LAKE PLACID — Keela Dates Grimmette was overwhelmed when she found out she was one of four winners of the national “Best of You” contest.
The Lake Placid woman and three others were selected from thousands of nominees for the 12th-annual Glamour magazine and Sally Hansen competition, which recognizes women who make a difference in the world and inspire others.
Fans of the top 10 finalists voted to determine the winners.
Dates, 28, was selected for her work with Reason2Smile, a charitable organization she founded that provides food, clothing, health care and education to at-risk children and orphans ages 2 through 20 at Jambo Jino probpya Academy and Children’s Home in the town of Mtwapa near Mombasaon the Kenyan coast.
Other winners are: Carrie Severson of Scottsdale, Ariz., who founded the Severson Sisters Foundation; Rebecca Stanley of Atlanta, Ga., who runs a nonprofit mentoring program called Blueprint 58; and Rachel Doyla of Commack, who creates positive interaction between women young and old through the group GlamourGals.
For two days in April, Dates Grimmette was in New York City, where she and the other winners were given makeovers at a luxurious spa and treated to dinner. They also participated in a six-hour photo shoot, complete with stylists and makeup artists, for this month’s issue of Glamour.
“It was definitely a different environment than what we’re used to up here,” she said.
Accompanying her was her then-fiancé, Mark Grimmette. The couple married June 30 and live in Lake Placid.
Dates Grimmette said she is thankful for everyone who voted for her in the “Best of You” contest and the support of all who have helped her thus far.
A photo from the shoot is featured on page 184 of Glamour’s September issue magazine, available now.
While in New York City, Dates Grimmette, Severson, Stanley and Doyla got to talk about what inspires them in the work they do.
“That was probably the best part of the whole experience,” Dates Grimmette said of connecting on a personal level with the other winners and “seeing how inspired they are.”
She continues to stay in touch with them.
SPREADING THE WORD
Since the photo was published on Aug. 7, Reason2Smile has invited followers to take pictures of themselves holding up the magazine in different locations around the country.
The images are posted on the organization’s Facebook page.
“It’s a cool way for us to continue to support the organization” in the wake of the publicity from Glamour and Sally Hansen, Dates Grimmette said.
The photos have sparked the curiosity of Facebookers who see them posted on their friends’ walls and have helped to spread the word about Reason2Smile, she said.
“It’s definitely created a lot more motion on our Facebook page.”
Glamour and Sally Hansen donated $1,000 to each of the winner’s organizations.
So far this year, Reason2Smile has raised $60,000 toward its $128,000 goal for 2012.
Dates Grimmette will return to the Jambo Jipya school in February 2013, bringing with her Lake Placid High School seniors Mary Kate Graham and Carleigh Garrett.
The two young women will each pay $2,500 to cover all their travel costs, and with her guidance, they will work at the school for two weeks as part of a senior project.
They will plant a garden with the children at the orphanage and teach them how to take care of the crops. That way, the garden will go on after Graham and Garrett leave Kenya.
Dates Grimmette hopes she can continue bringing students with her each year to share in her experience, she said.
The trip will mark the first time Reason2Smile will work to improve the lives of those outside Jambo Jipya.
The Reason2Smile Board of Directors recently approved $950 for installation of concrete floors in two classrooms at the AMAF school in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dates Grimmette will also reach out to donors, hoping to raise enough money to put in two more floors.
The school has mud floors that are difficult to maintain in the rainy season and damaging to the students’ health during the dry months because of dust.
This Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Lake Placid Public Library, a show featuring and selling works by Lake Placid photographer John DiGiacomo will benefit Reason2Smile. View the photographs for sale at www.placidtimesphotography.com. Those who can’t attended the show but want to purchase works can contact DiGiacomo through the website. Mention Reason2Smile, and the purchase price will go to the organization.
To learn more about Reason2Smile or to make a donation, go to www.reason2smile.org.