Written by Oneca Hitchman from Affinia Shelburne
Based on media coverage, personal interest, and Affinia Hotel’s initial work with Operation Smile, I had a general idea of the organization’s effective efforts toward the healing of cleft lip, cleft palate, and other health-effecting facial deformities. Despite previous knowledge, I felt an intense sense of anew despondency upon viewing the Denihan-created, Operation Smile presentation, shown to all Affinia associates. Babies and young children malnourished, often ostracized, and in both physical and mental pain based on a condition they could not help, felt philosophically wrong. Upon learning that $240 pays for a single surgery, thereby rectifying the physical ailment and changing a life, I became excited to help and proud that Denihan chose to collectively support the organization’s important mission.
As such, when I learned that Joshua, a courageous little boy who underwent over 30 surgeries via the compassionate care of Operation Smile, would be staying at Affinia Shelburne, I was overjoyed! The Shelburne Team pulled out all the stops to make sure Joshua was comfortable by providing a hearty, happy welcome, communicating consistently, as well as assigning (and triple checking) a beautiful room for the family. We were able to gift Joshua with an Xbox, Games, beverages, a ‘Welcome Joshua’ cake and a personal note from our General Manager as a surprise upon arrival. He was thrilled! Though Joshua had a great time staying with us, the truth is, his joyful innocence, honorable experience, and rambunctious nature, added new life both to the Shelburne, and to me, personally.
It was an honor and privilege to attend Operation Smile’s 30th gala last week at Cipriani Wall Street. Though the ambience was beautiful and the food delicious, the environment was no match for the beautiful, shinning, children (all apart of the Operation Smile movement) who performed and enjoyed the evening’s festivities. Joshua was there! When I saw him he gave me a big hug and his grandma, Candee, said that her family was having a fantastic time at the Shelburne. Indeed, to me, the most memorable experience of the night was seeing Joshua on stage thanking all of those who helped make the charity possible. Grandma Candee spoke about how the charity forever changed her grandson’s life and Joshua presented Doctor Bill and Cathy McGee with a check for $1,000 that he raised by hosting several garage sales throughout the year. It was an amazing, tear-inducing, moment that I will never forget. In Joshua’s public moment of thanks, regarding an organization that helped to change his life forever, he reached out to ensure this possibility for other children all over the world. It is safe to say that this has been an incredible experience thus far and we have only just begun! In the early stages of our company’s initiative Joshua has taught me so much about the power of generosity in spirit. A truly amazing lesson from a very special little boy ?