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2020: A Smile Year in Review

I’ve started and restarted this blog at least a dozen times. Everything I have written comes out cliche or trite. This last post of the year has morphed from letter to reflection to list to a very poetic jumble of all the keys I could smash on the computer at the same time. And still I find myself at a loss for words.

Each year, I write a letter to myself on New Year’s Eve. I seal it in an envelope with a piece of blue painter’s tape and a warning to not open for 365 days. It’s an unparalleled excitement. And yet last night, on New Year’s Eve’s eve, I found myself thinking about that letter to the point of tears.

I didn’t have the information of 2020. I didn’t understand the magnitude of loss we would feel as a society. I couldn’t have imagined that a global pandemic would shut down the world as I knew it—that weddings would be postponed, work and school would shift online, jobs would be lost, and the family group text would become a rotating place for prayers for those fighting a relentless virus. Perhaps, nobody could have imagined.

And it’s with this that I sit… thinking about that sealed letter tucked away in my closet. Thinking about the hope it contains. And it is that that brings me to tears even as I type this now. What hope remains.

As promised, here is a review of The Smile Project… and the hope it brings.

Here are 20 of our favorite memories from 2020.

  1. Featured on the JoyFuel KindCast podcast

  2. Highlighted in a SunnySkyz article about Day 3000 of Happiness is

  3. Created a promotional video sharing the work of The Smile Project

  4. Spoke about The Smile Project at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills in Ingomar, PA

  5. Honored my grandfather’s 99th birthday by prepaying orders at Panera for strangers

  6. Began posting and sharing the twice weekly Smile Project blog posts on Instagram with branded graphics

  7. Crafted #26ActsofDigitalJoy Birthday Giveback event

  8. Recognized the Class of 2020 graduating SPARK Club seniors on social media

  9. Were written about in The Odyssey Online twice (Birthday article) (Ambassador article)

  10. Brought program manager, Kristen Parry, onto the team to launch the brand new Smile Project Ambassador Program

  11. Built a brand-new program, The Smile Project Ambassador Program to encourage community and support others in their joy journeys

  12. Cheered on 3 founding ambassadors as they hit their own “Happiness is” milestones (Ariana recording for 3 years; Matt recording for 2 years; and Alli recording for 1 year).

  13. Participated in a “Happy Talks” podcast conversation

  14. Represented The Smile Project at a student-led virtual conference held by our friends at the Leaders Readers Network

  15. Shared The Story of the Smile at a Rotary Club meeting in Zelienople, PA

  16. Launched The Smile Project Shop and a new line of waterproof stickers

  17. Supported SPARK Clubs as they brought Gratitude boxes to their schools, hosted virtual yoga sessions, and generally took care of their peers in a tumultuous year

  18. Celebrated NINE years of The Smile Project with a #SmileMemoryLane video campaign on social media

  19. Donated blood 6 times (and had several folks reach out to Smile Project HQ to learn more about donating blood)

  20. Wrote letters of encouragement around the holidays

In the past year, we have cried, laughed, loved, lost, grew, dreamed, and danced. Above all, we’ve hoped. We’ve dared to hold on to the possibility that tomorrow might be better. And we’ve taken on the responsibility of making that so, at least in our own respective corners of the world.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We love you, and we can’t wait to see what 2021 holds.


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