This past weekend, Matt and I traveled to New Orleans for the annual Professional Photographers of America conference. It’s always a great time to see those friends we only get to hang out with once a year, explore the huge trade show, and take classes from some of our industry greats. And since this year was in New Orleans, there was a fair amount of eating and drinking that added to the fun!
We have long been involved with PPA Charities, serving on the Board for years and fund raising for its chosen charity, Operation Smile, since 2005. So at each year’s conference it’s a huge thrill to see that check….the one that for 3 years running has totaled $100,000!…get handed to such a worthy organization.
Well, this year, we had the added excitement of meeting Dr. Bill Magee, the co-founder and CEO of Operation Smile. What he and his wife, Kathy, started 30 years ago in Philippines has not only grown into one of the world’s most recognizable charities, but is also one so close to our hearts. Our nephew was born with a cleft lip 12 years ago, and I had the opportunity to travel with OpSmile in 2007 to photograph it’s medical mission in Honduras. Both experiences changed us, and are the reasons why our business and family will continue to support OpSmile.
Dr. Magee is by far the most inspiring person I have ever met. He is funny, warm, personable, brilliant, and passionate. He is at once a plastic surgeon, a general surgeon, a dentist, and a father to 5 and grandfather to 13. He is the best public speaker I have ever heard. He is a humanitarian, and what he started has helped 160,000 children around the world lead healthier, happier lives. They have a smile, ultimately, from Dr. Magee. The fact that he chose to spend the weekend with us….a bunch of photographers who raise money in the thousands….rather than socialites or corporate types who raise money in the millions, floors me. And I will take what he spoke of in his speech to heart.
Dr. Magee would likely not approve of what I just wrote. He made a big point that there is not just ONE hero in any story. A child’s life is not changed just by the skills of one doctor, but by the combined efforts of the nurses, support staff, fundraisers, and local volunteers on each mission. Each is a hero. And through his words, I think I first started to really believe that by what WE are doing….raising what money that we can, photographing the children to give a face to the cause….we are heroes too. He also spoke of never knowing which everyday moments would change a life. This charity that has helped and changed so many, started with a small moment in he and his wife’s life. One that compelled them to travel across seas to help those in need.
He also made a point very clear: if you are doing something good to help others, it is not OK to just sweep it under the rug and never let others know of it. Gulp. Guilty. I guess we have felt a bit too high and mighty to tout the fact that our business (ultimately our amazing clients), has supported Operation Smile so heavily through the years. We set aside what we deem appropriate, keep out noses to the grind stone, and write a big check at the end of the year. But Dr. Magee pointed out that this does NOTHING to raise awareness or excitement for others to have the opportunity to do the same. We have not been vocal enough. OK, so here goes. Thanks to our wonderful clients, we were able to contribute another $6000 in 2011 for Operation Smile. That makes for a total donation since 2005 of over $40,000….which translates to HUNDREDS of children’s lives changed!
Please watch this amazing video that Dr. Magee played for us. Coldplay gave them the rights to use this song….just try NOT to sob! We are excited to do more (and let it be known what we are doing!) in 2012 for Operation Smile. How could we not?