Out of tragedy, smiles
In late June, River Creek Club in Lansdowne hosted the second annual Fore! Smiles Golf Tournament for Sadie’s Smile Foundation to raise money for children with cleft lip or palate. All proceeds from the golf tournament were pledged to Smile Train, an organization dedicated to repairing cleft lip or palate in developing countries.
Smile Train, which works with Sadie's Smile, just completed its one millionth “smile” in a hospital in Tanzania in April.
“We do amazing, life-changing work and we want people to know what [cleft] is and what it means to the kids and their families we are helping,” Erin Steiber, the senior director of strategic partnerships for Smile Train, said.
Sadie's Smile Foundation was born from tragedy for a local mother and her daughter, Sadie.
Near the turn of the decade, Sara Ablard and toddler Sadie were walking through Dulles Town Center when Sadie saw a banner advertising the cause of a young boy with a cleft lip or palate, and asked, “What’s wrong with that boy?”
Ablard tried to explain to her daughter as best she could about cleft lip or palate. After researching online they learned that one surgery – a chance to give a child the chance to smile – cost as little as $250.
Sadie told her mother she wanted to help; that Christmas they decided to ask for donations instead of presents and were able to raise $500.
“Many people, especially those in small villages, don’t realize that a cleft lip or palate is easily fixable. Smile Train is really good about educating low-income areas,” Ablard said.
Tragically in 2011, Sara Ablard lost her daughter, only 5 at the time, to a head injury after a roller skating incident.
But Sadie's legacy lives on through the foundation.
After Sadie died, Ablard said she felt compelled to continue her cause.
“It’s my goal to raise enough money in my lifetime to fund a child’s smile for every day that Sadie lived. That’s $250 per smile for 1,913 days for a total of $478,250,” Ablard said.
Today, the foundation has raised about $250,000 through community support and various fund raising events such as the Fore! Smiles Golf Tournament and Sadie’s 5k Race.
"I think the golf tournament is an amazing thing, Sara is doing a wonderful job. It is bringing awareness and I hope she keeps doing it for a while,” Steiber said.
The golf tournament attracted about 60 participants this year, including special guest golfer, Lorenzo Alexander, a linebacker for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, and notable athletes such as Pat Fischer, a famed Washington Redskin, and retired NFLer Antwaan Randle El.
Alexander, a Loudoun local, is also known for founding his ACES Foundation, which promotes youth engagement programs encouraging youth to be successful and give back to the community.
After a mutual friend reached out to him, Alexander said he thought Sadie’s Smile Foundation was a praiseworthy cause.
“What they do and how they impact children's lives is pretty inspiring,” Alexander said.
Ablard isn’t sure what she will do after her goal is reached, but she hopes to continue helping children around the world.