Written by: Ryan Sarmiento
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As part of a running series of blog articles, All Things Malibu is profiling Malibu locals who are doing interesting and amazing things not just in our own community, but in the world.  This week, Bryan Spunt spent time with us to answer questions about a new non-profit program he and friend Paige Stoker founded called the ‘Big Smiles Program.’  

The ‘Big Smiles Program’ works in conjunction with the Chase Foundation to help hospitalized kids be kids. Bryan and his team believe that provoking a smile can have a big impact on a child’s life who is dealing with difficult times in the hospital.

Bryan at a paint day!

We wanted to know more about this fantastic program that Bryan and his team created.  Below, Bryan indulged our curiosity with more information about the program and where he sees the program in the future.

Q:  In your own words, can you give us a basic rundown of exactly what the Big Smiles Program does?

A:  Our tagline is a good place to start: Big Team, Big Smiles. At the very core of our program, we are working hard to create a massive team of young people who are passionate about helping others and sharing smiles.

If you look at our logo, there is a gradient that runs through the smile portion; this symbolizes the connection between our volunteers and the individuals we work with, as well as the smiles we share together. At the end of the day, we truly believe both parties benefit equally in this shared experience.

Our program has partnered with the Chase Foundation and the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA to conduct paint days twice a month with the pediatric patients. The Big Smiles Team wheels canvases, paints, brushes, squeegees, stamps, stickers, music, and much more into the UCLA Children’s Hospital. We give the children complete control of their painting experience and guide them (when prompted) in their self-expression.  Paint flies, big smiles are exchanged, and happiness is shared.

Q: Who is involved in the Big Smiles Program with you and what are their positions?

A:  Our current management team consists of myself as Chief Smiles Officer, Paige Stoker as Art Director, Jamie Levine as Creative Director, Carli Rosenfield as Marketing Director, and Cayla Richards as Social Media Director.  The board currently consists of myself and my dad Howard Spunt.  We will be adding another 3-4 people to the management team in the next month or two. We also have over 40 committed volunteers!

Bryan and Paige with two of the Big Smiles kids!
Founders Bryan and Paige at a Big Smiles paint day!

Q:  How did the idea of the big smiles program come about/what inspired you to start this?

A:  Paige and I had a conversation one day about our passion for helping children in the hospital, as well as her passion for art therapy (she is working to get her masters in art therapy). I have been involved in the Chase Foundation ever since I was young, so that partnership came very naturally. After some inspiration from my dad, who painted with the kids at the hospital last year, we decided to set up a formal program and work with the Mattel Children’s Hospital. The rest is history.

Q: When did your first event take place?

A:  Our first event took place on Valentine’s Day weekend, Saturday Feb 13th. We did a Valentine’s themed art project.

Q:  How often do your events take place?

A: When we launched the program, we were doing 1 event a month. Since then we have expanded to 2 events a month to accommodate for the growth in our volunteer team and the positive feedback from the hospital.

Q:  What kind of feedback have you been getting from the participants and their families?

A:  I don't have anything on record from the patients and their families but I think their smiles say it all. Here's a quote from the manager of the Children's hospital at UCLA:

“I wanted to thank you again for the great program that you are developing here with our kids and families.  It really is getting rave reviews from everyone. It’s such a pleasure to work with community organizations that so naturally fit into the environment of patient care – and trust me, they don’t come around often!" - Kellye Carrol, Manager of the Chase Child Life Program, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.

Q:  Is there any way for people to get involved?  If so, what can they do?

A:  Absolutely. We have three tiers of involvement: board members, management, and volunteers. We are always looking to build our volunteer team, our management team helps run the program, and our board members provide valuable coaching and expertise. Donations are always welcome too.

More info here: http://www.bigsmilesprogram.org/get-involved/

Q:  What sort of visions do you have for the future of the big smiles program.

A:  The future is very bright for the program. I see our volunteer team expanding month over month as well as our management team. I see us building a community of young people who change the face of volunteering all together. We will create a more exciting and seamless way to get out and help other people; a more exciting and seamless way to share smiles. I see the Big Smiles Program as a vehicle to engage the millennial generation more heavily in philanthropy.

More tangibly, our program will expand into new locations and encompass other forms of expressive therapy. Right now our medium is painting, but we will soon move into music, dance, virtual reality, and much more -  the possibilities are limitless.

bryan and paige big smiles

What Bryan, Paige, and their team are doing with the ‘Big Smiles Program’ surely makes the community of Malibu proud to call them their own.  It is great to see people get involved in philanthropy at such a young age (Bryan and his team are all about 23 years old), while also getting so many others to volunteer alongside them.  We are truly excited to see where they bring the program in the future.  Stay tuned!

If you missed it above, you can sign up to volunteer at the link provided here and can donate to their cause with the link provided here.

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