In 2010, when Shab Farzaneh learned that every three minutes a child is born with a cleft and that facial deformity could cause severe consequences in children’s lives, she and her husband, oral surgeon Kian Farzaneh decided to make helping these children their mission. Shab called a handful of friends, including Shirin Aryanpour whose husband is Dr. Reza Aryanpour, DDS, and got to work. Together with Operation Smile, these “Smile Angels” set goals to heal children one smile at a time by raising awareness and funds through events, empowering local communities to support children globally, and encouraging medical professionals to sign up for volunteer missions.
On September 14, 2013, Aryanpour, Farzeneh and the Smile Angels raised some $120,000 at their third event in two years, a gala held at the W Hotel in San Francisco. Actor Sharif Atkins spoke about his experience as a volunteer, local moms whose children had undergone cleft surgeries talked about their experiences, and Liam Mayclem served as the emcee and auctioneer. Importantly, 100 percent of the events’ proceeds benefit Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization that provides free cleft and lip palate surgeries to children whose families cannot afford it, and trains local doctors in developing countries so more children in some of the poorest areas in the world can be treated.
Scenes from the inaugural Operation Smile Gala in San Francisco: