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John and Anna Povegliano are proud to present the annual gala for Smiles of Innocence.
By Mark Pavilons
Children battling sickness or terminal illness are among the strongest superheroes on the planet.
As we all know, every superhero has to have a sidekick, or “hero support.”
Smiles of Innocence Memorial Charity has been providing that support for two decades.
The charity was founded by long-time King residents John and Anna Povegliano, following the death of their four-year-old son Daniel in 1996.
The Poveglianos don't wear fancy costumes, but they do have a powerful logo – a smile inside a tiny handprint.
In the past 20 years, Smiles of Innocence has raised more than $3.25 million to benefit Toronto's SickKids Foundation. The charity has largely flown under the radar and is a bit of a “sleeping giant,” John admitted. That's simply because the focus has always been on the children. It's a sentiment that has kept the charity on track, on target and successful.
“We are fortunate to have such a loyal following,” Povegliano said.
This year's 20th anniversary gala, which will be held Nov. 18 at the Paramount Event Space in Vaughan, promises to be a joyful experience for all. True to form, it's the charity's way of giving back to its sponsors and supporters.
From rather humble beginnings, the charity and organizing committee have grown exponentially, to become a real force in children's fundraising. The Smiles of Innocence Memorial Charity has grown and become one of the leading community based fundraising groups for SickKids Foundation. In the past, they have purchased special cardiac monitors, Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) incubators and have provided funds to staff a clinical fellow. Funds have also been invested in research. Through medical and scientific advances the hospital continues to improve the lives of children and their families in Canada and around the world.
The gala sells out every year, often in a matter of hours. And the loyal supporters help Smiles of Innocence raise roughly $250,000 annually. That money goes a long way to helping children who struggle with a variety of illnesses and disabilities. Povegliano says their efforts help SickKids check off items on their annual wish list: everything from incubators for preemies to prosthetics for youngsters.
At the gala every year, patrons are given a rundown of where the money went, and how the funds reach those in need.
This year's gala will also feature guest speakers from SickKids and some fabulous entertainment. Also on tap will be one of the finest live and silent auctions around. In fact, you could say Smiles of Innocence created the foundation for charity silent auctions when they began two decades ago.
Much of the charity's success comes from its transparency, and the fact that almost every penny goes to where it's needed most. Povegliano is adamant that all funds go to SickKids, and there are no free rides for patrons or even VIPs who attend the gala. Everyone pays the freight.
Povegliano ensures that every dollar turns into a smile on the face of a child.
He never imagined the charity would grow the way it has. A lot of its success is due to the solid group of volunteers, which also includes a youth committee.
When John talks about this charity and its legacy, his own smile lights up the room. He's illuminated by the smiles of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others who've been touched by his organization over the years. Even visiting John in his office makes you smile. He's surrounded by meaningful mementoes, and many framed certificates and awards. But John stresses it's not about the plaques on the wall. It's about those tiny superheroes.
Almost everyone has been touched in some way by SickKids. And every parent can understand dealing with a sick child.
The Poveglianos endured some unfortunate events in life. Their devastation turned into a venue to give back and touch others. The charity is also Daniel's legacy.
Daniel was born with a rare condition known as Mastocytosis, a disorder caused by the production of too many mast cells in the body and organs. Daniel spent a lot of his short life in pain, yet his smile was always an inspiration.
Smiles of Innocence, John says, helps children every day. And that gives the Poveglianos the motivation to do even better.
John noted it's not always sad and tragic. There are countless happy endings and the charity has showcased many “ambassadors” throughout the years – children who've overcome the odds to accomplish a great deal in life.
Povegliano pointed out they also help support other children's charities, and offer their expertise in the areas of fundraising.
“We do it (all) for the right reasons,” John said. “One permanent smile on a kid's face is worth so much.”
Children often don't fully understand their condition or their struggle. That's why they are the real heroes in all of this.
Povegliano is also proud of the Daniel Povegliano Endowment Fund. The purpose of the endowment fund is to support The Hospital for Sick Children's (SickKids) “highest priority needs” as determined annually by SickKids Foundation in consultation with the hospital's executive committee. The Endowment will provide flexible funding for important needs of the Hospital, such as support for research, clinical scientists, staff education and training, or equipment.
This in itself, will leave an everlasting imprint on the world and pave the way for many more happy endings.
“It will always be touching kids,” Povegliano observed.
Povegliano has been blessed, through the success of his furniture frame company Frame Tech Designs Inc. and its spin-offs.
“Giving back has cleansed me,” he admitted.
The black-tie gala has become quite the social event, and many look forward to the evening.
A limited number of tickets are available for the gala, but you can always donate to the charity. Visit www.smilesofinnocence.ca
For all those tiny superheroes out there, take comfort in the fact that Smiles of Innocence has your back!
Excerpt: Children battling sickness or terminal illness are among the strongest superheroes on the planet. As we all know, every superhero has to have a sidekick, or “hero support.” Smiles of Innocence Memorial Charity has been providing that support for two decades. The charity was founded by long-time King residents John and Anna Povegliano, following the death of their four-year-old son Daniel in 1996.
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