Smile Train's 20th Anniversary Gala

May 2019. New York City, Capitale

Empire was proud to recently serve as producer of Smile Train’s 20th Anniversary gala titled “It Starts with a Smile.” Over 500 people gathered at Capitale in New York City to celebrate Smile Train’s two decades of empowering local medical professionals and supporting comprehensive cleft care for more than one million children worldwide.

During the program and seated dinner, which was hosted by ABC’s Ginger Zee, Smile Train CEO, Susannah Schaefer delivered moving remarks about the huge impact that proper care has on a child with a cleft. Chairman of Smile Train’s Medical Advisory Board, Dr. Larry Hollier, Miss Universe Organization President, Paula Shugart and Top Chef’s Graham Elliot, were all honored for their philanthropic efforts, while retired NBA player, Dikembe Mutombo was recognized for his humanitarian work. The program also included a moving tribute to Smile Train Founder Charles B. Wang. Other program highlights included appearances by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan and a lively auction conducted by Paul Florez.

Guests arrived at the landmark Stanford White building to see a beautiful photo backdrop adorned in greenery. Interviews took place on the red carpet while others enjoyed cocktails at crystalline design-inspired bars that displayed rotating imagery of children helped by Smile Train. Additionally, an LED background interactive photo activation allowed guests to choose to be pictured in a variety of locations around the world where Smile Train supports cleft programs.

Inside the grand ballroom, large, heart-warming photos of Smile Train beneficiaries from around the world flew from the soaring skylight roof. Stunning decor included luminescent centerpieces with gorgeous geode designs and bars covered in matching images. Ambient screens with moving visuals were set up as backdrops behind each bar to ensure the room was glowing throughout.

Alexa Ray Joel, Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel’s daughter, performed classic covers to end the dinner program and later in the evening, Rev Run and DJ Ruckus raised the roof with a dance party of old school music.

Empire is a lead producer of fundraising galas and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

We are grateful for the opportunity to support Smile Train’s incredible work by producing Smile Train’s 20th Anniversary Gala. To learn more and donate, visit

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