Two gilded seats will be waiting in heaven for the founders of Operation Smile, an international medical charity, which provides free surgeries to children in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. It is one of the oldest and largest volunteer-based organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care. The organization has helped treat over 220,000 children and young adults with over 5,000 medical volunteers. Dr. Bill Magee, Operation Smile Co-Founder and CEO with his wife Kathleen Magee, President and Co-Founder shared that, “it all began at Goldie Hawn’s house with Robin Williams there, and here we are 15 years later.”
The Operation Smile Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills honored actress Selma Blair, Henry Nguyen, Managing General Partner, IDG Ventures Vietnam and Managing Partner of Los Angeles Football Club and the Rodosky family, long time Operation Smile supporters.
Entertainment highlights included special performances by singer/songwriters Natasha Bedingfield, Eric Hutchinson and dancer Jim Nowakowski (So You Think You Can Dance). DJ Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys entertained guests at the after party. Kevin Beggs, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Jennifer and Henry Salke, co-chaired. Other interesting guests we spotted included girl next door Kate Upton, Busy Philipps in one of her poufy colorful skirts, tan Gavin Rossdale, Mark Wahlberg and his wife Rhea, and the Governor of Nebraska.
The 2015 Smile Gala evening raised more than $1.1 million to benefit Operation Smile. We were particularly moved by the volunteer dentists and surgeons who make a profound difference by going on faraway missions to take care of the children.
Following a pre-dinner cocktail reception, guests were ushered into the ballroom to the lively harmony of Musyca Children’s Choir. Operation Smile Ambassador, actress, author and TV personality and for the third year, the evening’s host, Brooke Burke-Charvet welcomed guests, providing a moving overview of the mission of Operation Smile, noting that the organization “has transformed lives across the globe via an operation that can happen in as few as 45 minutes and cost as little as $240. Their track record is unmatched.”
“Our organization is so fortunate to have such extraordinary and dedicated supporters who are making a difference in children’s lives,” said Operation Smile Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Bill Magee. “We are honored to celebrate these remarkable individuals for their generosity and support to enable our programs to provide exceptional surgical care for children around the world so that no child suffers from lack of access to safe surgery.”
The founders spoke of how most of the world has little access to surgery and how it is our moral and ethical responsibility to elevate safe surgical care to other countries, like Ghana, because we can immensely change the suffering of that country. Dr. Bill Magee divulged moving personal stories with the organization, such as Operation Smile’s beginnings in Vietnam in 1989 with 7 veterans along for the journey. 125 kids were operated on, and after that mission of kindness, slowly the Vietnam War MIA’s came back to the US. “They began to trust us since we were helping their kids. The power of a smile reconnected our two countries. A big part of the diplomatic relations that took place in 1995 was a result of the US connecting and making relationships stronger with Operation Smile.”
Love is a decision. It’s self-sacrifice. It’s making someone else’s problem your own. – Dr. Bill Magee
Henry Nguyen left Vietnam as a young child and went back to Vietnam after medical school. As the Chairman of Operation Smile in Vietnam for 25 years, he shared that 5,000 children are screened a year in Vietnam and 1,500 surgeries take place. Nguyen is a Managing General Partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam, a private equity firm focused on consumer, technology, media and telecom investments in Vietnam, Tonight he received the Operation Smile’s John Connor Humanitarian Award which honors those who have demonstrated concern and love for their fellow man through their actions and deeds.
“A meaningful life is compassion and service to the people around you.” – Henry Nguyen
Nguyen is also the Developmental Licensee for all McDonald’s restaurants in Vietnam as well as the Chairman and Publisher of Forbes in Vietnam. With a deep passion for sports, he established the Saigon Heat pro basketball team and is also the Managing Partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), the newest club in Major League Soccer. Nguyen is Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Operation Smile Vietnam and is a member of the Advisory Board of ASEAN Business Club, the regional business platform to support Southeast Asian economic integration. He currently serves on the Board of VC Corporation, Vega Technology Group, BHD Media and Goldsun FocusMedia.
Award-winning actress Selma Blair was presented the Universal Smile Award by photographer Brian Bowen Smith. Best known for her performances in pop culture classic films such as Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde, Blair has built an acclaimed and diverse career in Hollywood. She will portray Kris Jenner in FX’s highly anticipated series American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson. The actress turned fashionista has also worked with a roster of high-end designers and has appeared in numerous campaigns including Chanel, Miu-Miu and Marc Jacobs. Although she has had impressive acting and fashion careers, Blair credits motherhood as her most rewarding accomplishment. She has dedicated many of her efforts towards charities that benefit the betterment of children and their hopeful futures including Children Mending Hearts, Cure Batten, Stomp Out Bullying, Safe Kids USA, Fistula Foundation, No Kid Hungry, Fairy Gay Mother and STARS, among others.
The Rodosky family was presented the 2015 Founders Circle Award, which honors unique supporters who have made outstanding contributions as a family or group of committed individuals. Steve Rodosky is Managing Director, Pacific Investment Management Company, and Kim Rodosky is owner and co-founder of 503found, a California design showroom selling home furniture, décor, lighting, art and accessories located in Newport Beach. As parents of six children, the Rodoskys have helped underwrite several of Operation Smile’s Park City Celebrity Ski & Smile Challenge events held in Park City, Utah. Kim and their two oldest boys, Charlie and Jack, went to China on an Operation Smile medical mission. While the experience is always life changing, their trip had special significance since they were able to visit the country where their sister Annie was born. In August, Steve and their youngest son Matthew went on an Operation Smile medical mission to Mexico.
I judge my life by not how much money I have or how big my house is, but real wealth is how many people did you help in a day and make feel better. There is a ripple effect when you do good. -Steve Rodosky
Since it was founded in 1982, Operation Smile has developed expertise in mobilizing volunteer medical teams to conduct surgical missions in resource-poor environments while adhering to the highest standards of care and safety. Operation Smile helps to fill the gap in providing access to safe, well-timed surgeries by partnering with hospitals, governments and ministries of health, training local medical personnel, and donating much-needed supplies and equipment to surgical sites around the world. Founded and based in Virginia, Operation Smile has a presence in more than 60 countries and a global network of credentialed surgeons, pediatricians, doctors, nurses, and student volunteers.