Spreading smiles: Iowa MOST

Lead Organizer Krisha Kapoor ’23 discusses the Iowa MOST’s mission to help the community by raising money with a concert students can be involved in.


Wesal Haroun

Krisha Kapoor ’23 gives the closing speech at the annual Iowa MOST Benefit Concert

Kamakshee Kuchhal, Print Assistant Copy Editor

Iowa Miles of Smiles Team (MOST) is dedicated to providing kids in Guatemala with the funding and medical assistance to treat cleft lip. Krisha Kapoor ’23 discusses how the community can be involved in raising donation money through volunteer and performing opportunities in an annual concert.


What is the Iowa MOST Benefit Concert?

Iowa MOST is a group of doctors from the Iowa City area who go to Guatemala every year to perform cleft lip surgery for children who can’t afford it, typically. Because of COVID, the Iowa MOST concert used to exist 5 years ago, and just because of the mix of COVID and losing leadership, the concert came to a halt. [After COVID], the team wanted to go back and start their mission, but costs had gone up, and funding in general needed to be increased. After talking to one of the volunteers, who is Nancy Pacha, both of us came up with the idea of doing the concert again. In the concert specifically, it’s basically just a bunch of students from the Iowa City area coming together and showing off their talents for a crowd of family, friends, donors, sponsors, and people that have gone on the mission. And we fundraise by selling tickets for the event and outside of the event, at least this past year. We also did a … silent auction to raise money and we also called sponsors and asked them to be sponsors for the event. We raise money so that’s kind of what the Iowa MOST Benefit concert is. It’s basically just bringing together students in our community to support this really cool organization.


What does Iowa MOST stand for?

Iowa Miles of Smiles Team. Their motto is giving kids smiles, and I don’t know, it’s really heartwarming to me because I think a smile is a form that really deepens your connection. I was talking to a doctor on past missions when I was calling him for sponsoring, and he was chatting with me about how it’s shunned to have like a cleft lip in Guatemala. Oftentimes, those kids are forced to stay in their houses and aren’t allowed to get opportunities that other kids are getting. This mission is truly putting a smile in their community, not only just the kid, which is really sweet.


What was the process of reorganizing the Iowa MOST Benefit Concert?

I think it was a little bit harder to get started again because I just didn’t have that support from past people as much … like explaining how it can be [with] all the little nuances. I think in particular, something that was a little bit hard, was just navigating the COVID situation because a lot of the people who are part of the Iowa MOST community are older, so we needed to make sure we were being mindful of their safety. A lot of businesses have been struggling lately because of COVID. They would [usually] donate food and donate money and just be sponsors for the event. It was a little bit harder to get people to sponsor the event, but just by calling and explaining our mission, we got a lot of support and that was really nice to see. We made the mistake of [hosting] close to the musical so a lot of people who are involved in music … who I wanted to be involved in MOST, weren’t available. We kind of had to reach out and I think I went with the fun approach of like just getting all types of acts. We had stand-up poetry. We had different types of dancing. It was kind of just an opportunity for students to like step out of their comfort zone and perform if they haven’t before because a lot of the performers that are typically on the stage at West High just weren’t available. So it was kind of a new space for people who haven’t been able to perform as much to show off their skills, which I thought was kind of fun and an unexpected part of it. 


How are donations and surgeries provided to those that need them?

What I love a lot about Iowa MOST is how every single dollar that goes into it goes to the kids and providing surgery for the kids. Oftentimes you see with like charities that the money is kind of wishy-washy where it’s going. They take a lot of the percentage to take care of fees, but Iowa MOST truly cares about the kids. The people who are going to the mission, like it’s usually about 35 people per mission, and every single one of them pays for their own flight. They could get money from the organization, but they all want to put forth their best effort so they’re paying for the flight … Instead of taking more clothes, they fill up their suitcases with medical equipment. They are really just a selfless group of people. I have full trust that every single dollar is going to [the kids]. I was able to attend a lot of board meetings for Iowa MOST, and just to see how passionate they are about this, is really heartwarming and it was just a great feeling. That’s how I knew that I wanted to try to put my full effort into Iowa MOST.


We kind of started the [donation] process by calling a lot of sponsors, so people in the past who have sponsored events, which was kind of hard to get them on board again because it’s been a couple of years … A lot of them were willing to be sponsors again, which was really sweet to see. Another [part] was asking businesses, like Hills bank, to donate some money. Other businesses, they’ll donate cookies and stuff for the actual event. We had cookies for the attendees to enjoy during the break. Our biggest revenue is just selling tickets. We kind of increased the price for adults and decreased it for students because we wanted more students to have access to the event. But in future years, I definitely want to increase just overall attendance. Because it was kind of like post-COVID, we kind of kept it low, but I just want to increase that to make sure we’re getting the most money. After the event, a lot of people who were in the audience came up to me and donated more money because of how much they enjoyed being there and liked learning about the MOST mission. Donations are a huge part of it. But another part is just putting the nonprofit on people’s radar so they know about it. And I think it’s just like a good feeling to know that our Iowa City community is contributing to other countries that aren’t as fortunate as us.


How much money was Iowa MOST able to raise last year?

I say 10,000 [dollars]. A majority of that was from tickets and just people donating. Even if they couldn’t attend, we had a generous donor give us enough money to sponsor tickets for teachers. I sent out emails to my teachers and was like ‘If you want to attend just for free, just come, someone paid for your tickets. I know if any student approached me saying they wanted to be there, I would have let them just walk in, because we had so many people that were like, ‘I can’t be there but please give this money to someone else’. We got 10,000 dollars, and hopefully [it] will grow next year.


What do plans for the concert look like for next year?

Last year, the concert was at the Coralville Performing Arts Center. We booked that again for April 23 of next year. That’s a Sunday night. On Monday, we don’t have school, so hopefully, we can get a lot of participation that night. It was like about an hour-and-a-half performance, which I thought was a sweet spot … I want to get maybe other schools more involved with City and Liberty because it is a whole community-type thing. I also want to start selling tickets and advertising a little bit earlier than we did to increase attendance in general just because we have the capacity for that now because [COVID] restrictions have been lifted. Those are just a bunch of things I want to work on. Other than that, I just like making it more of a fun time for people, but I already thought it was a great time. I’m just excited to do a bunch of things to make it even better.


How can people get involved with the Iowa MOST Benefit Concert?

There are a lot of ways you can get involved, which is really exciting to me. It’s pretty it’s as much commitment as you want it to be. One of the bigger ones would be working under the committee of lead organizers with me and other lead organizers, [such as] Mohana Sunkara and Himani Laroia. Zoe Scott, Zoe Smith, and Helena were a lot of help and are like the main committee, but I definitely want to grow it and include more younger people so it can continue in the [future]. If you want to be part of that, it’s basically just doing all the administrative stuff, like calling sponsors, putting together decorations, organizing the silent auction, and all that type of things. If you’re really into marketing, you can work on the fundraising part. If you’re more into like the medical side of things, we have a lot of the people who go on the missions come in and talk to people who are helping with this fundraiser and would be willing to teach people about the mission in general and what it means to their medical journey. We need ushers that night to walk people and talk to people about the mission. You could just volunteer the day of and you can help set up to get a little bit of exposure. And then, of course, we need performers. So if people are interested in performing, that’s always a plus. I usually send out a form early in the year, like January ish, to start getting performers. But if you’re like interested and want to get a jump on it, you can like email me. I think there are a lot of opportunities in whatever aspect of MOST you’re most interested in. It’s a great way for students to get involved in our community and make a lot of connections because there are a lot of great adults and people that you can meet. So just a lot of opportunities, and I feel like that’s a good thing for students to have.


Why should people get involved with the Iowa MOST Benefit Concert?

I think Iowa MOST is the epitome of what it means to be a good citizen. It means taking your passions and what you care about and applying them to like the bigger world and putting yourself in the lens of equity and giving back. Which I think a lot of people should. I think it’s a really good exposure to have. It’s a good awakening for people in our community to realize that not everyone is as fortunate as us. And I think there are a lot of different opportunities to get involved. I felt like communities kind of dwindled after COVID at our school, and I think [the concert] is one of those events that can bring a lot of people together and every single dollar is going to a really good cause. I think it was a great experience for a lot of people.