“Buy a bracelet, Save a Smile”: Sanjana and her organization for Cleft Lip surgeries.


Pictured is a Side by Side Smiles bracelet. The bracelets are $5 and have 6 charms on it, one being a heart engraved with “hand made with love”. Donations and purchases of similar bracelets can by made on sidebysidesmiles.org. Photo courtesy of Sanjana Gangadharan.

“BUY A BRACELET, SAVE A SMILE” is presented on Neuqua Valley junior Sanjana Gangadharan’s Instagram bio. Gangadharan and Metea Valley student Nadini Arakhoni are co-founders of the organization Side By Side Smiles, which was created four years ago. The two 17-year-olds work together to make bracelets to sell for $5 in order to raise money for cleft lip/palate surgeries and research.

“A cleft lip is defined as a split in the lip, and a cleft palate is [a] hole in the roof of the mouth. Both are considered developmental conditions, which may be associated with a genetic condition or another syndrome,” says the organization’s website. In developing regions, it is difficult to conduct research or to perform corrective surgeries. Arkhoni and Gangadharan’s organization collects money from the sale of the bracelets and individual donations to send to these areas to help those in need.

Gangadharan states she “definitely did not think we would get as much attention and support as we have so far.” Their original goal was to raise $2,400. The two girls have since gained lots of support throughout the years, raising $50,000 by selling 3600 bracelets which impacted 246 lives. They had an appearance on The Today Show, are mentioned in an article on Ellentube and have been reported on by other Chicagoland news outlets. Due to the amount of success received so far, Gangadharan has set a new goal to raise $100,000 by the end of 2020 and has added more causes like cleft lip surgeries to the organization. Donations and purchases can be made on sidebysidesmiles.com.

Students at Neuqua who are inspired by the story of Gangadharan can find a way to help out in the community too. Gangadharan suggests picking “a cause [you] are passionate about” and to use “social media and word of mouth” to promote the cause. The most important thing is to “be patient and continue to promote their cause/organization”.