On Thursday, May 2, Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity, hosted its eleventh annual Smile Event at Cipriani Wall Street. The event raised funds and awareness for children around the world suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. Operation Smile also celebrated their 30th year anniversary of giving more than 3.5 million health care evaluations and 200,000 surgeries to children born with facial deformities around the world.
Mena Suvari, supermodel Jessica Stam, “The Office” actress Kate Flannery ,and actor Louis Ozawa Changchien served as hosts. Yue-Sai Khan received the Universal Smiles Award. Pepsi Co was awarded the Corporate Humanitarian Award, which was accepted by President of PepsiCo Latin America Beverages Luis Montoya. There were performances by Aloe Blacc, Ashley Allen and Lee England Jr.
Smile Chair, Lydia Hearst, who is also a socialite and model, gave a touching speech on the importance of the charity, and how we all take for granted simple things like “being able to smile” daily. Lacey Tisch, one of the founding chairs, also delivered a tremendously poignant speech inspired by her own experience as a child with a cleft palate. Others in attendance included Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, Miss USA Nana Meriwether, Sabrina Soto, Jay Manuel and model Amy Lemons.
Every three minutes, it is estimated that a child is born with cleft, so the need for care is urgent. One in 10 of those children die before their first birthday. The children who do survive are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. Operation Smile is dedicated to training doctors in developing countries, so they are empowered to treat their own local communities.