Mangia for a Mission

I Nonni restaurant raises funds to support life-changing surgeries for children

A mission to smile about

Photos by chris shaffner

Frank and Karen Marchionda, owners of Buon Giorno Italia and I Nonni, hosted the 10th annual Mangia for a Mission dinner on January 22. All of the proceeds were donated to Smile Network International, which provides reconstructive surgeries and healthcare to impoverished children in developing countries.

Brian Rank: I was recruited on to Smile’s board and to be medical director about eight years ago. In my other career, I’m a medical oncologist. Smile is mission work. For $500, something that takes thousands of dollars here in the United States can change the life of a kid with a cleft palate.

Peggy Halvorson: As a nurse, I always had a desire to do mission work. I went on my first mission trip with Smile about four years ago. Now I’ve been on 14 missions, and I have three planned for this year. Some are very busy. You’re very exhausted and also exhilarated—you work these long days but you just want to get up and do it again. Seeing the transformations in the kids and the families and the gratitude is energizing.

Frank Marchionda: My wife and I have gone on two missions, one to Peru and the other to Kenya. We saw poverty like I never knew existed. We also saw what having an affliction like a cleft lip or palate can do to you. It’s a death sentence. You’re shunned. People in the Smile Network care about the forgotten ones.

Karen Marchionda: I was once a nurse, and going on these missions changed our lives. We could actually be there and help contribute and not just write a check. It’s not just a smile fix—people with cleft palates can have difficulty getting nourishment if the condition is severe enough.

As told to Nancy Rosenbaum