Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award Nominee - A Reason to Smile

Utah Supplier Helps World's Needy Children Receive Life-Changing Operations

Handstands PromoThis Utah supplier helps the world’s needy children receive life-changing operations.

When Don Watkins, co-founder of Utah-based supplier firm HandStands (asi/59525), met Dr. William Magee through a mutual friend, he knew he had a chance to make a significant difference in many people’s lives. Dr. Magee, a plastic and craniofacial surgeon, is the co-founder of Operation Smile, an international medical charity first established in 1982. Their mission from the beginning has been to bring together health-care professionals, volunteers and donors all over the world in order to help children receive operations for cleft lips and cleft palates, free of charge. The organization also offers post-operation support and therapy for children in low- and middle-income areas.

Cleft lips and cleft palates are common facial deformities: according to the organization, a child is born with one every three minutes, and the corrective surgery is relatively simple and can take as few as 45 minutes. But those children without adequate financial resources often don’t receive it. If not corrected, the condition often leads to difficulty in eating, breathing and hearing, and children who don’t receive corrective surgery are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays.

In the 20 years since Watkins and Magee met, HandStands has made numerous financial donations to Operation Smile, enough for more than 10,000 operations. Watkins has also been a member of the Operation Smile Board of Directors, and continues to promote the organization at both the state and national levels.

“Our business in promotional products is about companies building impressions,” says Conie Mangum, vice president of promotional sales at HandStands. “So we understand the importance of first impressions. Operation Smile has built a network of over 5,400 medical volunteers all over the world who have provided more than 3.8 million health-care evaluations and performed more than 200,000 free surgeries since 1982. However, many children are still waiting, so we donate to Operation Smile to help even more kids receive the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life filled with hope.”

Donating to Operation Smile has truly become an integral part of the company culture at HandStands, which requests contributions from both employees and customers. Recently, the company tied in donations with meeting its sales goals; each time a monthly sales goal was met, HandStands agreed to make a gift to the organization.

“Everyone, from sales reps to the customer service department to production employees, pulled together to hit of the 11 of the 12 monthly sales goals for that year, and we donated funds for 11 life-changing surgeries,” says Mangum. “We held a celebratory company lunch with all employees and presented a check to Operation Smile representatives.”

The HandStands catalog contains information on donating, and the company’s holiday gift cards sent to customers indicate that, in lieu of a year-end gift, the money instead was donated to Operation Smile, and invites recipients to give further to the cause.

“We’ve also sponsored a breakfast where we request donations,” says Mangum. “We’ve invited our state governor and major community leaders, and asked a local news personality to be the host. It’s all about changing as many lives as possible.”

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