Chris Szydlo Power Of A Smile

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Former cleft patient and Smile Train company matching gift donor, Chris Szydlo, shares the reasons why he donates to Smile Train through his employer’s matching gift program.

What first inspired you to support Smile Train?
I was able to have three surgeries to correct my cleft lip because of my family’s healthcare plan—I know that others are not that fortunate. A new smile can restore the confidence of children ostracized for something completely out of their control. By giving them the ability to regain their pride and confidence, I know that we are making an immeasurable impact on them as individuals, their families and communities.

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with a cleft what would it be?
Stay positive and be proud of who you are. What makes you different can also be your greatest strength.

Why should others be inspired to donate to Smile Train?
Who doesn’t want to help someone smile? We spend money on presents, food, comedy shows, and an endless amount of other short-term means to make us smile. An investment toward a cleft surgery, through Smile Train, creates a smile for life!

What makes you smile?
Being able to make a positive impact in other people’s lives.

If you’re interested in your company matching your gift to Smile Train please visit smiletrain.org/donate/matching-gift.html

Nina Bolhuis Power Of A Smile

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Smile Train supporter and former cleft patient, Nina Bolhuis, talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What inspired you to support Smile Train?
I think that more people need to be aware that cleft lip and palate is often a very serious health issue—especially for children with clefts who can’t afford a surgery. I recently found Smile Train on Instagram and I was amazed by all of the smiling children Smile Train has reached.

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?
Be self-confident. Once I learned to embrace myself all of the shame went away. You may not look like everyone else but you’re beautiful and strong. Embrace your imperfections, they will always be there, and that makes you, you.

What did being born with a cleft teach you about life?
It taught me to stand up for myself. When I was younger, I ignored bullying by pretending that it didn’t bother me but now I’ve learned to confront bullying by openly talking about my cleft. Once people know your story, they will be less likely to try to hurt you.

Nina 300.jpgWhat makes you smile?
I always say, “Don’t search for happiness, find it.” I think that some people overthink happiness and often miss all of the happy things all around. A child helped by Smile Train makes me happy. My family and friends make me happy. Music and dancing make me happy.


Peggy Kamphausen: “I Uphold My Parents’ Legacy by Donating To Smile Train”

Smile Train supporter Peggy Kamphausen recently shared a heartwarming story of how her now late mother, at 94 years old, wanted to get a job to help a special Smile Train patient. Below is the story in Peggy’s own words.

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I took care of my parents when they were 94 years old. While my mother’s mind wasn’t always clear, her beautiful heart continued to feel. She saw a magazine ad for Smile Train with pictures of children before their clefts were repaired. She managed to tell me she wanted to get a job so she could afford to help the cleft children. With tears in her eyes, she pointed to the picture of the most severely affected little boy, “Him…I have to help him!” she said.

My beautiful mom and dad have passed away now, but every Christmas I honor her request. In my adult children’s Christmas stockings, I place a note that $250 has been donated in their Grandma and Grandpa’s memory to help a child. It is our special Christmas tradition.

There is peace and warmth in a smile. To me the Power Of A Smile is a universal language that instantly connects one heart to another. God bless everyone at Smile Train for the amazing work that they do.  And for helping me to fulfill my mother’s longing to help.

New Smile, New Life in America: Poppy’s Story

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Several months ago Smile Train supporter, Kristina Lu, adopted her daughter, Poppy, from China. Poppy was born with a cleft palate, but thanks to Smile Train was able to receive free surgery. In her own words Kristina shares her story.

My husband read about Smile Train from the chapter in FreakonomicsTM soon after the book came out.  We liked the way they ran their charity and we became donors for several years. We liked how Smile Train helps teach local doctors how to repair clefts instead of just flying in, doing some surgeries, and then heading home.  It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” philosophy.

In 2013, we decided to add a third child to our family via adoption from China. We decided to adopt from China because my husband is an American of Chinese ethnicity.  We thought that a child adopted from China would blend in well with our biracial family. We also knew we wanted to adopt a special needs child.  Although we were open to different types of special needs, we were most comfortable with adopting a child with cleft lip/palate – some of our comfort coming from knowing about Smile Train and your mission.

We were matched by our adoption agency with our daughter Poppy, who lived in Pingliang, Gansu, China.  After we came home with Poppy in June 2014, Smile Train was extremely helpful in providing us with the medical records that they had on her.

Poppy is doing really well now!  She’s been home 6 months and it’s as if she’s always been a part of our family.  She is best friends with her older sister and she adores her older brother.  She’s loving gymnastics class and she enjoys singing and dancing at home.  She loves playing with her (and her siblings’) Legos. She was very excited to dress up as Princess Anna from Frozen for Halloween this year.  She tells everyone that will listen that she was Anna.

In the age of Facebook and social media, we were able to find Poppy’s connection with Smile Train and Love Without Boundaries.  We were also able to connect with the parents of one of Poppy’s best friends in the orphanage (who also had her cleft surgery through Smile Train in Kunming at the same time) through Facebook.  Her friend was adopted by a family in St. Louis.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited my family in Illinois and we were able to make a side-trip to St. Louis to have dinner with her friend and her family.  At first, they were a little unsure of each other, then they took off like no time had passed since they had been together in Pingliang 6 months earlier.

We found it very touching to see that an organization that we learned about more than a decade ago has directly benefitted our daughter.  Thank you Smile Train for helping Poppy and all the children that you affect.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

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.