.
Hannah Weston, Community and Events Manager, Fundraising, Smile Train UK

Allyson Himelstein brings Smile Train to Dartmouth College

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The following blog was written by Smile Train Young Leadership Circle (YLC) Board Member Allyson Himelstein , Allyson discusses YLC Fundraising events that she has organized at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

I was invited to join Smile Train’s Young Leadership Circle in the summer of 2014, right around the time my boyfriend and I were moving to Hanover, New Hampshire, so he could begin at Tuck. I found a great job at Dartmouth, as well.

When I moved, I was initially concerned about being so far away from the action in New York City and the Young Leadership Circle. There would be no happy hours, no fun charitable gatherings, no meetings at Smile Train’s HQ office to greet new board members and eat pizza — activities that I really enjoy!

After things settled down a bit, I hosted a bake sale in the community center. It seemed like all the Tuck Partners—significant others of the students — contributed something delicious from homemade apple pie, to individually wrapped satchels of caramel toffee popcorn. We quickly brought in around $600 — who knew that Tuck students love to eat so many sweets!

A few months later, when the average temperature was -10°, I thought it would be nice to get sweaty at Dartmouth’s Alumni Gym. My neighbor, a spin instructor by night, happily conducted two back-to-back classes. I called it Spin for Smiles, and before the actual event, I stopped by every shop on Main Street in order to ask for gifts for the biker who put in the most effort and nearly all of the owners gave something — it’s so nice living in a small town where people say yes more than no.

Last week, I organized my favorite event so far. I called it Win a Date with a Hot Tuckie. This may sound familiar if you saw the highly acclaimed film, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. On the Thursday before Valentine’s Day, I partnered with two Tuck students to host a raffle for a few hours before the annual Valentine’s Day Massacre Hockey Game (no, it’s not as macabre as it sounds). Students bought tickets to win a date with one of four eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. The winners were announced with much fanfare in-between hockey periods. We made $630 in two hours! Tuck is one of the smallest business schools in the United States, so I was thrilled with the turn out.

I want to thank the community at the Tuck School of Business. They have allowed me to continue to support Smile Train and have gone above and beyond supporting all of the fundraisers I have planned. I can’t wait to see what the spring brings!

Dates auctioned off at Win a Date with a Hot Tuckie

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No, this is not false advertising – you won’t be buying tickets for a date with either of the women in the foreground. Instead you’d win a date with the perfect gentleman who is a big believer in letting his date bask in the spotlight.

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Need we say more? She is definitely an all-American girl, but unlike the mass-merchandised doppelganger she’s one-of-a-kind. You do not want to miss out on this lucky opportunity.

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Notice anything missing from this photo? Here’s a hint, it could be you. Don’t let the picture fool you though, this guys is a real charmer.

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We’re told that not only does she love giraffes, but that she also loves tripod, yoga, and has an affinity for tequila. Think you can make her fall in love with you?

Stuart Hall School for Boys holds 9th annual Smile Train fundraiser

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New Orleans, LA- Karen Vincent, Middle School teacher at Stuart Hall School for Boys writes about her students’ fundraising efforts for Smile Train. They have raised enough funds to provide more than 100 free cleft surgeries.

For nine years now, the sixth grade men of Stuart Hall School for Boys have sponsored a lemonade sale during the month of October to benefit Smile Train. At our school, we work each month on a quality that we would like to improve in ourselves and each is sponsored by a grade level. Ours is Compassion – we do our best to raise as much money as possible through both our lemonade sale and private donations to fund new smiles for children we will never meet, but whose lives will be forever changed by our actions.

I am continually surprised at how generous these men are. We only charge 25¢ for a cup of iced cold lemonade (it’s HOT here until at least Thanksgiving), but almost every child will put in a dollar and say, “Just keep the change for those kids.” Many will bring in their allowance or the contents of their savings bank. It’s truly impressive.

During our Monday chapels in October, we inform the student body about Smile Train and their efforts, so they are well acquainted with what a cleft is and how it affects someone’s life. In the spring of this year, Caitlin Roarke, Manager, Community Relations from Smile Train came to visit us. When she asked the students if any of them knew what a cleft was, every hand in the chapel went up! Later she told me that it kind of threw off her speech that she had prepared – the men of Stuart Hall KNOW about Smile Train!

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University of Cincinnati’s Greek Community Raises 58 Smiles at Ginger Greek 2015

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University of Cincinnati’s Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity recently held their 5th Annual Ginger Greek Competition to raise funds for Smile Train. Ginger Greek is a holiday-themed philanthropy that invites student organizations to compete in a holiday movie trivia night, a Santa run, and ginger bread house competition over a three day period.

More organizations are attending Ginger Greek every year and the event is quickly becoming a campus institution. This wildly successful event started with humble beginnings, as an idea from former Sigma Phi Epsilon president, and former cleft patient, Mark Kroger. Mark wanted to raise funds for children living with unrepaired clefts and realized that the holidays were the perfect time to bring people together in the spirit of giving.

The fraternity has continued the tradition with the help of Mark’s younger brothers, who also became members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. “Over the past five years our fraternity has helped children, who we’ll never meet, have the opportunity to live a more normal life,” said Mark.

Ginger Greek 2015, raised enough for 58 new smiles. Smile Train would like to thank the Kroger family, University of Cincinnati students, and the brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon, for changing the world one smile at a time.

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9th Annual Mini Marathon for Smile Train at Pleasant Hill Elementary

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On April 24, 2015 Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Columbia South Carolina held its 9th Mini-Marathon for Smile Train. Physical Education teacher and real-world Smile Train super hero Thomas Cronin, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, hosts the event every year. He says that he feels so fortunate that he was able to receive surgery when he was a child, and his hope is that every child born with a cleft is able to have the same opportunities for a healthy and productive life that he was given.

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On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. This year, the event raised a total of $13,090 for Smile Train. This is enough to provide surgery for 52 children with cleft lips and palates.

Smile Train’s Mini Marathon has become a tradition at Pleasant Hill Elementary School. This year, Smile Train’s own Director, Program Development, Shannon Lambert, got to attend the event, walk around the track with some students, and answer student questions. She said some of the most common questions were “How many surgeries did Smile Train help provide last year?” and “How long does it take to complete a surgery?” One student, a young boy, shared a story with Shannon about his cousin that lives in Guadalajara, Mexico who was born with a cleft. His cousin didn’t have transportation to get to a treatment facility, so the little boy’s family in South Carolina drove to Mexico to bring the boy to the hospital for surgery.

Overall, Pleasant Hill Elementary School’s Smile Train Mini Marathon gives the students a chance to learn more about a meaningful cause, and how something as simple as a smile can change a life, all while getting fit at the same time.

Vets with Horsepower, an inspirational group of fundraisers!

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After a 4,000 mile motorbike journey through Russia, Finland, Denmark, and Germany the Vets with Horsepower group is proud to say,” we have raised a total of 300+ new smiles for Smile Train. The Horsepower team is proud to help Smile Train in its work and we are immensely grateful to the sponsors, supporters and Smile Train itself for their kindness and encouragement. It was worth every blister and every mile.”

Team rider Derek Knottenbelt says of this year’s trip, “The dust has settled after our amazing motorbike trip to St Petersburg in the summer. Sure it was tough from time to time, but this was NOTHING compared to the life-time of hardship suffered by people with unrepaired clefts. Our satisfaction on safe completion of our trip is matched by our satisfaction that in raising just under £50,000 we have made a significant life-change to 300+ people.”

Smile Trains UK’s Amerjit Chohan, Director, Fundraising, comments: “The sheer commitment and dedication from everyone has been utterly amazing. We’re so proud that Derek and the Vets with Horsepower team chose to support Smile Train. The money they raised will help provide new smiles for more than 300 children. Their efforts will have a lasting legacy for these children. Thank you Vets with Horsepower for all your support.”

100 Miles for 100 Smiles

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Ultramarathon runner David Coligado recently completed a 24-hour, 100 mile treadmill run in an effort to raise enough funds for 100 Smile Train cleft surgeries. David’s girlfriend Mary recounts his motivations and experience in completing this incredible feat.


I cannot convey in words how inspiring and memorable this weekend has been. Thank you from the deepest depths of my heart for all of your efforts to support Dave since the conception of this crazy idea. You are tops in my book.

I wanted to share but a few highlights from the weekend that will stay with me always:

Chicago police officers driving by the Lululemon store raising their hands in support of Dave.

Midnight: lights off. A glow in the dark sticks/dance workout that illuminated the room. Dave on the treadmill. DJ spinning tunes.

3 AM: twerk-off/dance off 🙂

4 AM: a group of about 80 people singing Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and George Michael’s “Freedom” in unison with Dave while he ran.

A maxillofacial surgeon and a craniofacial surgeon, both in town for a conference, saw the story on the news. They walked in to Lululemon, each donating $500 in cash in support of Smile Train.

People holding up the pictures Smile Train provided of the kids and adults in the window every hour and during Dave’s few moments of struggle. They were also posted all around him throughout the run and brought more than a few people to tears.

The security guard, a total machismo, south side old school Chicago kinda guy, singing along with us and crying when Dave hit his 100 miles.

Between the hours of 1 AM-4 AM: drunk people on the street walking by confused and slack jawed upon hearing the DJ blasting music, Dave running on the treadmill, and all of us dancing, working out, and singing, with the store doors wide open welcoming all to join us. Several of them digging in their pockets to contribute whatever crumpled up dollar bills they had left.

8:30 AM: as we were cleaning and the treadmills were being hauled away, a man, who saw the story on the news, walked in and handed Dave $250 in cash for Smile Train. He offered his congratulations, and walked out.

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…Certainly one of the most memorable 24 hours of our lives. Thank you to ALL of the folks at Smile Train for their efforts to make this idea a reality.

It’s easy to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the fundraising event, but the children who will ultimately benefit from the money raised have been at the forefront of our minds throughout.

Still delirious from this weekend’s event, Dave and I hobbled to the kitchen this morning, seeking coffee. We stopped to take a detailed look at the piles of photos that lay on our counter. Moving images of children and adults from clinics around the world holding up signs of thanks and support for Dave. We talked about what a collaboration it must have been to collect such an inspirational tribute. We were balling. Consider us lifelong Smile Train supporters and advocates.

With love and gratitude,
Mary Oleszek


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Smile Train Team EMPOWER gives athletes around the world the opportunity to make every step, every lap and every mile count toward giving a child not only a new smile, but a second chance at life.