Making Time For Sharing And Family This Holiday Season

By Kathy Magee, President and Co-Founder, Operation Smile, Inc.

The holidays are always a busy time of the year, but not because I’m shopping for gifts or preparing to spend time with family. I’m busy because another year is ending and a new one is beginning.

The past 37 years of caring for children with cleft conditions have flown by. The end of the year holds so many emotions. I know our teams around the world have done everything they can to help as many children as possible, but there are still thousands of kids who don’t want a toy or game as a gift. Children who want to go to school and be normal, speak and be understood. Children who want the gift of a smile.

Operation Smile Co-Founder Kathy Magee comforts 6 month old Phan Tuan An after the successful repair of his cleft lip.
Comforting Phan’s parents after his surgery in Vietnam this November.

That’s why this holiday season I’ve spent most of my time away from home, time well spent with my international family. First, I set off for our first-ever Hollywood Fight Night event in Los Angeles, an energetic evening with the goal of raising money to make our work possible.

Bill and Kathy Magee pose in a boxing ring with Hollywood Fight Night participants.
All the fighters who put in time and effort to raise money for Operation Smile.

The next morning, my husband Bill and I boarded a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to commemorate Operation Smile Vietnam and their 30 years of incredible work transforming children’s smiles. For their anniversary, they hosted a multi-site medical mission, the Color of Smiles Gala, two fundraising color runs, and a medical education conference with over 400 participants. After a few more meetings, we traveled to Seoul, South Korea, for another fundraising gala.

Vietnam 30th anniversary fun run participants get ready for take off at the starting line.
Getting ready to run at the Vietnam fun run 30th anniversary fundraiser.

Back in the US, we attended the Global Gift Gala in Miami, where long-time supporter Ana Navarro was celebrated for her work in support of our cause. Most recently we attended our first-ever student volunteer alumni networking event in New York. More than 30 volunteers attended and we put our heads together to think of big ways they can continue to support Operation Smile.

Some of the honored guests at the Global Gift Gala in Miami.
Some of the honored guests at the Global Gift Gala in Miami.

Now that I’m back home in Virginia, I’m reminded of the importance of spending time with family and friends during the holidays. Some of the most significant lessons that I’ve learned on this 37-year journey have involved my own children. All of whom play an active role in the organization after all these years.

Bill, Kathy and children at a medical mission in the Philippines.
My family together at a medical mission in the Philippines.

Bill and I always say, taking that first trip to the Philippines when we had five little children, was the best gift we have ever received. We just decided to do it, without planning, and exposed our children to this organization to teach them the values of giving back and lifting up the people around you.

Parents know it’s hard to ground your children, especially when they have everything they need. We tried to show them the fulfillment they could get by sharing what they have with others. The doors to our home were always open. Our children gave up their beds for our patients. It’s the same for our volunteers around the world, they stay in our home, we stay in theirs. Sharing is the core of our organization.

Everyone involved shared what they had, their passion and their drive. We invited anyone who wanted to help into our own family. Today, I feel the same way about our patients, volunteers, students and staff that I feel about my own children. It’s through this family that we’ve been able to reach so many kids and, in the future, we’ll be able to reach so many more.

The Magee’s children and grandchildren together celebrating Thanksgiving in 2019.
All of our children and grandchildren together celebrating Christmas in 2018.

I encourage you, during this holiday season, share what you have with the people around you. Invite them to be a part of your family. You will see the benefits of sharing; I know I have. From my family to yours, happy holidays.

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Operation Smile

Through our expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, we create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most. operationsmile.org