It was a night full of smiles at the Operation Smile gala Friday as celebrities from film, television and music gathered along with industry notables at the Beverly Wilshire to support Operation Smile’s global efforts to help improve the health and lives of children and young adults. The international children’s medical charity provides free surgical procedures for those born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.
This year’s gala honored Ken Corday, Executive Producer of “Days of our Lives, “Access Hollywood anchor, Billy Bush and the Sharon D. Lund Foundation.
Brooke Burke-Charvet hosted the event, which included a cocktail reception, followed by a sit down dinner, awards ceremony and a special performance by Judith Hill (“The Voice”).
“I’ve been an Ambassador for six years. I’ve been on a mission with them; I’ve watched the transformation – they’re total miracle workers,” said Burke-Charvet, who also hosted last year’s ceremony. “And they’re kids; it’s a smile, it’s something we take for granted. I do everything they ask me to do with love, and commitment, and passion. It’s an amazing organization.”
Fellow Operation Smile Ambassador Kate Walsh also praised the life-changing work done by the organization, which has a presence in more than 60 countries.
“Operation Smile is amazing. The charity is changing people’s lives. It literally saves babies lives, children’s lives, and it changes adults all around the world who are sometimes culturally shunned or ostracized in their communities, let alone have major health issues because of a cleft palate or lip and so this is incredible,” said Walsh, who was named the 2013 Universal Smile Award honoree for her dedicated involvement with Operation Smile. “It’s $240 and it changes somebody’s life. And even if you donate $5, it all contributes to an amazing cause.”
An amazing cause indeed as since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 220,000 free surgical procedures. The charity provides year-round medical treatment through its worldwide centers, and in order to build long-term sufficiency in poor environments, train doctors and local medical professionals in its partner countries empowering them with the skills needed to treat their local communities.
And their work overseas is only going to be enhanced as supporters discovered during the evening when gala co-chairs, President of NBC Entertainment, Jennifer Salke and her son Henry, announced Operation Smile’s newest project, their alliance with the students of Chapman University in Orange County. In 2015, Chapman will host the organization’s 25th International Student Leadership Conference, which offers students an overview of Operation Smile’s work around the world. Thousands of students in more than 900 schools internationally are currently raising an estimated $1 million annually for Operation Smile
The evening was a special one for the Salkes, who first became engaged with Operation Smile because of their personal connection to their mission.
“Henry was a born with a cleft lip 15 years ago, and we became interested in raising money for Operation Smile,” said Jennifer Salke. “He [Henry] started a fundraising page when he was about 10, and he raised about $50,000 which drew the attention of the Magees (Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Founders). They came and saw us and since then we’ve all become more than just fund-raisers with them, we’ve become really like family. We’d go anywhere with them. Two weeks ago they called and said, “Want to take a ride to Mexico City and visit the hospital for four days?” And me and the three kids jumped on a plane and went! It’s really something I think we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives. It’s something I’m really devoted to.”
Another devoted supporter at the gala was “Days of our Lives” star, Deidre Hall, who told me its seeing first-hand the impact of Operation Smile’s work that is what has been most rewarding for about her long-time involvement with the charity.
“I’ve been on a medical mission to Brazil; I took my eldest son and I’ve seen close up and personal how it changes lives and changes families,” said Hall, who is an Operation Smile Ambassador. “It’s unbelievable to see a mother bring in her little baby, that has changed her life, and hand her over to people that don’t even speak her language, and then just sit and wait. The greatest thing we get to do is when we bring them the baby after the recovery and see that baby; unbelievable moments!”
To learn how you can be involved in unbelievable moments in a child’s life with Operation Smile, visit www.operationsmile.org