I arrived in Austin and was greeted by an old friend. After catching her up on our personal triumphs, pitfalls and miscellanea I told her about what I do. I told her that what I first did at Operation Smile was connect people with children who needed them. In Donor Relations at Operation Smile I did more than a customer service task, I helped inspire people to spread the word about the children they had seen on our television show or in a mail piece. I empowered them to become Smile advocates to be the voices of these children born with facial deformities that could not speak. I enlisted them in service to not only raise awareness but to be bold an raise funds and I was able to support them in doing so by making cool materials and guiding them through the way so they had very little to fear and very little investment yet were able to make such a huge impact.
I told my friend about the 8 year old boy Bonnie, on of our Donor Relations Specialists spoke to who was so inspired by our television show that he wrote a poem about Operation Smile for a school contest and then put on a school wide yard sale. That little 8 year old boy raised almost 10 thousand dollars! I am awed and amazed at the power of people hearts, the children we serves smiles and the dedication of our awesome Donor Relations Team-GO TEAM! (incidentally you can find out how good they are Monday-Friday 8:30 am - 5:30 pm EST at 888-677-6453)
O.K. so what does this have to do with SxSW SMILES? Well, after catching Jeanne (my friend) up on all of this over amazing lunch at the legendary Threadgill's -they actually asked if I wanted seconds on my chicken and dumplins-I told her about my new role and how now I am trying to do the same thing we do in Donor Relations online and in person at events. I explained that while in the past social networking tools like chat rooms were thought to divide people and keep them at home in a dark corner having "virtual relationships'. Now with Facebook and Twitter, these interactions are actually driving in-person meet-ups and beyond that they are inspiring ACTION.
So I guess you could say I'm in Austin for a little Smile Action! Our first order of business was to go see an old favorite singer songwriter named Catie Curtis. You may not know who she is but you have likely heard her voice in television, movies or commercials. She has the voice of an angel and the wit of fox. She sang a song inspired by her own kids called "Sing" about how when life gets hard you should just sing~through danger~thunder~dark times~sing. I thought, WOW switch "sing" to "smile" and it would be the perfect song to illustrate what Operation Smile does for children. Giving them safety where they felt fear and danger, giving them purpose and power where they felt helpless and unworthy. So I asked her to check out one of my favorite videos (www.youtube.com/createsmiles) and see if she gets inspired. She was excited and said she looked forward to it and would love to put something together. I can't wait to hear what she comes up with, I know it will pull at the heart strings, bring a tear to your eye but leave you with a smile!
After the show and a pitstop for my first Whataburger, we head back to my home away from home, check e-mails, Tweet an update, thank the awesome people taking the SMILE MONTH $240 Challenge (www.operationsmile.org/smile-month) including Lydia Hearst (yes that Lydia Hearst) and rest up for what promises to be an amazing day of spreading the word and gaining new knowledge and friends in the Interactive world!
SxSW HERE I COME!