18 Reynolds St.
East Norwalk, CT
Dedicated to building bright futures for impoverished children, their families, and their communities.
My weeks on the Reservation will forever be an unforgettable experience. I gained valuable knowledge of Lakota history by really connecting with the people on the Rez. I realized that there is nothing more authentic than learning from those who were actually a part of the continuous oppression…and the best part is that we were able to learn through service and community building.
In the natural world, scientists talk about the phenomenon of the ‘butterfly effect’ - the idea that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. Simply Smiles has discovered an equally powerful corollary in the social world - the ‘smile effect’. My work with them allowed me to see all that can grow from that powerful and universally-welcoming upward curving of the mouth.
Travel how far? It costs how much? I said that too. But after bringing a group of teens 1,700 miles to the Reservation, I am planning to do it again. It’s that good. For almost 20 years, I have led youth group service trips, and, simply put, Simply Smiles is the best I’ve seen. It’s an exceptionally well run organization. Our week was perspective-altering, heart-expanding, challenging, and fun. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work as a guest among such extraordinary people.
This past April, I was able to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico with a group of local teenagers from Silver Lake Conference Center. On this mission trip, I learned about the beauty of friendship and the ability that each and every one of us has to make a difference in this world. I was inspired and truly touched by the experience. I created relationships with the children from a local orphanage, Casa Hogar; with locals who lived in the city dump; and our neighbors in the community surrounding the Simply Smiles Center of Operations. I am so grateful for the week I spent in Oaxaca, Mexico, because it was the best week of my life.
Before we left for the Cheyenne River Reservation, my friend Michelle and I spent days trying to imagine what the trip was actually going to entail. Truthfully, no picture, website, testimonial, video, or presentation will accurately portray the beauty of the Reservation. Trust me, I spent hours on the Simply Smiles website trying to figure it out. Only once you arrive there will you be able to feel the purposefulness of this trip.
My daughter really, truly had a life-changing experience and came back more grounded, happy, focused, and moved. The trip opened her eyes to so many things, including the realization of what great and important things she is capable of… The staff made it so comfortable for me, knowing and feeling in my heart that she was in a safe and nurturing place with all of you — it was a real gift.
I felt so honored to be welcomed into the lives and customs of the Lakota families during my week’s stay on the reservation. The experience opened my eyes to the challenges of living on the reservation, but also to the extreme spirit and gratitude of the people. I was completely impressed with Simply Smiles’ holistic approach to working with the community and treating each individual with dignity and respect. It is an organization I am proud to represent.