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How 1 Silly Challenge Prompted the Best Year Ever

It’s almost my favorite holiday. Every year, I make a short list of goals. (Click here to see last years)!

One section from December 31st, 2014 urged me to focus on four things:

1. The Smile Project

2. Blog Posts

3. Motivation

4. Future

I’m happy to give you a progress report. It’s been a good year for The Smile Project. When I revamped the website in Spring of 2014, I added a blog feature and posted some old inspirational writings or columns I had penned for my school newspaper. Outside of that, it sat dormant. So when it was the dawn of 2015, I decided I had to make it a priority. That’s when this blog took flight.

I took out my planner and wrote “BLOG” on every Wednesday for the entire year and deemed it #WednesdayBlogDay. I would write a blog every Wednesday. Then, I got to thinking.

I presented to readers the “Hump Day Challenge,” essentially encouraging them to spend an hour or two once a week on something they’ve always wanted. I’d talked about starting this blog forever. Now I would actually do it.

52 Wednesdays. (plus extra blogs for Joy Week)! I had done it. This thing I had talked and thought and played with for so long suddenly became a habitual routine…simply because I took a little time from my Wednesday mornings to spin words into motivation.

But as for my #1 focus according to that list? Well, it was a wonderful year for The Smile Project and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank every single person who helped and supported this business as it grew throughout the year:

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak at two rotary leadership conferences (RYLA) over the past year, first at Westminster College and then at La Roche College.

The Smile Project was able to support my Relay for Life team, Group Hug, with a $100 donation to the American Cancer Society, one of the original charities for which The Smile Project fundraised.

The Smile Project hosted multiple shirt sales including the first online and first tank top shirt designs (you can still reserve a shirt and if enough people are interested they will automatically reorder. Check it out here) and a long-sleeved maroon shirt that quickly became the top seller of all time.

I finally got the infamous “smile” sign laminated. That was a great day. I ordered business cards and earned a lot of professionalism points there.

In November, just before Joy Week, I was able to speak at Slippery Rock University to the service committee of the University Programing Board. They were awesome.

Speaking of, Joy Week 2015 was a huge success. All 50 of the pre-ordered Joy Week shirts sold out within hours prompting another order to be placed a few weeks later. Blogs were posted daily and kindness was encouraged a little more. Year five of “Happiness is” posts began without a hitch.

Stickers! Stickers were the newest line of merchandise added to the collection. Available as rectangles and ovals and sold for only one dollar, The Smile Project stickers were ready to take the world by storm.

Perhaps one of the biggest projects I worked on was the creation of a Random Acts of Kindness club for high schools, youth groups, and colleges. SPARK stands for strengthening positivity and reinforcing kindness. These clubs are chapters of The Smile Project and they are built on the idea of it only taking a SPARK to start a fire. With the help of a talented graphic designer, I was able to create 15-page “bundles” for those interested in starting a charter within their community. Feel free to contact me for more information or to request a virtual packet of information.

Despite all of the fun opportunities and exciting projects, it was time to get serious. I spoke with multiple business owners and was put in touch with amazing professionals who really guided me on the next steps for growing The Smile Project. About a month and a half ago, I filed with the Pennsylvania State Government to have complete rights to do business as The Smile Project. Things were becoming official.

That being said, I have more exciting news. The Smile Project is about to jump an ocean. In two days, I will be sitting on a one-way flight to Europe for an internship that may turn into full-time employment down the road. I am thoroughly thrilled. And absolutely terrified. And everything in between.

There were times in this process of packing and plane tickets and currency exchange where I wondered if I was leaving The Smile Project just as things were really beginning to form. However, after careful consideration, I’ve decided that I am going where I need to be. I am about to partake in a wild and wonderful adventure, which by all accounts is fantastic. However, I am also about to meet so many new people.

I’m not leaving The Smile Project behind. I’m taking it with me…everywhere I go. Because The Smile Project has become a part of me that I will never be without.

I fully intend to keep up with #WednesdayBlogDay (mostly because it has a nice ring to it) although I’m sure that many of the posts will have a heavy focus on traveling and culture and new experiences. Stay tuned for that.

Anyway, I know this is a nontraditional blog that may almost act as a first “annual report” of sorts. I haven’t given you much inspiration or left you with any bold ideas.

I suppose the best I can do is thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You, dear reader, have no idea what it means to have support like this. The Smile Project would be nothing without you. Keep spreading the smile everywhere you go. Keep encouraging kindness and promoting joy. Keep seeing the little things that everyone else seems to glaze over. Keep supporting one another. We are all so purely unaware of the impact we have.

Find your focus in 2016. Work hard. Do good. I promise, you’ll accomplish more than you can imagine.

Signing out for the last time while in America,

Love always,


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