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.





…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.

Auctioned 1932 Studebaker Raises $79,000 for Smile Train

Scottsdale, Arizona — Paul and Shirley Hill knew their 1932 Studebaker Dictator was special — they had restored and upgraded it multiple times since 1951, including a new Chevrolet Corvette Drive Train in 2010 — and they wanted to make it create even more smiles. After a 61 year relationship with the car, and 58 years of a happy marriage, the Hills decided to part ways with their dream car and donate the proceeds to Smile Train.

Yesterday, at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and broadcast on the Speed Network, the Studebaker was sold for $79,000, all of which is being donated to Smile Train, where it will provide hundreds of desperate children with new lives. Our deepest thanks the Hills for this remarkable and generous donation.

Paul and Shirley Hill Auctioned Their 1932 Studebaker Dictator for Smile Train

4th Annual Smile Train Softball Tournament a Great Success

St. Louis, Mo — Last August, teams from around St. Louis gathered at McNair Park, 20 miles outside of St. Louis, for blue skies, fun times, friendly competition, and to play their hearts out to give children in another part of the world new smiles.

Since 2008, Valari Quarando has organized the Annual Smile Train Charity Softball Tournament, and every year the event gains in popularity. A dedicated Smile Train supporter, Valari is no stranger to clefts: she was born with a cleft lip in 1979, “I was lucky enough to be born in a country where this birth defect can be fixed quite easily, so I wanted to help the children who aren’t as lucky.”

The last three tournaments raised more than $3,000 and the hopes were high to do even better this year. With an amazing turn out and the generosity of participants, volunteers, and local businesses, over $1,700 was raised that will go directly to Smile Train to provide free surgery and follow up care to desperate children.

My brother John Quarando and brother-in-law Brett Willbrand have organized a team to play in the tournament every year since it began. This year their team, Cobra Kai, won the tournament for the first time! I have never seen a team more excited to win. Not only do we get to raise money for new smiles for the little kids of Smile Train, but we get to put smiles on all of the players’ faces as well. I can’t wait till next year!

Thanks to Valari, the players, volunteers, sponsors, and everyone involved in the tournament for giving the kids in our programs something to smile about! Be sure to check out some of the photos from the event.

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Lawn Bowling for Smiles in Canada

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – August 21st marked the culmination of 4 months of fundraising and almost a year of planning by the Nutana Lawn Bowling Club as the Smile Train Lawnspiel kicked off in Smile Train Executive Director Priscilla Ma‘s hometown.

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Nutana Lawn Bowlers enjoying the Lawnspiel

Lawn bowling, or bowls, dates back to the 13th century and has filled the lives of its players with joy for so long that it’s only natural that it would be used to create smiles for desperate children that suffer from unrepaired clefts. Led by Freda Toffolo, Jack Wigham, Janelle Phillips, Karen Cranston, and Krista Ford, the Nutana LBC’s summer finale was a riveting success. In front of family, friends, and spectators, 14 teams of 3 competed throughout the day for Smile Train. Entry fees for the event, an auction sponsored by local businesses, and a generous matching donation capped off the summer’s fundraising for a total of over $13,000!

A retired Speech-Language Pathologist, Freda Toffolo knows firsthand the life changing effects of cleft surgery and follow up care. When she saw an advertisement for Smile Train last year, she knew that she had to do everything in her power to help children in developing countries whose families are too poor to afford cleft surgery. It didn’t take much convincing to get her fellow lawn bowlers to agree.

We launched the fundraiser in May because that is Speech and Hearing Month. My colleagues identified a mother with a daughter who had a repaired cleft lip and palate and the three of us were interviewed for an article. This was the catalyst for getting donations. After it appeared in the paper we received donations almost on a daily basis.”

– Freda Toffolo, Nutana LBC President

Saskatoon groups come together to suppport Smile Train

Theresa Ma (mother of Smile Train's Priscilla Ma) and LBC President Freda Toffolo

To help decrease the costs of the event, food was graciously prepared by the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Chinese Ladies Association and Charlie`s Seafood Market. Through the Chinese Ladies Association, Priscilla’s mother, Theresa Ma even got in on the action, providing over 200 handmade Chinese savory pastries. Beautiful skies, bright smiles, homemade food, and a fierce but friendly competition all came together to give desperate children free cleft lip and palate surgery and a second chance at a life.

Thanks to everyone who competed, sponsored, volunteered for and participated in this event for helping to make so many children smile.

4th Annual Denver Improv for Smile Train

Last week 7 improv comedy troupes gathered for five amazing shows in support of Smile Train. We are pleased to have the event’s organizer, Heather Clisby, as our first Smile Train Guest Blogger.

Denver, CO – If you’ve ever watched TV’s ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ or had an odd cousin that talked to himself, then you’re familiar with the spontaneous insanity of comedy improv, the fine (sometimes crude) art of Make Stuff Up and Hope It’ll Be Funny. And I speak for all comedy improv performers when I say: Honest to god, we can’t help it. Why? Because it feels like flying, minus TSA and barf bags.

The Denver WigsA while back, I approached my Denver-based comedy troupe, Rodents of Unusual Size, and said simply, “Let’s do a benefit show for Smile Train. We make people laugh here in Denver. Why not make them smile in other countries?” Since the first rule of improv is to say “Yes, and…” to everything, they had no choice in the matter. And just like that, an annual tradition was born.

What began as a singular effort in 2008 has grown into 7 troupes, performing 5 shows over 4 days. My ‘comedy husband’, Steve Loukas,  and I organized 50 performers, sound/light technicians and volunteers to translate comedy hijinks into cold, hard cash for the noble Smile Train mission. All shows are held at the wonderful Avenue Theater in downtown Denver, our cozy home base.

I was born with a facial deformity (not a cleft palate, a hemangioma) and well understand the sheer cruelty and physical discomfort that such a condition can render. Lucky for me, I was born in the United States to concerned parents and knowledgeable doctors who worked hard to correct my situation. But in remote villages in a developing nation, how is a parent to know about such a surgery? Or even think about raising the necessary funds for the procedure? Not all kids are as fortunate as I was but certainly, all are deserving of a second chance.

And this is what I explain at the beginning of every show: “So many problems in the world I cannot fix – world hunger, AIDS, war veterans – most too big to get my head around. But this! This is something I can fix. This life changing surgery costs $250 – boom. Done.”

When I tell people that, I see their eyes light up. Finally, a solution that costs so little and does so much good!

We kicked off Wednesday night (August 17) featuring the Rodents of Unusual Size and Intentionally Left Blank for some family-friendly entertainment. A line of empty Mason jars lined the front edge of the stage, each with a performer’s name taped to the front – the now infamous, “Jars of Pains.” (Later in the fall, I’ll fill them with homemade apple sauce or spaghetti sauce and give one to each performer.)

Improv Comedians Putting It On the Line to Provide Cleft SurgeryThe host encouraged the audience to put money in the jar of their favorite – or least favorite – comedian. The three performers with the most money in their jar play in the dreaded game of Mousetraps where the stage is covered in mousetraps and the players are blindfolded and spun for maximum disorientation. The bold remove their shoes; the meek wear socks even on their hands. Cringe-worthy? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. Lots of squealing goes on, always a good sign.

Inevitably, somebody tells somebody they are on fire and “You need to stop, drop, and roll!” In improv, there are no refusals, a player must say “Yes!” to everything so down they go onto the mousetraps. Yeeeow!

These jars are big money makers for us. I saw one woman put $40 in another jar just to make sure her daughter, Sarah, didn’t have to play this game. (Alas, Sarah had to play anyway and miraculously, survived.)

Thursday’s show was also family friendly — if your family is made up entirely of super raunchy comedians. Players from several local troupes joined to form ‘Gay v. Str8’ which was exactly what it sounds like. About 20 performers – half gay, half not – competed before judges to determine who had the most comic chops.

The last half of the show was done in long-form improv, where a theme is pre-decided. Enter, “The Housewives of Colfax,” Colfax being a street famous in Denver for being well stocked with seedy, gritty characters. Performers create scenarios using these characters and rotate in and out, creating story lines and resolutions. Hard to do and even harder when you have to be funny.

A Talking Crab for Smile TrainFriday night’s show featured Monkey’s Uncle and All of the Above, which produced many a gut-busting moment. It was their decision to turn the “Jars of Pain” into the “Jars of Pleasure” – encouraging people to donate to see their favorite performer in the popular rendition of “Historic Dance-O-Rama.” It’s hard to dance as the Berlin Wall, I must say.

The first show on Saturday night featured Out of the Basement, which included some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. After this show ended, one of the performers, Mark, whom I had only met at the Thursday night show, approached me with a giant wad of cash. “Here, Heather,” he said as he pressed it into my hand, “I gathered this from my family. It’s $175.” I hugged him, thanked him and hurried backstage, to prepare for the next show.

Moments later, I was preparing for the 8 p.m. show and suddenly, the enormity of his gesture hit me hard. I burst into tears, a bizarre delayed reaction that had my headliner troupe concerned. All that running around, planning, emailing, phone calling – and his incredible generosity brought the point of it all back in resounding clarity.

The closing show, starring those high-energy nutjobs, The Denver Wigs, was a blazing success. The house was full and never quiet. The Wigs are run like a very tight ship, captained by the founder and director, Steve Loukas. Steve’s attention to detail and his leadership inspire his troupe.

Best of all? They hand out pies. Not kidding. Blueberry, apple and pecan. Nearly every audience member gets one. (Note for next year: Don’t put the pie table in front of the video screen making it look like the Smile Train kids are trying to eat the pies. D-oh!) Plus, there’s a raffle drawing. Folks win t-shirts, posters, theater tickets and gift cards. And did I mention there are pies?

We are still counting the money from the show and donations are still coming in to our Smile Train page but thus far, we’ve raked in about $2,300 and hopefully it will reach $2500.  Considering the state of the economy and that 99.9% of all comedians are poor, this is a hard-won victory for us. And for the kids. See you in 2012!

1st Annual Michigan Adobo Cook Off for Smile Train

Grand Haven, MI –

Get your pots and pans ready and your stomachs growling.

The First Annual Michigan Adobo Cook Off for Smile Train is coming up in less than a month! Hosted by Matt and Luchi Nelson, all proceeds from the Adobo Cook Off will be donated to Smile Train to benefit children born with cleft lips and palates.

On August 27th, competitors will proudly showcase their culinary skills for the bragging rights that come with the title of Michigan’s Best Adobo chef. Lucky judges and attendees will be treated to amazing entries in both the classic style and modern creative twists to an old favorite.

Don’t know how to make the traditional Filipino dish? Check out the video below from Madeline Nelson and try your hand at a homemade delicacy:

While your Adobo is cooking, be sure to browse through these photos of lucky children who have been helped by Smile Train and remember that the proceeds of the Adobo Cook Off will be going to pay for free cleft surgery for others just like them.

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Smile Train Speech Therapy Summer Camp in Mexico

Mexico City – As many families and patients know, in many cases repairing a cleft palate is only the first step. Within a few months of cleft palate surgery, most patients demonstrate speech development progress, but some children require on-going speech therapy. If a palate is repaired before the child learns to talk, the need for speech therapy drastically decreases, however, the older the patient, the harder it is to change the speech after the surgery. The reason is that with a cleft palate, the child learns to speak differently attempting to make the sounds that he or she hears. When the palate is repaired after the child has learned to speak already, the child needs to relearn to say certain sounds that were affected by the cleft palate. Over the last few years, one of Smile Train’s goals has been to find a way to effectively and efficiently provide speech therapy to our patients that need it in order to lead normal lives. An innovative approach to speech therapy is being led by long time Smile Train partner Hospital General Dr Manuel Gea Gonzalez.

Traditionally, speech therapy is conducted in 45 minute sessions twice a week for months and even years. María del Carmen Pamplona has created a Speech Therapy Summer Day Camp for poor patients from in and around Mexico City who are unable to routinely visit speech therapists. Last year’s day camp served 66 patients 4 days a week for 3 weeks and saw improvements in their speech equivalent to 8-10 months of a regular speech pathology schedule. For these very poor children, they had the added bonus of a field trip to visit their favorite soccer stars and the local zoo – a treat they would never have been able to experience.

The results of the camp have extended into the classroom for the majority of the campers such as Ana Sofia. After she had her palate repaired, six-year old Ana started school, but because she was still having difficulty speaking properly, she had trouble making friends, learning, participating in class, and her self-esteem and life suffered. Because she lived too far away from any speech services that her parents would never have been able to afford, she moved in with her uncle and attended the day camp. In just 3 weeks, she was able to learn and play with other children who had the same difficulties and saw dramatic improvements in her speech. After the camp, her parents were given exercises for her to practice and her teacher sent the camp a letter explaining the difference in Ana’s schooling and life: she has grown assured in herself, always eager to suggest her ideas and raiser her hand for questions and has become one of the most popular kids in her class because of her friendly manor. This from a girl who a year before was embarrassed to go to school.

The Hospital General Dr Manuel Gea Gonzalez Speech Therapy Day Camp also serves as an intensive training workshop for speech pathologists. Last year’s camp further trained 47 speech pathologists who are all eager to take what they have learned to their own cities. This year’s camp starts up this July!

Be sure to check out the pictures from last year’s camp:

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