How a Smile Created A Personal Mission


New York, NYSmile Train supporter Lisa Fast shares her experiences with cleft and Smile Train.

After having such a positive experience dealing with my cleft lip and cleft palate, it has become my passion to help others achieve the same happiness in life. A life without a repaired cleft would be unbearable. Personally, I would not have made it through my years of soccer and would not currently be at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sophomore year of high school I truly realized how lucky I was to have grown up with the treatment, doctors, and support that I did.

I initially became involved with Smile Train when I made a personal fundraising page. I set my goal as $5,000. I wrote emails and letters to family, friends, and neighbors creating awareness of the fund. Also, after my soccer games I would recycle water bottles from teammates. Because recycling is only a few cents a bottle, whatever I made recycling my mother would match. In place of birthday gifts, I asked for donations to be made. Between these sources I reached my goal of $5,000 in as quickly as one month. I then decided to bump up my goal to $10,000 because why not continue to help other children have a chance to receive a new smile?

Lisa and Mom2 A deeper involvement with Smile Train began after the tragic passing of my mother my junior year of high school. Because of her equal passion for helping others with clefts, our family created a Smile Train Memorial Fund in her honor. As of today, the total value of gifts on her page is $138,634.28 from 624 donors. Between myself, and now with the loss of my mother, over 590 children will be able to receive surgery. These numbers reflect the impact my mother had on others; she was one of a kind. The community continues to donate knowing how much mother would appreciate it.

After four years of fundraising for Smile Train, this summer I had an extraordinary opportunity to intern for them. For five weeks, I got to live in New York and come to their headquarters office every day for work. It was a special experience to see the network of people work together to maximize the amount of children receiving cleft surgery. I am thankful to have been able to contribute not only from a fundraising side, but also from the business side. I learned about so many different professional roles and skills in the time of my internship. I have been lucky to have had such a great relationship with Smile Train and it is because of all the opportunity they give me to stay involved.

Without a doubt, there are times I wish I did not have to face the challenges that come with cleft. Growing up I had to go to countless amounts of doctor’s appointments whether it was speech therapy, the oral surgeon, or the orthodontist. After nine years of braces, I was convinced they were never coming off. Last summer I endured jaw surgery. To recover, I needed to have my jaw wired shut for six weeks and was unable to speak. I always wonder what it would be like to have a “normal” lip. However, I always remind myself that I was lucky to even have had this treatment. In retrospect, I am thankful I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate because it is the reason I got involved with Smile Train.

The happiness a fixed smile will bring a child is so empowering and motivating. They will get to attend school, have many friends, and be able to participate in extracurricular activities. Every child deserves those joys in life. There is no doubt that the children around the world who receive their cleft lip and cleft palate repair surgery will go on to live a remarkable life. Smile Train is an incredible international charity that gives three hundred and fifty children and their families an opportunity to live a better life every day.

Thank You to All of Our Amazing Supporters

New York, NY — This Holiday Season, as we close the chapter on 2011 and finalize our plans to help even more children with clefts in 2012, we have a lot to be thankful for, most importantly our wonderful supporters that keep Smile Train running. We wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has helped us provide more than 700,000 free cleft surgeries with over 300 more provided every day and increase our follow up care for desperate children and even adults that could never dream of affording it on their own.

“Every child is a gift. Every child should be taken care of.”

In a time of economic uncertainty and political turmoil throughout the world, it is incredible to see so many people from so many countries and diverse backgrounds band together to give children born with clefts new smiles and new lives. School children, retirees, democrats, republicans, famous actors and actresses, waiters and waitresses, leading businesses and those on social security, those who were born with a cleft themselves, those who never knew what a cleft was until they saw an ad in a magazine, and so many more people all helping in whichever way they can to provide free cleft surgery and follow up care to children who can’t afford it. Dismissing dangerous superstitions, turning despair into hope, and providing hundreds of thousands of miracles every year.

Smile Train supporter General Colin Powell speaks at a Smile Train event

Recently, one of our corporate partners sponsored a Smile Train donor dinner in Washington, D.C. to update some of our donors on all of the great work we have done this year and our plans for 2012. We were lucky to have long time supporter former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in attendance. He asked if he could say a few words and we were more than happy to oblige. His words cut to the heart of Smile Train’s mission and why so many people work so hard to help children with clefts as donors, fundraising event volunteers, staff, and partner surgeons, medical staff and social worker volunteers.

“There’s nothing quite like Smile Train…nothing matches the reality of a child who believes he or she has no future, and suddenly Smile Train comes to town. It is the smile and the faces of these children that is the reality of the Smile Train effort and the success of Smile Train. Every child is a gift. Every child should be taken care of. Every child in the world we should want to take care of just as we take care of our own children.

“There is nothing more reflective of the best of humankind than what Smile Train has done and what it represents and what it will represent in the future. My thanks to all of the members of the Smile Train family around the world who are helping so many to a brighter and better future.”
— General Colin Powell

From all of us here at Smile Train, our partners, our patients and their families, Happy Holidays and thank you for helping us change the world — one smile at a time.

Donations in Memory of Doc Holliday matched up to $15,000!

New York, NY – Criticaly acclaimed novelist Mary Doria Russell has established a $15,000 matching fund for donations to Smile Train in memory of Doc Holliday.Novel, DOC, match donations for Smile Train

The subject of her novel, DOC, John Henry “Doc”  Holliday was born with a cleft palate, which was repaired by his uncle, Dr. John Stiles Holilday, in 1851. This was the first cleft palate surgery in North America. His devoted mother took it upon herself to teach him how to speak correctly and jump start his education on his way to becoming a dentist, and ultimately the legend that way know today.

In celebration of the release of her new novel through Random House, Mary Doria Russell has generously set up a matching gift fund for her readers to donate to Smile Train. Mary will match each the first $15,000 of donations made in Doc’s memory making it a total of $30,000: that’s 120 new smiles we can create!

Please make a donation in memory of Doc and help us provide surgeries to desperate children in over 75 countries. A small excerpt from this highly acclaimed novel is posted below and you can visit the official DOC website to read more and order your own copy.

He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness.

When he arrived in Dodge City in 1878, Dr. John Henry Holliday was a frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who wanted nothing grander than to practice his profession in a prosperous Kansas cow town. Hope – cruelest of the evils that escaped Pandora’s box – smiled on him gently all that summer. While he lived in Dodge, the quiet life he yearned for seemed to lie within his grasp.

At thirty, he would be famous for his part in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. A year later, he would become infamous when he rode at Wyatt Earp’s side to avenge the murder of Wyatt’s brother Morgan. The journalists of his day embellished slim fact with fat rumor and rank fiction; it was they who invented the iconic frontier gambler and gunman Doc Holliday. (Thin. Mustachioed. A cold and casual killer. Doomed, and always dressed in black, as though for his own funeral.) That unwanted notoriety added misery to John Henry’s final months, when illness and exile had made him a lonely and destitute alcoholic, dying by awful inches and living off charity in a Colorado hotel.

The wonder is how long and how well he fought that destiny.