As the world faces COVID-19, Operation Smile student volunteers rally their communities to support their local health-care workers and restaurants. This blog is a collection of highlights and anecdotes as lunches are delivered across nine states in the U.S., as well as Panama and Paraguay.
So far, students and supporters have provided more than 6,300 meals!
We’re bringing Operation Smile’s global spirit of service to our communities with our newest pilot program, Serving Smiles.
To show some love for both our health-care workers and restaurateurs, our student volunteers are rallying their neighbors to provide locally-prepared meals for staff members at hospitals in their hometowns — all while social distancing, wearing masks and taking every appropriate precaution as recommended by officials.
It’s a win-win-win: Local students supporting local restaurants supporting local hospital workers.
This initiative launched April 9, 2020, as Operation Smile student volunteers from Hampton Roads, Virginia, delivered nearly a hundred lunch meals to employees at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk and Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach.
“I want to step-up and lend a hand,” said high school volunteer Xander Zimmerman, who helped deliver lunches to DePaul Medical Center. “This is a way to show appreciation because every kind gesture matters.”
Student Programs wants to give a special shoutout to Dr. Dane Hoang as well as her friends and family. Not only is Dr. Dane a prolific medical volunteer for Operation Smile — she was even featured on Lay’s bags of chips during the #smilewithlays campaign! — but the pediatric dentist has been a driver of our Serving Smiles effort.
During the 2020 holiday season alone, Dr. Dane and her squad of do-gooders provided almost 2,000 meals to hospitals in New York City, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California.
What makes her effort even more special is how she’s rallied student volunteers to help fuel health care workers across the United States. For example, she teamed up with students in Orlando to (safely) deliver the meals to the hospital.
We can’t thank you enough, Dr. Dane and team!
Malibu High School delivered 60 meals for UCLA Hospital and 100 meals for Cedars-Sinai Hospital with food from Spruzzo’s Restaurant and Bar with money fundraised by their club!
Gabrielino High School, Westridge High School, and the University of Southern California clubs made a Serving Smiles delivery of 70 meals to Shriner’s For Children Medical Center and LAC+USC Medical Center with food from Pie’n Burger in Pasadena!
A special delivery of 50 meals were delivered to Children’s Hospital Orange County by students from Corona del Mar High School with food from Newport & Naples Rib Company!
60 Asian noodle and rice meals were delivered to the Jewish Senior Services Center in Bridgeport, CT by Joel Barlow High School!
Volunteers in Houston have been helping to deliver meals from Buca di Beppo and Carrabba’s Italian Grill to the COVID-19 unit at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. Dr. Daryl Dichoso had this to say about the deliveries: “‘Thank you so much! You don’t understand how much this helps the morale of the hospital. The food helps for sure, but the notion that people care about what we do is even more powerful.’”
A yummy Serving Smiles delivery was also made to Parkland Hospital in Dallas!
“I continue to be humbled and impressed by the community support our healthcare workers are receiving,” said the chief clinical officer of Parkland Hospital, Dr. Roberto de la Cruz. “Food is a way of connecting with people — it reminds us of family as well as provides nourishment for the body and soul. I am grateful to Operation Smile and Kids4Smiles for their efforts to keep these connections alive. Our health care workers are reminded of the community’s goodwill and support with every bite.”
Dr. Noel Santini added: “Parkland is extremely appreciative of the strong support our staff is receiving daily from our community, retailers, restaurants and nonprofit organizations. I am personally impressed and grateful for the collaboration between Operation Smile Student Programs and Kids4Smiles. The commitment and contribution of these youngsters, with the support of their parents, teachers and mentors, to providing meals and goodies for the healthcare workforce and first responders during this unprecedented time is priceless and extremely remarkable. Seeing and experiencing the effort and dedication of these young people coming together for a common goal is invigorating and refreshing. Thank you, Operation Smile and Kids4Smiles for everything you do!”
Alpharetta High School made two special deliveries to Emory Hospital at Johns Creek and to Northside Forsyth Hospital! The students served a total of 52 meals. Club President, Sanjna Velugoti, coordinated these meal deliveries with the restaurant Casa Nuova.
Our club at Chattahoochee High School delivered 65 total meals to WellStar North Fulton Hospital and Northside Hospital Duluth. The efforts were led by Club President Valerie Ponomarev and deliveries done by her, club members, and local restaurant Casa Nuova!
Casa Nuova and their nonprofit, Purple Pansies, also helped our efforts by donating snack bars and waters for hospital staff with every delivery!
A team of seventh- and eighth-grade students from Ignite Entrepreneurship Academy served over 100 health-care workers at Lone Peak Hospital and Timpanogos Hospital! Food was donated from Village Baker, Sweeto Burrito, Texas Roadhouse, and Culver’s. The students plan to make another delivery next week!
Students from the Academy of American Studies High School helped to organize the delivery of 11 pizzas to NYU Langone.
Great job to students from Pelham Memorial High School, who made a special delivery to New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville! The students are already preparing for their next delivery! tomorrow!
We’re proud to say that our club at Horace Mann School helped us deliver 75 yummy meals from Patrizia’s of Maspeth to the hospital staff at Mt. Sinai Elmhurst in Queens — that’s in addition to the 70 meals we sent from Sweet Green to Lenox Hill hospital in Manhattan.
While they couldn’t make the delivery in person, the club at Horace Mann made a sweet video that was delivered to the hospital workers along with the meals.
Student volunteers from Academy of the Holy Angels delivered 80 meals to health-care workers at Hackensack Meridian Hospital. The club raised their own funds so they could do their part in this nationwide campaign.
The club made a second delivery of 30 sandwiches to Hackensack Hospital!
Our students sent 70 sandwiches from Café Villa to fuel hospital staff at Morristown Medical Center. Out of respect for social distancing measures and out of an abundance of caution, only a few students could safely make the delivery — but everyone could chime in in this thank you video.
With the help of student volunteers Karilyn Kruklitis and Sammy Knoblauch, we delivered enough pizzas — 45! — to feed two ICU units and the cleaning crew at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown.
Our Regional Leadership Council of students has been busy, dropping by multiple hospitals across Hampton Roads and providing more than 600 lunches in just four days. Will Clifford — the catalyst of this effort and the grandson of Operation Smile’s co-founders — has talled 14 days of deliveries, counting 60 meals a day for almost 1,000 meals overall.
Led by club adviser Mirta Oramas and student Carmen Hall, the Gulliver Prep Operation Smile club delivered 50 meals from KLM Culinary LLC to the COVID-19 unit at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. Aside from being an officer of her club, Carmen is also a volunteer at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, making this delivery even more special.
Thanks to club president Lilly Nguyen and her club members, Operation Smile and Old Cuban Cafe provided lunches for 25 people each at two hospitals, Orlando Health Dr. Phillips Hospital and Advent Health Winter Park. Club members were able to go to the restaurant — which donated $200 toward the meals! — and helped package the lunches, putting a hand-drawn card to each container.
We reached out to Operation Smile medical volunteers who work in hospitals across Panama, and they told us what’s needed most is bottled water, coffee and tea. On April 23, we refueled health-care workers in three hospitals with our care packages filled with these break-room staples.
They may not have been able to deliver it themselves, but the students made this sweet video as a token of their appreciation.
The goal of our Serving Smiles effort is to support the three pillars that makes every community special: its restaurateurs, its health-care workers, and its young people. When Valentina Ghiglione, a Paraguayan representative of our elite leadership team CUEL, learned of this effort, she got her family involved, and a special kind of magic happened. Together with their family restaurant, @pizzeriapanciapiena, Operation Smile provided pizzas and goods for a local Asunción firehouse.
“For my family, Operation Smile is a place where patients’ lives are changed — but not only theirs, the volunteers’ lives, too,” Valentina told us. “… We have the possibility of giving our grain of sand through our restaurant. It all started with the support my family gave me for being volunteer in the organization, but then my dad, mom and sister were able to fall in love even more and have the desire to help at all times. Now more than ever we look for possibilities of collaborating, due to the situation that society is going through, and Operation Smile is one of the organizations that always gives us that place where you don’t need to expect anything in return.”
A Message from the Magees
“I cannot tell you how important you are. You’re the ones who have the connections, you’re the ones who can speak to your parents, you’re the ones who can speak to your friends, and we need you now more than ever before.”
In this special video message, Operation Smile Co-Founders Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee share how students like you can help us serve even more meals.