ASME Members Start a Grassroots Effort to “Put-A-Smile” on Children Affected by Disasters

Nov. 3, 2017

(Left to right) Koorosh Khanjani, vice chair of the Orange County Section, Selina Eich, president of the ASME University of California, Irvine Student Section, and Simon Pun, treasurer of the Orange County Section, were among the ASME members who volunteered to help assemble the “Put-A-Smile” packages at Brian James’ house in Costa Mesa, Calif.

ASME sections are being sought to take part in a new grassroots initiative, the “Put-A-Smile” project, which aims to bring some much-needed cheer to children affected by the recent storms that devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

The project began in September when several ASME leaders and members from the Orange County, Santa Clara Valley and Los Angeles Sections, motivated by media coverage of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, decided to work together to show support for storm victims in the Houston area. Realizing that they didn’t have the resources to send essential items, the sections decided instead to send packages of treats that would lift the spirits of some of the children left in the storm’s wake.

Brian James, chair of the Orange County Section, hosted the “Put-A-Smile” packaging party at his house. The team of volunteers prepared 500 of the packages during the four-hour gathering.

With financial support provided by the three sections, the “Put-A-Smile” project was launched. Brian James, chair of the Orange County Section, volunteered to oversee the effort. After purchasing the trail mix, chocolate lollipops and fidget spinners that would fill each package, James hosted a packaging party at his house, where several ASME members and student members from the local community met in mid-September to prepare 500 “Put-A-Smile” bags.

In addition to James, volunteers taking part in the packing party included Koorosh Khanjani, vice chair of the Orange County Section; Simon Pun, treasurer of the Orange County Section; Selina Eich, president of the ASME University of California, Irvine Student Section; and ASME member Tuesday Do. Local art designer Barbara Hamagami created decorative tags for the bags, featuring the ASME logo, which included encouraging messages such as ‘You are in our thoughts,’ ‘Don’t forget to share,’ ‘Forget yesterday, enjoy today,’ and ‘Help each other.’

Each of the packages contained a See’s chocolate lollipop, a bag of trail mix, and a fidget spinner.

Once assembled, the packages were then shipped to Jared Oehring, a member of the Technical Events and Content Council from Houston, who agreed to distribute the packages to a school in the area. Oehring and his wife, Melissa, worked with the local school district to identify a school where the packages could be distributed. They decided on Lobit Elementary School in Dickinson, Texas, a particularly hard-hit community where approximately 90 percent of the houses were flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The “Put-A-Smile” packages were a big success with the students, according to the school’s principal, Stephanie Williams, who distributed the gift bags to the children. Williams later relayed her thanks to Melissa Oehring in a text message, adding: “They were very excited! We appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity so much!”

In an effort to build on the success of that first “Put-A-Smile” effort, Michael Roy, the ASME Sections representative for the Society’s newly formed Group Engagement Committee, is attempting to expand the project to other ASME sections. Roy, who had previously served as leader of ASME’s former District A, is currently seeking section leaders from ASME sections to help coordinate a “Put-A-Smile” package program for children affected by Hurricane Irma in Florida.

A bright ribbon and a decorative tag with an uplifting message (and the ASME logo) were the finishing touches on the 500 “Put-A-Smile” packages.

Roy hopes to have several sections lined up within the next few weeks to raise funds, purchase items, and assemble the packages so they can be sent to Florida by mid-November. Roy’s employer, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co., has agreed to underwrite shipping costs for the first shipment to Florida. As the project expands, Roy hopes to get other corporate sponsors involved in the program.

“The Put-A-Smile project is a good way to start engaging section leaders and give them opportunities to engage with other section leaders,” Roy said. “I think it also allows them to engage with the community and with the student section leaders in the local universities. And it’s good for ASME because if we get these “Put-A-Smile” packages in front of the younger grade school students, it makes them remember that maybe during a tough time in their life, ASME did something nice for them. If that makes them interested in ASME or encourages them to want to learn more about engineering, that’s good for society and ASME. It may also make people more aware of who ASME members are and all the good things that they do. I think a lot of good that can come out of this.”

Several students from Lobit Elementary School with their “Put-A-Smile” gift bags.

In addition to Roy’s effort to expand the program, two of this year’s Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE) interns, Jonathan Jennings and Kushi Sellahennedige, also have plans to send their own “Put-A-Smile” packages to children in Puerto Rico. Jennings plans to purchase the items for the gift bags and host the packing and shipping party at his home in Arizona once sufficient funds have been raised by Sellahennedige, who is in charge of donations.

For more information on the Group Engagement Committee’s “Put-A-Smile” effort, contact Michael Roy by e-mail at To learn more about the ECLIPSE initiative, or to make a donation, contact Kushi Sellahennedige by e-mail at