In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, I wanted to share two stories of young women who are going above and beyond to raise money for the world’s largest cleft charity, Smile Train, and create smiles all across the world. Below please find more information about Ella Pastorelli (10 years old) and Sonali Ranaweera (18 years old).
Ella Pastorelli was born with a cleft lip and received cleft lip surgery when she was just four months old. Growing up, Ella became aware of how fortunate she was to receive surgery, and she learned from her parents that there were still millions of children around the world who were unable to afford the simple surgery. Ella decided she wanted to help.
Since that time, the Pastorelli family has held an annual Smile Train fundraising event called Ella’s Lemonade Stand around Ella’s birthday. This annual event has raised enough funds over the years to provide 580+ cleft surgeries.
This past year marked Ella’s 10th birthday, as well as the 10th year of her annual fundraiser. Ella and her family wanted to do something special. They decided to forego the lemonade stand in favor of holding a gala at the historic Long Island estate, Oheka Castle. By the end of the night, the gala raised an incredible 372 Smiles, pushing their grand total as a family to 952 smiles.
Ella’s mom says: “I don’t want to make her do it on her birthday if she doesn’t want to. But she wants to. She loves it.”
When Sonali Ranaweera was 12 years old, her parents gave her $100 to invest with the stipulation that it had to positively affect someone’s life.
While researching how to make the biggest impact with her money, Sonali found Smile Train’s website and learned about the millions of children who are needlessly suffering from untreated clefts in the developing world.
Sonali decided that she would donate her $100 to Smile Train to help a child smile for the first time.
Soon after Sonali’s initial donation, her sixth-grade science teacher informed her that she could earn money by recycling cans and bottles. Instead of dreaming of items she could buy for herself, Sonali became determined to raise an additional $150 for Smile Train — this would bring her fundraising total to $250, an amount that could provide a free cleft surgery. By her next birthday, Sonali met her goal and donated her first full smile.
Since then, Sonali has kept recycling and has even started a “Recycling For Smiles” club at her school. To date, Sonali has helped provide new smiles to 66 children.
Sonali says: “I donate 100% of the money I make from recycling cans and bottles. I am glad to do this because I love putting smiles on people’s faces. Making money from recycling and donating the money to someone else who really needs is a great thing.”
Smile Train’s Vision
Smile Train provides free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in developing countries. Through training local doctors and empowering partner hospitals around the world, we advance a sustainable solution and scalable model to treat clefts, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, and speak over time.
Find me at: https://www.smiletrain.org/