As the world faces COVID-19, Operation Smile student volunteers rally their communities to support their local health-care workers and restaurants. This live blog is a collection of highlights and anecdotes as lunches are delivered across the U.S. as well as Panama and Paraguay. 

So far, students have provided about 2,000 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 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 16-year-old Xander Zimmerman, who helped deliver lunches to DePaul Medical Center. “This is a way to show appreciation because every kind gesture matters.”

New York City

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.

New Jersey

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. 


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.