Photos & words by John Streit.
While we approach every family’s Surf & Adventure experience with the utmost passion and enthusiasm, it’s always a treat when influential members of our community choose to hit the water with us. That was the case last week, when Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee — founders of the global, Virginia Beach-based medical nonprofit Operation Smile — brought their big, happy family down to Sandbridge for our famous Back Bay Eco Tour! Comprised of the elder Magees, several of their children and many more grandkids — 21 in all — the crew was stoked to take on our three-mile track down our waterway and into the open waters of North Bay. Youthful energy and adventurous spirits ran high as we made the paddle through the maritime forest into the open marsh and open water. Some of the resident critters decided to put on a show for the Magees, as we spotted turtles, snakes, muskrats, red wing blackbirds, purple martins, vultures, osprey and even a pair of bald eagles soaring over the marsh in the bluebird skies.
The Magees founded Operation Smile in 1982 after visiting the Philippines and witnessing the remarkably high concentration of cleft lips and palettes in the local population — most of which in poverty-stricken, rural areas. Since then, Operation Smile has steadily grown into one of the world’s most celebrated and recognized nonprofit organizations for their tireless work in improving the lives of their patients — free of charge — around the globe. The Magees have been the recipients of numerous awards and honors including the first $1 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996, the Servants of Peace Award in 1997, the Golden Plate Award and Kellogg’s Hannah Neil World of Children Award in 1999, and in 2001 the Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service and the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize for Exceptional Endeavors of Outstanding Moral and Humanitarian Value by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. In 2007, USAID presented the Magees with the President’s Call to Service Award from President George W. Bush. In addition, Kathy Magee was highlighted in November 2009 in US News & World Report’s issue “America’s Best Leaders.”
We would like to offer huge thanks to the Magees for their incredible contribution to humanity — not to mention bringing the family down for a good time on the water!