Smile With Lay's: Q&A with Kathy Magee

From the Field

Smile With Lay's Kathy Magee

For the third year in a row, Operation Smile and LAY'S® are teaming up to spread smiles across the country with the Smile with Lay's campaign.

“What I love most is that they have brought people in from our community directly into the campaign, which just deepens folks’ genuine connection to our mission,” said Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-Founder and President. “This year, I’m thrilled to be featured on my very own bag!” 

In stores all across the U.S., our specially designed "Smile Bags" have previously featured the real smiles of our devoted and compassionate volunteers. This year, you'll find the smiles of Kathy; Dr. Dane Hoang, Operation Smile volunteer pediatric dentist; and Brady Hishmeh, student volunteer who was born with a cleft lip and palate and used his personal experience to pioneer our first-ever cleft panel.

For Operation Smile and LAY'S®, this campaign goes beyond bringing people together for a chance to share their inspirational stories of hope and kindness.

“The ones who benefit most from partnerships likes these will always be our patients,” Kathy said. “I'm so excited for another Smile with Lay's campaign because it means we have another opportunity to receive a $1 million donation that will go toward providing surgery and comprehensive care to children.”

We recently connected with Kathy to learn more about the partnership with LAY'S® and how the Smile with Lay's campaign will impact the lives of our patients and their families affected by cleft around the world.

Dr. Dane Hoang comforts a young patient during the 2016 Operation Smile dental mission in Hue, Vietnam. Photo: Jasmin Shah.
Dr. Dane Hoang comforts a young patient during the 2016 Operation Smile dental mission in Hue, Vietnam. Photo: Jasmin Shah.

Q: Could you tell us more about the partnership between LAY'S® and Operation Smile? What led to this landmark multiyear campaign?

A: “We’re so excited to enter into our third straight year of the Smile with Lay’s campaign! Our relationship with LAY'S® parent company, PepsiCo, is long-standing, going back to 2007. Since then, they have been such a critical partner throughout the Latin America region, helping us to bring new smiles to the faces of thousands of children affected by cleft conditions, as well as providing them with supporting care like speech therapy, dentistry and much more. 

“This 10-year-strong relationship inspired LAY'S® to approach us back in 2017 with the wonderful idea behind the campaign. We’ve experienced the way that smiles can bring people together around the world, so we couldn’t have thought of a better way to bring care to more people.  

“Smile with Lay’s has been an incredible success for both Operation and LAY'S®! In both 2018 and 2019, the campaign exceeded expectations in terms of sales, which was great for LAY'S®. For us, meant a $1 million donation in each of those years.”

Q: Why do you think that Smile with Lay’s has been so successful?

A: “I just think that it’s such a fun campaign! We all know that smiles are contagious, and I think that how well Smile with Lay’s has done the past two years proves that even more. It’s really so eye-catching, with people’s smiles on the bags, it creates that photo-op that I think got people excited just to pick up a bag and have fun with it, even on social media.  

“I also think that Operation Smile and LAY'S® are ideal partners. LAY'S® believes deeply in our work and understands the value of a smile and what its means to a child who needs to get surgery from us.  

“What I love most is that they have brought people in from our community directly into the campaign, which just deepens folks’ genuine connection to our mission. This year, I’m thrilled to be featured on my very own bag! Dr. Dane Hoang, one of our incredible volunteer dentists, and Brady Hishmeh, a dedicated student volunteer who was born with a cleft condition and has really become a wonderful young leader, have potato chip bags of their own as well. People have the opportunity to learn more about our stories – and many others across the country who are helping their communities – both on the bag and by going to the campaign’s website.  

“This makes it mean so much more than your standard cause-marketing collaboration. These stories are all so inspirational, and it’s an honor to be included. I think this year, now more than ever, we need more and more reasons to smile and feel uplifted, and Smile with Lay’s is doing just that. Plus, it’s nice to see those smiles on the bags when we are all covering our smiles with our masks at the store!” 

Dr. Dane Hoang, Operation Smile volunteer pediatric dentist.
Dr. Dane Hoang, Operation Smile volunteer pediatric dentist.

Q: What has this support from LAY'S® meant for our patients, and what will it mean to them in the future?

A: “It’s been so wonderful to see the impact that’s come out of our partnership with LAY'S®. Changing the life of a child who needs our help has motivated every decision we’ve made for the past 38 years. And it’s been so exciting to work alongside a partner like LAY'S® because they understand that and believe in the power of spreading smiles. 

“The ones who benefit most from partnerships like these will always be our patients. I’m so excited for another Smile with Lay’s campaign because it means that we have another opportunity to receive a $1 million donation that will go toward providing surgery and comprehensive care to children who’ve been waiting. 

“The care we offer to these children will give them the opportunity to eat, speak and live healthier lives.”

Brady Hishmeh, creator of Operation Smile's cleft panel.
Brady Hishmeh, creator of Operation Smile's cleft panel.

Q: What has excited you the most about Operation Smile's work over the past year, both pre-pandemic and currently?

A: “It’s hard to narrow down just one! I think everyone here at Operation Smile was really eager to jump headfirst into this year because we had so many new and exciting projects planned for 2020.  

“Joining the WHO in celebrating 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is just one example.  Nurses fill critical roles on our medical missions and in hospitals all around the world. As a nurse and as the co-founder of Operation Smile, I felt so much pride to honor these compassionate men and women for the care and hope they bring to people’s lives every day.  

“Something else I was thrilled to have been a part of was our all-female medical mission. It was extraordinary not only because it was the first, but because we had women from all around the world come together to change the lives of children living in Morocco. What made this mission even more special for me was the fact that my two daughters and granddaughter were by my side as Operation Smile history was made.”

Kathy Magee surrounded by the all-female medical team during Operation Smile's first-ever Women's Mission in Oujda, Morocco. Photo: Jasmin Shah.
Kathy Magee surrounded by the all-female medical team during Operation Smile's first-ever Women's Mission in Oujda, Morocco. Photo: Jasmin Shah.

“It’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our future missions and projects, but it also made us realize what our devoted community of volunteers, staff and students are capable of when there is an unmet need. As we refocused our efforts to support communities around the world through donations of equipment and supplies, our student volunteers here in the U.S. spearheaded an initiative to provide meals and empowerment to the health care workers on the front lines. 

“It was so inspirational to witness our youth, the future of Operation Smile, step up and spread hope during these difficult times.”  

During the cleft panel, student volunteer Brady Hishmeh of New Jersey speaks to 500 student volunteers from around the world at ISLC 2017 in Rome, Italy. Photo: Kristy Walker.
During the cleft panel, student volunteer Brady Hishmeh of New Jersey speaks to 500 student volunteers from around the world at ISLC 2017 in Rome, Italy. Photo: Kristy Walker.