1001Smiles.com: How a little boy who lost his own life ended up giving life-changing surgery to 1,000 suffering children...



Sean’s 1,001 Smiles Project

Extraordinary Little Boy’s Struggle Gives New Life

to One Thousand Children Through Smile Train



New York, April 2009 –  It is difficult to measure the impact that one life can have on the lives of others, but Sean Denlinger’s family can measure the positive impact their late son’s life will have quite precisely: 1,000 smiles on the faces of children who otherwise wouldn’t have ever been able to smile at all.


A beautiful end to a heartbreaking but truly inspiring story -- 1,000 children will receive life-saving surgery in memory of a gentle, three-year-old child whose own smile and spirit during his short life were contagious and encouraged others to inevitably smile as well. The Smile Train, the world’s leading cleft charity with thousands of partners and programs in 75 of the world’s poorest countries, is happy to announce the launch of Sean’s 1,001 Smiles project in which the organization will work with Sean’s family to provide cleft surgeries to provide children with not just a new smile, but a new life.


Sean's life was cut short in October of 2002 when he passed away after a series of tragic medical errors that left him in critical condition for nearly one year. His loving nature and courage served as an inspiration to all those who met him, especially his parents. While trying to cope with the devastating loss of their child, Sean’s family pursued a medical negligence case hoping to obtain a settlement which could help them realize their dream: to ensure that Sean’s suffering and loss saved countless other children from a life of pain.  


After six long years, that dream has finally come true.


The proceeds of Sean’s legal settlement are now generously being given by his family to the Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft lip and palate organization operating in 77 countries around the globe. 


As the world’s most efficient cleft lip and palate organization, Smile Train is able to change children’s lives for as little as $250 and in as little as 45 minutes – ensuring that the funds that Sean’s family is donating in his memory will be used for 1,000 surgeries – one surgery per day for 1,000 days. The one extra smile will be in remembrance of Sean and that special smile by which he is always remembered by friends and family. 


The entire project will be launched on April 27, 2009, which would have been Sean’s 10th birthday. Coincidentally, Smile Train will also be celebrating its tenth year and 500,000th surgery this year, making the endeavor more meaningful for both the organization as well as the Denlinger family.


Fresh off the recent Oscar win for the documentary short Smile Pinki, the Smile Train, along with Sean’s parents, have decided to focus the funds on one specific region: Varanasi, India, where little Pinki Sonkar, the subject of the documentary, received her free surgery provided by the organization. Sean’s family will travel to Varanasi in December of this year to meet first-hand some of the children whose lives were changed by their donation.


“It is an earth-shattering thought to us to contemplate that Sean’s mere existence, and subsequently the tragedy he endured, will save the lives of 1,000 children and create generations where none would have existed,” said Michele Denlinger, Sean’s mother. “We thank the Smile Train for being the kind of charity that can enable such an unbelievable achievement for a little boy of three.”


The Smile Train is thrilled to help Sean’s family celebrate his life by improving the lives of poor children who otherwise never would have received care.


“As an organization, we rely on the generosity of others to achieve our mission. We thank the Denlingers for their passion for this project, and their faith in our organization in our ability to honor Sean’s memory by helping to spread smiles where there were once only tears,” said Co-Founder and President Brian Mullaney.



The Smile Train is the world's leading cleft charity with thousands of partners and programs in 76 of the world's poorest countries. Our mission is to help the more than 4.7 million children in developing countries who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. We provide free cleft surgery to children from poor families that give children not just a new smile, but a new life. Now in its tenth year, The Smile Train and will help its 500,000th child this year.

Media Contact:

Alexis Thomas, Smile Train Public Relations Manager, (212) 689-9199 ext. 253, athomas@smiletrain.org