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Our Year in Review: The Smile Project in 2022

I am settling into my favorite season: one of thresholds and reflections, countdowns and confetti. Though my notebook pages have been filling up with Smile Project ideas for 2023, we believe in the importance of looking back before we look forward. As such, here are our favorite memories from 2022. Thank you for being part of our community.

Let’s start with the expected. Every day (thus far) in 2022, we’ve continued to share a “Happiness is” post. As of December 29, that makes us 363 snippets of joy strong. And that brings our total since November 9, 2011 to over 4,000. That’s right, we celebrated “Day 4000” this year. While our work has shifted beyond Facebook statuses over the past eleven years, it’s always really special to celebrate a big milestone like that and to be reminded of where we started. We invite you to play with our interactive Happiness webpage where you can read and search by day number or date, every Happiness is dating back to 2011 (updated monthly on the 5th).

Just as writing a daily joy is a staple in our organization, so is publishing new writing on our blog. In fact, this is the 104th piece we’ve published this year! Year to date of posts published this year, our most read on the website were: Living Alone (March); There’s a Difference; Pay Attention (February); and The Song That Didn’t Belong to Us (January). And our top blog posts according to Instagram were: Nineteen (June); Happy 11th Birthday to The Smile Project (November); and What the F*** Are You Going to do About it? (June). We will never be able to articulate how grateful we are for every like, comment, post, or kind word that you share.

One of our biggest sources of pride this year comes from our school program: the SPARK clubs! SPARK stands for Strengthening Positivity and Reinforcing Kindness and this year we have seen so much energy and growth from our collegiate clubs at Westminster College (@westminster_sparkclub) and Slippery Rock University (@sruspark_club). If you’re looking for more positivity on your timelines, you have to check out what these students are doing. From ice cream fundraisers to pumpkin painting parties and special SPARKler events to entire Joy Day celebrations. To say I am proud of these students is the understatement of the year.

Also this year, we’ve welcomed new folks to our Ambassador Program. This program is really special to me as it pulls on our origin story and encourages people to write, share, or otherwise record their own “Happiness is.” On a personal note, watching this group grow and seeing others sharing their joys has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced and we’d love to invite you to prioritize your own joy in the coming year by practicing intentional gratitude with us.

For this year’s #BirthdayGiveback, we supported a group of queer artists in New York City working on a special music video project to honor theater performers who have persisted through tumultuous pandemic years in support of their art. We invite you to read more about the project and watch the video. And, we invite you to think about how you’ll use your birthday for good in the coming year.

I was honored to be featured this year in an article by CanvasRebel. And, I was thrilled to be able to return to in-person speaking events (though we’re also grateful for any virtual engagements!). Thank you to the community at RYLA 7280, a leadership camp in western Pennsylvania for allowing me to share the story of The Smile Project. If you’d like to learn more about bringing The Smile Project to your school or organization, we invite you to be in touch.

A little extra cherry on top: we’ve been running a store on The Smile Project website selling waterproof stickers for a couple years now. We’ve loved every photo you’ve sent us of stickers on your guitars, water bottles, and laptops. The idea that this community would place us in their lives in a semi-permanent way for all to see is such a humbling notion and something we don’t take for granted.

There is no way to articulate the level of support this community has shown us. Whether it was the first 100 days of Happiness is, before the statuses on one teenager’s social media account became a nonprofit organization; or the first merchandise sale of cotton t-shirts made by a high school graphic design class; whether it was an ambitious road trip in 2018; or a simple post asking everyone to share appreciation for their loved ones—you have showed up to support us. You have answered the call to kindness. You have been our foundation.

Thank you for loving us through the past 11+ years. We are so excited for what comes next and we know that with your support and love, anything is possible. Cheers to a new year of endless opportunities.

Have ideas for what you’d like to see from The Smile Project in 2023? We’d love to hear from you.

Love always,

Liz & The Smile Project team


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