Spreading Smiles During the Pandemic
This past year may not have given us many reasons to smile. But Upper Dublin teen Aidan Nadell is committed to turning frowns upside-down.
Aidan is a senior at Upper Dublin High School and works as an assistant teacher in the aftercare preschool program at Chabad Garden School. When the shutdown happened last spring, the preschool took the opportunity to refurbish their playground. Aidan saw this as a way to give back to the preschool kids while combining it with his senior culminating project, a meaningful project that every Upper Dublin High School senior must complete before graduation.
“I knew that graduation would be a hard stop of working with the kids at the preschool. I wanted to do something that would outlast my tenure at Upper Dublin,” Aidan says. To garner donations, Aidan turned to one of his assets – his smile. “If you can’t tell by now, I really like to smile!” he says, his face beaming. Thus, the Spread Smiles Movement was born.
Aidan created a website and sold products with the Spread Smiles logo and positive message, including masks, t-shirts, and touchless keys that are 3D printed by a 12-year-old entrepreneur, hoping that he could raise $5,000 for the playground by the time of his graduation. “To my surprise, I was able to do it before the start of the school year. We had a lot of momentum and knew the message was speaking to people. I thought, maybe it’s more than a culminating project. Maybe we can influence others’ actions and behaviors.”
Through the sale of these products, Aidan has donated to other organizations, like the Share Food Program, a non-profit addressing food insecurity in the Philadelphia region, and Operation Smile, which provides surgeries and medical care for cleft conditions around the world. “I was inspired by a family at my synagogue who had an adorable child, her name is Millie, and she was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Could I donate in her honor to help others like her in underprivileged situations?” Operation Smile was the perfect partner for his next fundraising phase.
In addition to purchasing Spread Smiles products, there are other ways for people to get involved, including a Virtual Stride 5K where participants can complete a 5K walk or run during March 26th to April 4th. Proceeds will benefit Operation Smile. “I am feeling serious cabin fever after this winter. We’re offering this opportunity to do some good while getting outside,” Aidan says.
For younger kids and those who may not be able to financially contribute, there’s the Smile Cam. “It’s like the Kiss Cam at a Sixers game. If you can’t donate your dollars, you can donate your smile and spread our message.” He’s asking community members to take a smiling photo with a caption of what makes them smile. The Smile Cam photos will be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When asked how growing up in Upper Dublin has shaped him, he reflects, “I wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else. My childhood was rich with opportunities. It’s a special community.” While he’s started a movement, he realizes that “not everyone has the time or the interest to do something grand. It’s important to be authentic to yourself and find something that fuels your passion. It could be as easy as cooking a meal for someone.”
“During this time of uncertainty, what’s something we can all relate to?” Aidan asks. “We all have a smile and it’s just a matter of finding something to bring out that smile.”
To learn more about the Spread Smiles Movement, the Virtual Stride 5K and the Smile Cam, visit spreadsmilesmovement.square.site.
This article was reposted on Channel Kindness, a digital platform created by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
Are you an Upper Dublin teen helping out in your community? Email Lindsay Cummings, firstname.lastname@example.org, with more info.