Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Out of Trial Came A Determination to Help Others

She didn't feel sorry for herself, she saw the need and had a desire to help those perfectly imperfect children and families. She acted on her desire and this is the continued story of how Smile Fest was born...
"As a result of my journey as a mom of a child born with a cleft. I saw a need in New
Mexico for an organization whose primary purpose was to provide these children and
their families with the support and companionship needed to help them cope with
feeding difficulties, surgeries, and self esteem issues and to help them build lifelong
friendships with other children who have faced similar challenges. It is important to me
that each of these children and their families know that they are special and that their
smile has a story to tell.
Smile Fest group shot

Out of this vision an organization called SmileFest was created.
 I can honestly say that the Lord placed this on my heart. Many times I pushed it away, thinking this was way to big for me or more than I wanted to do. But the Lord is funny sometimes and needless to say very persistent when something is meant to be. Finally one day (out of the blue) I said to myself, why not? After much prayer and family discussions I decided that I would organized a event that one day out of the year the New Mexico kids affected by a cleft and their families could come together and have a 
day of pure fun - no medical purpose involved what so ever.
Loved all the candid shots I was able to get like this one. 

It would be an opportunity for the kids to see other children affected by a cleft and for the families to discuss theirs experiences. I would describe myself as one of those people who goes “all in”. So once
I made up my mind I was determined for this “event” or should I say “calling” to be a
success. I started out by merging in with the New Mexico Medical Foundation Cleft
Palate Fund because they were already non-profit and had all the tax information

Then I wrote a letter about SmileFest and my vision, sent it out to everyone I
knew and asked for donations of any kind. I just short of begged every body I knew. I
did a lot of research into fundraising and got our first big fundraising opportunity set up
for just one month later. Cleaning the football stadium was not my family and friends top
category of fun ways to help out but nevertheless through their amazing love and
support I had about 40 family members and friends there that first night to bare the cold
and help clean. After all, it was going to a great cause and was for a very persistent
person (thats me). I then arranged for bake sales, silent auctions and again just short of
begging for individual donations. The biggest blessing came one day when I received a
phone call from a friend who knew of a amazing woman who was interested in making a
large donation in memory of her late husband who was a dentist. I’d like to extend a
special thanks to Mrs. Irene Navarre for her amazingly generous donation in memory of
her husband Dr. Harry Navarre and in honor of Dr. John Pederson. It is because of her
selfless gift that year that helped jumpstart SmileFest and make the 1st annual event a
grand success.
The 1st annual SmileFest took place on August 20th 2011 at the Albuquerque BioPark
Aquarium and Main Plaza. This free event allowed cleft kids and families to enjoy
dinner, entertainment and the aquarium all to ourselves. It’s funny how persistence,
determination, word of mouth and most of all faith works. I believe that this 1st Annual
SmileFest opened the eyes to many of our cleft families who were affected the way my

Krista's son watching a magic show at Smile Fest

family was and also to those looking in. I continued to schedule dates to clean the
football stadium and pit and bake sales to raise money to support annual events for
“Every Smile Has A Story To Tell” By: Krista Sullivan these kids and their families. I was even asked to speak at Albuquerque Day 2012 for a dental hygienist convention (this showed me that God has a sense of humor). During the winter of 2012 I looked back on my experience of having Cody, his surgeries and hospital stays and decided that Smile Fest needed to do more. I thought how great it 
would be if families didn't have to worry about a meal for that first night in the hospital 
post surgery. I called every pizza joint in the Albuquerque area and told my story and my
desire for these other families who are struggling the way I knew my family did. I
thought how simple a pizza meal would be but what a huge impact it would have.
Thankfully Pizza 9 not only saw my drive and passion but also shared in it. So in
February of 2012 Smile Fest and pizza 9 teamed up and now provide a meal for cleft
families for their first night in the hospital, post surgeries. These families can now focus
on the demands and needs of their child who have a whole new way of eating and are
in pain and not have to worry about leaving their side.

 I just loved all the face painting! My SIL Keri (on the right & below) came and donated her time and talents to helping out. There were lot's of volunteers manning the other stations too.

                Krista got dunked by at least 5 people on purpose! Her son Cody and Sister dunking her hehe!

 The 2nd Annual Smile Fest “Smiles Under The Big Top” was a circus theme and
successfully took place on Saturday August 18th 2012 at the Balloon Fiesta Park. The
fields were full of fun activities and food including jumpers, a rock wall, the opportunity
to dunk their surgeon in the dunk tank, magician, games, cotton candy, snow cones and
the list goes on and on. The 3rd Annual Smile Fest “Smiles With Family Fun” is already
in the works and is scheduled for Saturday July 27th at Hinkle Family Fun Center.
I can honestly say that if you believe in yourself, seek guidance from the Lord and try
your best, success in whatever has been place on your heart is just a door waiting to be

I hope you have enjoyed this posts and been inspired to either support good causes like this or start one of your own.


  1. This is so beautiful...the cause and the pictures of those sweet kiddos! I am always in awe of people who really see a need and can go all out to put a smile on someone else's face. And the meal for families post-op? So brilliant and sweet. Count me inspired (c:


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