Our newly appointed Board Of Directors are nothing short of amazing!. Each one of them bring a unique set of skills and traits that will help the organization succeed its mission to put a smile on the face of those that have forgotten how to. Together, we will do many great things. I have known each and every member for many years and even some for more than 20 years. With our Board of Directors having such a diverse professional background that vary from musical composition and production, marketing, financing and even city counsel, there will be no obstacle we can't overcome. As the Founder & President of this wonderful and unique organization, I am very proud to be working along side these committed individuals. The Board of Directors for "Just For The Smiles" is not a force to be reckoned with. Our passion and dedication will bring a positive impact to the community and those in need of a smile.
On February 20th, Just For The Smiles and Off Shoot Comics teamed up to bring Off Shoot's "Anyone Can Be A Hero" event to the foster kids at Vista Del Mar. This time, we had a smaller amount of kids in order for Vista Del Mar to test out this pilot program that we hope they will adopt into their operations. Off Shoot Comics had four of their talented artists and writers and split the kids up in two groups to see how different each group was with their creativity and imagination. One thing that we did different this time is get more of the kids' reactions and their feelings about the program that we're bringing to them. Just For The Smiles and Off Shoot Comics wants to make sure that this program is having an everlasting impact on these kids whose lives have been anything but a fairy tale.
Here is one quote from one of the girls at the event. Her name is "Jazzy" and she has been in the foster care system for over three years and just recently celebrated her 15th birthday. She informed us that her main escape from reality is through her love and passion for animation and drawing. This is what she had to say about the "Anyone Can Be A Hero" program:
"My parents never gave me stuff to draw or write anything that was creative. With your event, I was able to really explore my imagination to a point I haven’t thought of before. The best part was having the artists and volunteers encourage me and tell me how amazing my drawings were. They never let me give up and they never let me think that I wasn’t good enough. These are the words I’ve been wanting to be told to me my entire life: ‘You are so incredibly talented and amazing, don’t ever let anybody tell you different’ and every single one of them told me that. For the first, in a long time, I shed a tear of happiness and not for sadness or pain. I can’t wait for them to come back so I could continue my story. “
It's reactions like this that make all the hard work we put into this program all worth it.
The first set of professional photos and video couldn't have been created if it wasn't for the passionate and talented team of A & I Expressions. A & I offers highly specialized packages unique to each client and their versatile team is able to produce photos, videos, and audio media for anything from weddings all the way to promotional needs for schools and companies. However, their team, is truly something special. A & I is made up of a talented crew of cinematographers, photographers, and editors who simply cannot wait to capture someone's special day. Their motto, "Wherever you are, we will make your vision a reality". From what I can tell you, they certainly did just that. Our video that captured Just For The Smiles and Off Shoot Comics' event "Anyone Can Be A Hero", A & I certainly shot a set of photos that really portrayed the raw talent that the kids of Maryvale had. But for their grande finale', through their editing and cinematography skills they created a video that many say "shows the entire picture of what this program does for people".
The weeks prior to the event, their staff would contact Just For The Smiles to get a projected layout of the event to ensure that they would be able to get the perfect angle for their photos and video. I would highly recommend A & I Expressions for ANY event! I've never worked with a more well prepared and courteous group of professional photographers and cinematographers.
I could honestly say that without the artists donating their time at the "Anyone Can Be A Hero" event at Maryvale, the event would not have had the success it did. These incredibly talented and generous artists gave their time and skills to the girls of Maryvale and throughout the event it most certainly showed by seeing the joy on the girls' faces. I would like to personally thank Ashton Elledge, Johnny Flores, Lisa and Seth Bryant, Jennifer Sese and Joanne Kwan. Without all of you, our event would not have been the same. You all brought your own unique style to the program and many of the kids were able to learn new techniques because of it. Your passion for the art was palpable and some of the kids told me throughout the event how appreciative they were of each and every one of you. This unique program from Just For The Smiles and Off Shoot comics has never been done before and the core of this program is its artists. Again, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and I speak on behalf of Maryvale and its kids when I say that each of them will be very excited to see you again to continue their imaginative and creatives stories.
On January 9, 2016 Just For The Smiles had its first event at Maryvale. We collaborated with OffShoot Comics to bring the residents of the foster care a unique opportunity to explore their imaginations and use their creativity to develop their ideal superheroes. As the week began, we were informed that their were about 20 girls that wanted to participate in the event, but in the end we had over 30 girls attend. We had numerous stations set up where each one would have a comic book artist there to assist these girls with getting their stories down on paper. We had numerous volunteers and artists from from Just For The Smiles and Off Shoot Comics in attendance and throughout the 3 1/2 hour event, they were able to touch the lives of these 30 wonderfully talented girls.
During the event, every single child was happy to be there and were coming up with new ways to explore their imaginations. With the help of the artists and volunteers, some of these kids were able to do something that they've never done before; use their life experiences and implement their ideas into a story to teach others how to overcome difficult times and escape their realities. A few of these girls even presented their creations in front of everybody and as they were talking, some of the staff of Maryvale were becoming emotional seeing their girls overcome their fears of speaking in front of others.
Throughout the program over 20 girls came up to me, David Clarke (Co-Owner of OffShoot Comics) and our volunteers to express their feelings about our event and asked us to come back as quickly as possible. These girls want to continue telling their story and they can rest assure that we will be back again. Speaking with the activities coordinator, Rose White, we will be aiming to return in March of this year.
We were able to see all 30 girls smiling throughout the whole event and while most of these children have had a difficult life so far, we were able to shed a little bit of light into their darkness and make their day brighter.
Just For The Smiles wants to give a huge thank you to Justin Wolff and the wonderful staff at Yoobi for their generous donation of school supplies to give to the kids at "Anyone Can Be A Hero" event at Maryvale. The concept of Yoobi is simple; for every Yoobi item purchased, a Yoobi item will be donated to a classroom in need. They were born to make colorful and vibrant tools that spark learning and creativity and with the kids at Maryvale, this is exactly what they need. Unfortunately today, many kids in the U.S. don't have access to basic school supplies, unless teachers pay for them out of their own pocket. The team at Yoobi doesn't think that's right, so through their partnership with Starlight Children's Foundation in 2015, over 200 hospital school programs all across the U.S. were given the supplies they need to learn and be creative. These days all of their donations go through their national give partner, The Kids in Need Foundation, where they've provided enough free sets of school supplies to support over 1.2 million kids in the United States. Help them reach their goal to one day provide free school supplies to all classrooms in need, right here in the U.S by going to www.yoobi.com
It's here! Just For The Smiles is launching its website and showing the world what bringing a smile to somebody's face can really do for them. I cannot begin to express how excited I am to show the world that giving somebody an opportunity to smile and be happy again is one of the greatest gifts you can give somebody. Unfortunately in today's society, not everybody is as fortunate as others and sometimes their darkness can overpower their ability to smile and be happy. That's where we come in; we want to show people that there is always an opportunity to laugh and be happy.
This has been a passion of mine for several years and as a former stand-up comedian, I know the the true power of what laughing and smiling can do for a person's moral, spirit and even their health.
While I am able to bring numerous programs to people, I cannot do it alone. This is a group effort and together we can make the world a better place one smile at a time.