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Since its inception in 1997, Smiles Change Lives (SCL) has been the leader in providing access to affordable orthodontic care for children from families who could otherwise not afford treatment.
Who knew that a healthy smile can change everything in the life of a young person? Virginia Brown did. She stood out in defense of young people who could not afford the smile that all children deserve. Her work, her love, and her spirit live on in the lives of all SCL participants. Her legacy is the healthy, confident smile on the faces of thousands of young adults and will be for generations to come.
Virginia Brown grew up during the Great Depression and desperately needed braces. Her sister received orthodontic treatment first, and Virginia had to endure years of teasing and low self-esteem until finally she was able to afford them herself. This experience touched her so deeply that she decided that when able, she would take action to help young people who could not afford orthodontic treatment necessary to live with dignity and confidence.
It was in 1983, she and her late husband, Maurice Brown, formed the Virginia and Maurice Brown Foundation. Funds were earmarked for children in need of facial and oral surgery, particularly those with a cleft lip and palate. After her husband lost his battle with sinus cancer, Virginia was more determined than ever to help children in need.
Searching for the most effective way to make an impact with her philanthropic passion, Virginia and her son Tom, discovered that no program existed in the United States to help children gain access to orthodontic treatment. They began a partnership with the UMKC School of Dentistry, and in 1997, an initial grant facilitated treatment for 16 children in the Kansas City area. Some of these children had missing, broken or impacted teeth; others had difficulty speaking and chewing; and still others suffered with constant pain due to severe overcrowding. Virginia knew these children would never have a chance at a better future, free of peer ridicule, without help. This effort marked the formation of the Virginia Brown Community Orthodontic Partnership – which evolved into what is now known as Smiles Change Lives.
With nearly 800 partnering orthodontists, SCL has become the leading provider of orthodontic care to families that need financial assistance, serving thousands of children across the US and Canada.
“A sincere and motivated philanthropist, Virginia Brown was a caring, generous woman who wanted nothing more than to help children in need reach normalcy in their difficult lives,” states founding orthodontist Dr. Kelly Toombs. “Smiles Change Lives was born from Virginia’s vision and determination; to help children during their formative years with a very effective treatment that restores their confidence, giving them dignity to pursue new opportunities they never thought possible. As a partner orthodontist, I have seen the miraculous transformation in children’s lives. Virginia became a tremendous asset to children in her community and across the United States and Canada.”
Virginia passed away peacefully in Kansas City, MO on July 29, 2018 at the age of 92. Smiles Change Lives continues her dream, changing the lives of thousands of children with the gift of a smile. Those interested in learning more about Smiles Change Lives can visit www.smileschangelives.org.