On April 25th, Operation Smile hosted its seventh annual Grin Gala for 250 guests at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Funds raised at this event provide life-changing surgeries to children with facial deformities.
“I love that our work on behalf of children is tangible and immediate,” said Olivia Machado Leonard, Director of Major Gifts for Operation Smile International. “There are many laudable causes that we all support for which we may never see the end result. But in less than 45 minutes and for as little as $240, Operation Smile can conduct a surgery that changes a child’s life, both for the better and forever.”
Guests, including E.R. actor and Smile Ambassador Sharif Atkins, enjoyed artisanal cocktails and creative canapés while bidding on silent auction items and listening to the smooth music of a jazz ensemble. Guests donated hundreds of “smiles”, which were $240 pledges to fund surgeries, during the dinner’s live auction.
After dinner, organizers surprised the event chairman, Clinton F. Wheeler III, with the Inaugural Clinton F. Wheeler Humanitarian Award, thanking him for his six years of dedicated service to Operation Smile as a volunteer, advocate, donor and leader. A close friend of many in the room, Mr. Wheeler received a rousing applause and a fair bit of ribbing as he made his way through the crowd in the stately Hall of Flags.
The pace of the event roared back into full throttle following dinner with the Free Spirit Band, a top D.C.-area dance band. The band kept a lively crowd on the dance floor until midnight, when the Chamber closed and guests filed out into the spring night.
The gala had its own tangible and immediate results as well, it raised over a half a million dollars for the global organization. Ms. Machado Leonard said: “SO MANY have said that it was the best Grin Gala to date!”
For some of the evening’s highlights, click through the gallery above!