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Smile It Forward

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I am a sucker for a feel-good story. When I read about random acts of kindness or how people pay it forward, I get a little emotional. Jack walks in my office and I’m watching a YouTube video, crying/smiling/eating Cheetos, and he just slowly exits to escape me before I yell, “COME HERE COME HERE WATCH THIS you’re gonna SOBBBBB!”

When my pals at Invisalign approached me about their new Smile It Forward campaign and offered me $500 to spend to make other people smile, I was like YEAAA this is my jam. I’m in! (You’d think I’d act a little bit more professionally via email, but I’ve lost all sense of propriety with them and frequently send over cat GIFs. Sorry, Invisalign.)

I hemmed and hawed over how to spend the money (should I just donate it all to a charity?), but in the end, the idea being “making people smile” inspired me to gift it to several people in several different ways. Here’s the line-up:

1) Purchased a cute diaper bag for a new mom. She was like :D :D :D.

2) Hit up a drive-thru and paid for the beverages of the people behind me. This was oddly adrenaline-inducing. So cool to see the woman behind me hand the cashier money, look confused, try to figure out who I was, then give me a happy wave. It cost $5, and it was really fun. Highly recommend.

3) Now that I’m a mom, I think about all of the milestones I’m looking forward to having with my daughters. I know a wonderful girl about a decade younger than me that was unable to have a sweet mother-daughter relationship that I am excited about developing with my girls. I took her to Sephora and bought this girl her first lipstick. It seems weird, I’m not her mom, and she’s legally an adult, but for just a few minutes, I mommed her or big sistered her, and neither of us seemed to mind.

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4) A woman I know has a huge heart and does generous, quiet things for others. No one knows, because she doesn’t broadcast it. I left a gift from Sephora (you guys, I like Sephora) on her doorstep.

5) Purchased Starbucks gift cards for some Starbucks loving people (e-gift cards are amazing; I sent one to a girl in Hawaii!).

6) Tweens and teens totally get a bad rep (have you been to a mall lately? I mean…), but there are great ones out there, for sure. I took a straight-A eighth grader shopping and we picked out new clothes for her.

7) I emailed a Gap gift card to a blogger. Her blog has been a great source of entertainment and inspiration over the years, so I sent it over with a note telling her so. :)

8) I purchased a cleaning sesh from a local housecleaner (small biz, yeeeaah!) and gave it to a family with a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler. Their house will be spotless for at LEAST twenty minutes, but moreso, I hope it buys them a little sanity. This is the holy grail of gift giving for new parents. That and diapers, I think. Maybe. :)

9) A local pregnancy/new mom resource center sent out a note letting people know that they are in serious need of some winter items for babies. A swaddle sleepsack is number one on my list of five new baby must-haves. (No blanket = lowers the risk of SIDS, nice and cozy, easy to swaddle a baby…. perfection.) I purchased five to donate to the center and I love knowing that they’ll keep babies warm, safe, and cozy at night.

I had the *BEST* time doing this. I made it clear to all of the recipients that it was not my own money I was spending, and yet the thank you notes/emails/texts they sent my way made me cry (see opening paragraph). I was really blessed knowing that a little gift made them smile. :)

Invisalign is giving you a chance to smile it forward.

get-a-smile-give-a-smile

They’re giving away $500 for one lucky winner and $500 for a friend. You can enter below!

Invisalign’s Smile It Forward Sweepstakes

How would you spend $500 for you/$500 for a friend?

Disclosure: As a member of the Invisalign Mom Advisory Board, I’m receiving complimentary treatment to facilitate my review. All content and opinions are my own. For the real deal buttoned-up disclosure, holla at this link right here..

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46 Comments

  • Reply Jacqueline November 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Super sweet Roo. Simple things like this mean the most. We have a boy at work who was recently kicked out by an alcoholic mother and had nothing to his name with his first basement apartment. His hopeful spirit and positive attitude make it such a blessing to help him out and that’s exactly what we’ve all been chipping in to do. Guess it’s the season, right?

  • Reply Angela Stricklin November 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I would use the $500 for me to go home for Christmas. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and will be going in to the hospital Dec. 12th for 17 days for a bone marrow transplant. Before the diagnosis, she was going to be at our house for Christmas. We live about 14 hours away. I would love to be able to surprise her at Christmas, just by being there with her while she’s in the hospital for a few days.
    $500 for a friend…My husband and I have this amazing marriage counselor. He is a full time counseling pastor at our church, in grad school with two littles at home, his wife is a L&D nurse. I know money is tight for them, but what’s even tighter is time together. I would love to gift them with the $500 to use on a family weekend getaway to Branson (their fav local place).

  • Reply Alicia November 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    What a great idea! I love all the things you spent your $ on! I’m pretty much going broke planning a trip to Paris for Christmas/the boyfriend’s birthday (I can’t complain but still sucks to be broke) so I’d probably use at least half of that for a birthday gift for the boyfriend (it’s his 30th and his b-day is Christmas Eve so I feel like it’s gotta be good). The other half I’d spend on croissants, cheese, and wine on our trip :)

    As for $500 for a friend, my best friend makes jewelry, and I’d love to get her some tools and maybe some metal to work with. I know she is limited by the tools she has, and they’re not cheap, so she would totally appreciate it. And silver isn’t cheap either!

  • Reply Lindsay November 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    As I was reading this, I kept trying to think of ways I could take my kiddos to do things like this! Maybe through a drive-through, but places that they would “get it” more. Buying arts and crafts and going to do projects at a local home for the aged? Building a basket of toys to give to a family we know needs help? Time to do these things with them right now (free money to help the cause or not)!!

  • Reply Lamisha November 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I love stuff like this! Is it weird that it is easier to come up with ways to spend money for others than for myself? I have always wanted to pay someone’s past due bill somewhere for someone who needs a little extra pick me up, take a child from the Big Brother and Big Sister program for a special event, purchase fun gifts for kids in our local children’s hospital and hand deliver them (my son was in the hospital there almost two years ago and I loved seeing the kids faces light up with visitors especially around the holidays)-oh and I would do something nice for the parents that sit there all day/night with their children. Just thinking about doing this cool stuff for others inspires me to start a new family tradition…Thanks for the inspiration Roo!

  • Reply Cathy November 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Hmm…for me, I’d spend it towards Christmas and restocking the pantry. With a huge job change (with accompanying pay cut) this year, things are really tight in both those areas.

    For a friend (or more than one)…I have a friend in a similar boat financially (with five kiddos and currently pregnant) who is really into healthy eating and feeling the stress of trying to do that on a beans budget. I’d love to gift her with money towards her next Azure Standard (natural foods co-op) order. And buy some commissary gift cards for low ranking married soldiers for whom money is notoriously tight so they can have some little extras (or maybe just the essentials).

  • Reply Margaret November 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I would use $500 to fly the little guy we mentored (before he had to move out of state) to come visit us. He has a really unstable family situation and I worry about him all the time. He is such an incredible sweet and smart 10 year old that has been given a hard life. I would love to have him stay with us next summer when he’s out of school and be safe and well fed for a whole summer. For a friend, I’d want this little guy to have the $500 to spend on fun and educational experiences while staying with us. I can dream right?

  • Reply Arika November 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    $500 for me? Tires for my car.
    $500 for a friend? My mother. She NEVER, EVER does anything for herself. I’d change that.

  • Reply Maressa November 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Wow $500 we had so many money issues the last few months (with job changes) that have set us back so it could really help with Christmas and filling our kitchen back up. I’ve watched a few others struggle financially as well so I would use the other $500 to make their lives easier.

  • Reply Brandi November 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I would probably spend the money on a few Christmas gifts and a bridesmaid dress I need to buy. The rest would go towards buying holiday gifts for needy children. The $500 for a friend would go to my sister-in-law. Her husband lost his job in May, one month before their fourth child was born. He has only been able to find part time work and they are struggling. :(

  • Reply lindsey November 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Now if only my smile was are pristine as yours

  • Reply Kelsey @ Ramblings of Change November 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I think I would try to do random acts of kindness for others and for myself. The other $500 would go towards my sister. She has been struggling the past few months, but is still doing amazing. I know this would help her a ton!

  • Reply kirby November 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks Roo! This is awesome. I love doing fun giving things like your Drive thru run. I like to ask the cashier to just ask the person to pay it forward. I never know where it stops, I hope that it goes on for a awhile and eventually touches someone who REALLY needed it! I love you and your amazing heart!!

    • Reply kirby November 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Oh I didn’t realize you asked what I’d do with the $500 and who the other $500 would go to. I’d take half of my 250 and spruce up our Christmas at home and $200 towards the family we adopted in my office that I get to go shopping for from their wishlist and $50 towards the next person in line’s orders at Starbucks!!!

      The other $500 I would give to my cousin, single mom of one very cute little 18m old (born the same day as my little one!), having a really rough time…financially and emotionally. To help clothe, feed, spruce up his Christmas, etc.

  • Reply Sandra November 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    A dear friend has been working very hard to start her new life as a single mother after three children and years as a SAHM. She recently acquired full time professional employment but has no business professional wardrobe. She’s been borrowing from friends and buying second hand when she can, which isn’t often. I would help her pick out $500 worth of quality staples that fit her well and help her confidence.

    For me? I’d go visit my family four hours away. Travel is expensive.

  • Reply Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? November 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Can I admit? I’m a little jealous of the house cleaning session..so I might spend some of that on me.

    Then, I’d spend some on the hubby’s coworkers because he always wants to do something for them.

    At the grocery store, I’d buy the person’s groceries in front of me. The past three times I’ve been the person has struggled and had to put stuff back.

  • Reply Ashleigh @Being Cheap is Easy November 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    You rock, lady! I would love to do something like that! If I had $500 to spend, I would plan a little trip for my family to go to Chicago for a few days. My girls would love the museums. To give? I have a few friends that would love a little extra change this time of year!

  • Reply Shannon November 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Wow! What a fun post/giveaway! I loved reading everything you did Roo! You must have been on Cloud 9 the whole time! Ok, so what would I do with the $500. I would do sortof what you did but I would make it into a blog series and photograph the process and blog it, in hopes to inspire others to get the bug to give, give and give some more! It’s how you really live, you know! For me, well, I would love to be all “an awesome mom” and say that I would put it in my kids college funds….except we aren’t that cool and they don’t have one. If I were really honest,I would put it towards a new cream/whiteish sectional leather couch for my crew of three boys, my dreamboat hubby and our fluffy goldendoodle. We have had the same couch since our wedding and it’s soooooo nasty from all the kids’ fluids. Both spilled juices and milk and the other fluids kids produce that I shall not speak about here. My mom told me that when we move into our new home she would not allow me to put that disgusting couch in my brand new house. And I was all, ok, will you buy me one then, mommy, momma, mommmmmmmm. Haha. Love you, Roo. ANd now I even love you, Invisalign…you rock for doing this! Keep it up!

  • Reply Jill November 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I would use the $500 to go toward a ski weekend for my family. The remaining $500 I would pay forward, similar to what you have done. I can think of several very deserving people that I would love to make smile. Plus, I’ve always wanted to try paying for the person behind me in line! I was the recipient of this random act of kindness a few years ago, and it still makes me smile! It was such a nice surprise!

  • Reply Lauren November 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I’d save the $500 to go towards our move next year. It’s looking like we’re heading to the Pacific Northwest (oh hey, Seattle), and rumor has it that base housing is full. :( It’d be nice to have a house of our own for the 3+ years we will be there, and maybe that could help us get there. The other $500 would go to a few friends who are pregnant for their babies, clean houses, and the ever-necessary ice cream stash.

  • Reply Natasha November 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Ahhh!!! Roo you are so STINKIN AWESOME! I love the drive through Starbucks idea-I swear every Friday, our Starbucks does it, I’ve had it happen to me at least 5 times. It makes your day-and I keep it going :) you can tell the baristas enjoy it-they always have the biggests smiles on their faces!!! Faith in humanity, restored one coffee at a time :)
    $500 for me? I’d prob buy the hubby something, because he takes GOOD, GOOD care of us, and works super hard, and he has spoiled me rotten lately and he deserves to be spoiled. Prob buy him some paintball gear and a season pass :)
    For a friend? I have some friends with young kids and babies, who I know have extra extra tight budgets, and I would LOVE to get them a sitter, and take them for a spa day. While someone else cleans their house. Because it would be awesome.

  • Reply Courtney @ Don't Blink. Just Run. November 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    That’s amazing of them to do such a thing! How cool!

  • Reply Kim R. November 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I honestly probably spend my $500 on Christmas gifts. A few for my kids and then for the people that I want to but for but never have the extra money to include on my list (I usually only buy for my own kids).
    The other $500 I would either share with a newly divorced single mom – friend trying to get back on her feet or my friend who is pregnant with her 5th baby and her husband is in the midst of a job change. It would be a toughie!

  • Reply Nicole November 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    That is awesome! I love paying for people’s drinks at Starbucks. It’s even more fun when it starts a chain reaction of giving.

    I was recently laid off, so the $500 for me would go towards other peoples Christmas gifts. As for a friend, I have a dear friend who runs a local dog rescue. They have had a tough year, and I would love to give her the money to help her rescue.

  • Reply JenGa November 20, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I would love to use it toward presents I can’t afford this year for the people I love. There is nothing better than giving that perfect gift and seeing happy faces!

  • Reply sarah e November 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I would probably donate my 500 to an organization I know of that helps underprivileged brides, through wedding expenses to linen and dishes to help set up their new home. I would give my 500 to a woman I babysit for (once a week, no charge) who has 2 kids under 2 and a third on the way. I think she could definitely use the help, as she is in a tight financial situation. By the way, I’m a regular reader and LOVE your blog!

  • Reply Christy November 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    I would love to do something like you did with the $500. I love the idea of paying it forward and this would be a great way to do it. I might take a little of it to pay my student loan so I have a little extra money to buy Christmas gifts :)

    I would give the other $500 to my sister (who is my best friend). She and her husband have had a tough year financially and I know that extra money would go a long way in making their Christmas a little merrier.

  • Reply Stefanie November 21, 2013 at 12:22 am

    I would buy $500 worth of faux unicorn heads because, duh.

  • Reply Lexi November 21, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I hang out with a bunch of kiddos who are in the foster system while their foster families participate in monthly support group and educational sessions. I’d spend $500 on snow suits this winter and adorable little Keens in the spring for them! They would make playing outside so much more fun/comfortable for the kids!

  • Reply Lexi November 21, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Oh and matching snow suit and keens for me too!

  • Reply Jen November 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

    This is amazing.
    I am lucky enough to have all of the things that I need, a lot of the things that I want, and lots of people to love. I would use my $500 for the clients at my work who are disadvantaged. I work with people who are out of work, and some of these people are in very destitute situations. Being November, it would be a great time to provide gift certificates to a local grocery store or the local butcher so someone can have a Christmas turkey. I would give the $500 to a friend who is an amazing single Mom who works hard to provide for her son and deserves to spoil herself and her son. She works hard, does so much for him and doesn’t have as much support as I would like her to have.
    This type of give-away is exactly why I love your blog SO VERY MUCH!

  • Reply Emily J. November 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Amazing! Love this! If I won $500 for myself, I’d definitely start out by doing showing some drive-thru love to some folks behind me. I always think that’s so cool, then I’d probably do something boring and responsible with the rest because my husband and I are both boring and responsible (hello savings account). For a friend, I’d split it up and send a $250 gift card to two of my friends who could really, really use the help right now.

  • Reply Laura @losingrace November 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    This is seriously amazing. I love how you chose to do lots of little things to really spread the smiles—you’re a good egg.

  • Reply Leslie W November 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I have been blessed tremendously this year so if I won the $500.00, I would do exactly what you did and perform random acts of kindness. As for the other $500.00, I would split the money between my two best friends because they could both really use the money.

  • Reply Erin November 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I would love to make Christmas for a family that was in need – either through an organization or one that I find on my own. I would split the money for friends between two families who are in ministry with little children.

  • Reply Bean Bytes 65 November 25, 2013 at 1:01 am

    […] this campaign from Invisalign: Smile It Forward via Neon […]

  • Reply Cheryl Dwyer December 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I would love to anonymously help some people in our tiny community find a bag of fresh fruit on their doorstep. What food they have is canned from last summer, and its a distance to the nearest store who might have fresh produce, especially for the elderly & disabled. They forget how sweet a tomato can taste, even a green house one. A gift, a joyous one, during this season of giving.

  • Reply Shanda December 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    For me, it would be buying groceries for my family and books for my daughter and for the other $500 would be buying groceries for food banks.

  • Reply erica arnold December 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    For me and my family id spend the $500 on healthy organic foods and vitamins, a nice stockpile to base our diets on for the new year. The $500 for a friend, I would help the coworker I have, she is homeless, and had to sleep on the steps of a church a few weeks ago in the freezing cold. Ive never known someone homeless, but she still works and struggles, but does the right things to get her life back on track.

  • Reply Deborah Tabor December 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Our brother-in-law (also our veterinarian) truly went above and beyond in saving our sweet 9 1/2 yr old beagle mix, Lucy. Upon seeing her for the first time, he said she looked like a cancer patient: thin…white gums…dehydrated…lack of luster in her eyes…depressed…vomiting…urinary incontinence…and a VERY swollen abdomen. After x-rays and labs, he called us in the room to show his findings…a HUGE tumor encasing every bit of her insides. He conveyed it just didn’t look good and gave us two choices, either an ultrasound or exploratory surgery. We chose the later.
    The next day we pulled our son out of school, drove to the vet clinic to say our good-byes in case she didn’t pull through surgery or he discovered obvious cancer (he told us he wouldn’t wake her if it was cancer). We were a nervous wreck, crying and waiting on pins and needles for the phone call saying she’d made it through surgery.
    After a “5-hour” surgery removing an “8 pound tumor” we got the call, she was ALIVE! :)
    Our brother-in-law told us days later he almost gave up several times during surgery (the tumor was extremely invasive, attached to every organ), but stopped, prayed and continued. God Bless Him!
    Although he didn’t do the surgery for free (he has a family to support ~ first baby born September 22nd), I still think he’s more than deserving of your Pay It Forward Gift and would love to show our appreciation for going above and beyond in saving our dog. <3
    As far as us receiving the money, this was certainly an unexpected expense ($4,000+) and couldn't have come at a worse time…Christmas. We've already explained to our son it's going to be a very small Christmas since we spent all that money on Lucy. After all, having our sweet girl is a great gift!
    Should we be chosen, we will use the money to get our son what he wanted for Christmas. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

    • Reply Deborah Tabor December 11, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      I’d like to add to my nomination. While eating dinner a few minutes ago, I told my husband of the nomination I submitted for our brother-in-law. He made a very good point that I’d like to add if I could.
      In addition to our b-i-l, his staff were immensely knowledgeable, professional, compassionate, informative (yes, I was a nervous parent who called every 4-5 hours during the course of Lucy’s 5 day stay) and most deserving of this gift too. If chosen, I’ll suggest to our b-i-l he use a portion of the gift as a “bonus” for the girls. Oh what a Christmas they too would have sharing in this gift!
      Again, thank you.

  • Reply katheryn kidder December 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

    With my $500 I would go down to the children’s hospital and donate gifts with a Santa to the children that can’t make it home for Christmas. With the other $500 I would get a couple friends together and we would go do random acts of kindness. I have always wanted to do something like this and have never had the extra money. This would be the best Christmas ever if I had the opportunity to do this. Merry Christmas and blessings to all.

  • Reply Cheryl December 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

    We have a very close friend who was recently diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer, as well as a cancerous growth on her liver. Her and her husband don’t have any health insurance. If I was one of the lucky ones to win the $500, I would donate all of the $1000. total to them to help with her medical bills.

  • Reply Kristofor A Smith December 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I know my story won’t be as down as others, but I would use the first few hundred to buy my kids some Christmas presents because I can’t afford any for them, I am disabled. The rest would go to taking other kids that are not as lucky and would buy them something just to see the smiles on their little faces, makes me wanna cry a little thinking about it.

  • Reply Elisha Palma December 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    About four or five days ago I started a group on Facebook. I love helping other people in any way I can. The name of my group is truckers angels of America. How I would spend $500.00 for a friend. My group has three families that were in need of a Christmas Miracle so I would split the money between them. One of the families her husband hasn’t been paid the other family her husband got layed off the third family her husband left to go out on the road and had a mild heart attack and had to have angioplasties and a stent placed. The $500.00 for me would be used to get our 5 kids Christmas and what is leftover would be placed for my truckers group in case someone is in need after Christmas.

  • Reply goldie December 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    The folks at our homeless center need transportation cards to travel to job interviews and evening shelters. I’d buy several prepaid bus cards and give them to the employment counselor and social worker to pass out.

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