In Houston, $240 can buy a decent dinner for two — and that’s not even including a pricey bottle of wine. But, that same amount can also literally and figuratively change the life of a child forever.
That was the overriding message of the recent Operation Smile Gala, which saw more than 300 high-profile locals pack the ballroom of the Royal Sonesta to celebrate the game-changing work of Operation Smile.
Upbeat, optimistic, and energetic, the fete honored prominent Houstonians Kent Schaffer and Shara Kuy, Keith and Shawntell McWilliams, and Dr. Daryl and Amy Dichoso for their charitable leadership in both Houston and around the globe through their long-time support of Operation Smile.
Since 1982, Operation Smile has spearheaded life-saving cleft surgeries and comprehensive care for children, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live lives of greater quality and confidence. In just last year, the organization has overseen 111 medical missions and cared for more than 15,000 patients who received surgery and dental care in 31 countries. Surgeries cost no more than a mere $240.
During a lively cocktail hour, guests combed through auction items from the Houston Astros, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany & Co., the latter of whom has been a corporate supporter of Operation Smile’s for more than ten years, according to the nonprofit.
Later, event chairs Sneha Merchant, Viet Hoang, and Duyen Huynh Nguyen welcomed Operation Smile’s co-founders, Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee. The couple shared poignant, dramatic moments in the charity’s nearly 40-year history.
ABC13 Houston’s Gina Gaston graced the stage as the evening’s emcee and previewed an emotional video of Nick and Sneha Merchant’s volunteer work in Guatemala just three months ago. The touching footage showed dramatic before and after images, further bringing the message home that a little can go a long way.
Schaffer, one of Houston’s most acclaimed attorneys and a noted problem solver, tells CultureMap that Operation Smile solves serious problems.
“Shara and I have traveled a lot over the last six or seven years and we’ve seen the plight of people with health problems and poverty,” says Schaffer.
“We’ve met lots of doctors along the way and the one thing we learned in talking with them is, you solve the problems you can solve. A small amount of money is enough to make a life-changing difference. That’s why we got involved with Operation Smile. With so little, you can accomplish so much.”
A lively — even comical — auction followed, where Dr. Dane Hoang and Smile committee member Hoang Pham passed out adorable teddy bears donated by the Lori family to eager guests who committed to financially support life-changing surgeries for children around the world.
Rejuvenated with a sense of optimism, service, and some carrying fluffy bears, guests left the soiree with — what else? — beaming smiles.
Notable guests included Reggie and Leigh Smith, Ajay and Dr. Sippi Khurana, Jeff and Rachel Bagwell, Angel Woolsey, Aly and Habiba Dhanani, Al and Stacey Lindseth, Rudy and Debbie Festari, Pritika Swarup, Khanh Phan and Dr. Giao Duong, Dr. Monica Patel, Chris and Salima Merchant, Danny and Iraida Brown, Arshad and Mona Ramji, Dr. Phuong and Paloma Nguyen, Lauren Smith, Anna Kaplan, and many more.