Graduating in 2006 from Wells College, Keela planned to take a year off to volunteer abroad before returning to upstate New York and pursuing a career in education. Life, however, had different plans for her. The children in Kenya she planned to teach for only two months, touched her heart and changed her life. She came back to the United States with a new mission: creating safe, healthy, and happy living and learning environments for children in developing countries. Their smiles and laughter echo in her heart and mind. These children became her passion and her life. She was not willing to leave them behind and so she founded Reason2Smile to ensure their futures.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Donna resides in Merrick, NY with her husband and three children. She is the Supervisor of the School Library System for Nassau BOCES. Donna is passionate about children and education. She is Reason2Smile’s Executive Director and chair of the educational committee. She is constantly coming up with new ways to impact people locally and abroad. Donna travels to Jambo Jipya School annually.
"For me Reason2Smile has filled a void that I was not cognizant existed. I am so grateful to be a part of this organization and its members. In the words of Muthami, a 14 year old orphan from the school ‘Life is Good!’"
Jackie lives in Bozeman, Montana with her husband and 2 children. Jackie works part time as videographer shooting weddings and freelancing for a local production company. Jackie is passionate about African dance and is the brains behind Reason2Smile’s annual World Music Festival.
"I am thrilled to be on the Board for Reason2Smile and have a full heart knowing I am helping Keela fulfill her passion for helping children and giving them a chance to succeed."
Mary Kate Graham
Mary Kate Graham grew up in Lake Placid NY, and currently studies Mathematics, Psychology, and Theatre Performance at SUNY Potsdam. Mary Kate traveled to Kenya with Reason2Smile in 2013, as part of her senior project. She is passionate about children, and teaching them all about the wonderful world of math!
"For me, Reason2Smile has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined before. I am so thankful every day, and am so blessed to have had the chance to meet the kids. I wouldn‘t be the person I am today without R2S. As T.D Jakes says, "if you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose’"
Nip attended George Washington University from 1979-1987. He received his BFA in 1983 and his MFA in 1987. Nip has been a freelance illustrator since 1987. He currently resides in Lake Placid, NY (his hometown) after being away for 30 years. Nip traveled to Kenya in 2008 and spent a couple of months visiting Jambo Jipya School.
“Keela has started doing something I have always dreamed of doing. I have been involved almost from the beginning of Reason2Smile and I am not about to stop now!”
Francis Mwakima Mwangola
Francis was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Upon completion of high school, he moved to the USA where he lived for 9 years in the State College, PA area. He studied computer engineering at Penn State University and worked at a software company in the area before moving back to Kenya in 2011. He currently lives in Nairobi with his wife and 3 children.
"It has always been a passion of mine to give back to the less fortunate in Kenya. Reason2Smile gives me a great opportunity to be a part of an initiative that will have a lasting impact on the residents of Mtwapa."
Zoe lives in Saranac Lake, NY with her husband and two children. She has contributed to Reason2Smile for years through her participation in World Music Festival as a dancer with Soma Beats African Dance group. Zoe is the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program and is involved in local educational issues. Zoe has not been to Kenya, but has family there and would love to go someday!
"My primary reason I joined the Reason2Smile board is because Keela‘s work makes me think beyond my own comfortable world. The work of Reason2Smile has reminded me that it is critical to look beyond our own community and that even small acts can have big impacts elsewhere in the world. Keela is an inspiration and role model for young people and I’m excited to work with her and the rest of the board on supporting the work of Reason2smile."
Christina lives in Upstate New York with her husband Jasen, and a houseful of cats and dogs. She received her BA at Wells College in 2007. She currently works for NBT Bank. Not only is Christina a member of the board but also serves as Reason2Smile’s treasurer.
"I have been watching Reason 2 Smile grow from the very beginning. It is exciting to actually be helping out with the board after all these years. What a great opportunity!"
Kitty lives in Sterling, NY with her husband and enjoys life embracing her children and grandchildren. She is a retired school teacher and believes that there is so much that education can offer our world. She followed her daughter, Keela, to Jambo Jipya School in Kenya in 2007 and fell in love with the children there.
"We are so blessed in our American culture, but we often forget that we are blessed to be a blessing. I think living with gratitude and reaching out to others with compassion gives us our greatest opportunity to find joy in our life’s purpose."
Tammy lives in Keene, NY with her husband Nick and daughter Zarela. She is co-owner of Green Goddess Natural Market in Lake Placid. Her involvement with Somabeats African dance group has led her to be a part of Reason 2 Smile’s World Music Festival, dancing in the event since its conception. Over the past 3 years Tammy has helped organize this festival with Keela Grimmette and Jackie Gilmore. Being a part of the festival has sparked Tammy’s interest in Reason 2 Smile’s mission of education and global awareness.
Working with Keela and Jackie on Reason 2 Smile’s World Music Festival has been extraordinary. They have inspired me to get involved locally to support education globally. My own belief that education is the path to a brighter future is resounded by the mission of Reason 2 Smile. I have watched my daughter benefit from an amazing education and believe every child should have access to these resources. I am honored to contribute to a group whose success is measured in the smiles and advancement of the children at the Jambo Jipya school.
Mark has a Degree in Music from the University of Vermont and a Masters in Divinty from Boston University School of Theology. Mark has been United Methodist Clergy from 1981 through the present. He is currently serving as pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Burlington, Vermont. Mark is married with three grown children, one grandson, and one granddaughter. He currently resides in Burlington, VT.
"I have been given so very much. Reason2Smile inspires me to give something back - a bridge connecting needs with resources, where love and compassion meet in the middle.”
Steve is the owner of Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake. This is primarily a paddle sport retail shop. They also rent canoes and kayaks and offer guiding and other services. Steve currently resides in Lake Placid, NY.
“I have a keen interest in the people of Kenya. I worked for the YMCA of Kenya for three years and am aware of the needs of the people of Kenya especially the children. I believe Reason2Smile is a unique opportunity to do something tangible and lasting for the children and community of Mtwapa.”
Rita has taught for 29 years. Currently she teaches first grade at Cato-Meridian Elementary, a rural school between Rochester and Syracuse. Rita is married and has two grown children, a son and a daughter and five grandchildren. She lives on a small farm in Marcellus, NY.
“The first time I saw Keela, after her first stay in Kenya, I knew this was not going to be a short term ‘Fundraiser.’ This was going to be a lifetime commitment for her and to see her passion and feel her energy, I knew this was something I wanted to be part of."
Steve was born and raised in Lake Placid in a large family with 6 siblings. After a 12 year healthy career at Bank of Lake Placid, he took the job as Guest Service Manager at the Holiday Inn where he learned the hospitality business. After 10 years Steve moved to the competitor, Hilton Lake Placid Resort to become the Director of Sales & Marketing. After 6 years of 80 hour weeks and a lot of stress, he stepped down and is now the Senior Sales Manager, focusing on conference sales for Associations, Government and other groups. Steve currently resides in Saranac Lake, NY.
"When someone has a passion as strong as Keela’s about Reason2Smile and Jambo Jipya, I cannot help but want to share that with her.”