Monday, October 17, 2011

Calling All Smooch! Project Heroes!

Good food. Good company. Good cause.

It's time to celebrate The Smooch! Project Heroes -- the generous people who have volunteered and helped move this project forward since its beginning in April 2006. I am sooooo thankful for all the assistance I've received over the years. I'm very happy to host a new and oh-so-smoochy annual event, appropriately named The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering.

ALL Heroes and a loved one are heartily invited to attend for FREE, as a gift for their past generosity to The Smooch! Project. Additional guests are also welcome and will be asked to contribute at the door ($10 per person, $30 per family group, children under 5 are free when accompanied by an adult). 

Come spend an evening with us! 

The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, 5-8pm
Eddington's Restaurant, 5125 Edina Industrial Blvd, Edina, MN 55439
Guests may arrive at any time
Food will be served all evening, up to 7:30pm
A short welcome & presentation will be offered at 6pm

This is designed to be a heart-warming opportunity for all Smooch! supporters to come together and celebrate this past year and meet other generous people who also support the Smooch! We'll be offering lots of wonderful food plus a projected display of all the Smooch! Archive photos so far collected for the project.

No reservations are required but RSVPs are appreciated to help us plan for the evening. All the Heroes should have already received an email invitation to this event. If you are a Hero and did NOT receive a personal invite, pls let me know ( and I'll have one sent to you right away. 

If you are not a Hero but would like to attend this event, we'd love to see you there! To get on the list, simply send an email to us at

Our menu: All you Can Eat Soup, Salad & Breadsticks
  • Strawberry Walnut Salad (Romaine)
  • Roasted Almond Salad (Cabbage)
  • Mixed Greens Salad
  • Boundary Waters Wild Rice Soup
  • Tomato Basil Nut Soup
  • Beef Eater's Stew
  • Bombay Chicken Curry Soup
  • Fresh, hot breadsticks
  • Coffee, hot tea, & fountain sodas
Come celebrate The Smooch! Project with us! This promises to be a wonderful and warm event.

Your Support is Requested
It is our goal to create a 10,000-image archive of people from all over the world demonstrating their affection to someone they love. We do not have any big name backers or corporate sponsors (we're working on this!) which means our source of revenue is limited to photo sales, sponsored Smooch! shoots . . . and generous people like yourself. 

If you believe the work we are doing is worth accomplishing (help lift people's hearts in challenging situations & encourage them to recognize our similarities rather than our differences), please make a tax deductible donation now. Any amount, no matter how small, would be gratefully accepted.

Thanks so much for your support. May your life be filled with heart-lifting smooches!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Smooch! photos at work in the world

Last month, I went to the hospital. Specifically, I went to the Emergency Room of Children's Hospitals And Clinics of Minnesota - Minneapolis. No, I did not have an emergency health need. I was there to collect photographs. Photos like this one:     

Children's Hospital recently purchased 22 photographs from The Smooch! Project Archive for the express purpose of installing one in every private room within their Emergency Department. I had come to the hospital to document these photos now residing in their new homes. I could not view all the rooms, of course, due to patient privacy. That day, I found eight empty rooms, all from which I collected documentary photographs.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a better place for Smooch! photographs than this. For me, this is a real-life example of how images from the archive are being put to work in the world, helping lift the hearts of people in challenging situations.  My happy heart filled to the brim just seeing them there. Then, a surprising and remarkable thing happened. As I was packing up to leave, one of the ER nurses walked up to me. "Thank you for making these," she said. "Thank you for The Smooch! Project."

Gah! My already full heart suddenly felt like it would burst in response to that generous gesture. I caught my breath, smiled and thanked her for her kindness. But I knew how these heart-lifting photographs had come into being. I knew who truly deserved her thanks. And I knew exactly what I needed to do next: Share this story with Smooch! supporters.

I am very clear about this: The Smooch! Project and its growing collection of archive photographs would not have been possible without the help and support of the 100+ people -- The Smooch! Project Heroes -- who have helped me in so many ways, large and small. These are the people who deserve to be thanked for these beautiful photographs. For all you have done to help me move this project forward, that ER nurse -- and I -- are immensely grateful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so very much. 

As a token of my sincere appreciation, I hope all of you will be able to attend an event to celebrate the Heroes of The Smooch! Project!

The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering
We held our very first thank you party last fall. It felt so appropriate that I decided we should try to hold one every year. Calling all Heroes (and their loved ones) -- Please save this date:

December 3, 2011, 5-8pm
Eddington's Restaurant, 5125 Edina Industrial Blvd, Edina, MN 55439

This event will be FREE to all Heroes (plus a loved one). We'll be offering everyone a hearty fall dinner of soup, salad, & breadsticks. Lots more details to come very soon. Smooches! to all!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Smooches! California, here we ARE!

Whew. What a trip, in more ways than one. The invite to bring The Smooch! Project to Coronado/San Diego has been such a great gift, for which I am truly grateful. Actually accomplishing this had been my primary challenge for the last few months. This was our first Smooch! Away Mission (SAM) where we would travel by airplane. Figuring out how to "fly the Smooch!" turned out to be both fun and anxiety-inducing. Was I going to rent, borrow, or bring my own equipment? I decide to use my own, but what was the best way to get it there? You'll see my solution in the photo below:

This is Martha Delaney, Super Smooch! Supporter with greatly relieved me just moments after we landed in the San Diego airport. The photographer is her mother, Martha Lepore (more about both of these remarkable women below). Between us is literally the Smooch!-on-the-move: Two heavy-duty cases holding all the necessary electronics (strobe lights, laptops, and more) plus a huge black duffel bag holding everything from light stands, power cords to my personal items. The cases were checked as luggage and could not exceed 50lbs each. The oversized duffle bag would not be accepted if it weighed more than 100lbs. I was very, very close to being overweight on all three pieces and had worried for days that I had exceeded the airline limits. As you can see, the baggage made it, along with with us. No mishaps or challenges to overcome so far. The San Diego SAM was off to a great start.

This smoochy adventure would never have come about without the amazing support of both Martha Mom (MM) and Martha Kid (MK). Mother and daughter worked together to set up the trip, taking care of all the travel and accommodation details. MK accompanied me to Coronado/San Diego, where I am now very comfortably staying with MM. I am so very lucky!

MM is a highly energetic retired marketing pro who continues to work tirelessly to help the Smooch! make a big splash while here. I arrived four days ago. Three days ago, I gave a presentation to the local Optimists Club. Two days, I was taped live on a local TV station. Yesterday, we went to the Coronado Public Library to set up the equipment. Today we hold the 106th Smooch! shoot there. All organized by MM. Early next week, MK has offered to be my San Diego tour guide, as we check out some of the amazing attractions that entice millions of people to visit this area every year. On Wed, MK & I will return to Minnesota.

I'm just over half way through the Coronado/San Diego SAM, which has literally been a dream come true. My newest wish: More Marthas for future Smooch! SAMs! These two women made this trip both fun & easy, really setting a high benchmark for all upcoming smoochy trips. As I've already said, I am exceedingly grateful to both Marthas. I have no idea what the future holds for Smooch! Project trips but if they are anything like my Coronado experience, I am gonna be one spoiled photographer!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

To Smooch! or SMOOCH? That is the question.

I'll be frank: My life seems to be turning into something pretty darn incredible. Sure, I'm as broke as the rest of you but, from a gifts-from-the-universe viewpoint, I am so wealthy it simply takes my breath away. By way of example, let me tell you about one of the more amazing miracles in my life:

This is Dawn Mikkelson (along with hidden-at-the-moment shoot assistant Heidi Tugseth). Obviously Dawn's a filmmaker. Actually, she's an AWESOME filmmaker. (I've even got the footage to prove it -- Just check out the links below.) I took the pics in this blog entry during one of her recent film events.

Here's the miracle: Dawn's decided her next documentary film effort will feature The Smooch! Project. This is a big hairy deal! Her new film is most appropriately entitled SMOOCH The Documentary. It's about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. If you haven't seen the trailer for the film, you really should, IMHO. This film is going to be incredible.

There's a secondary benefit to the miracle of SMOOCH. Dawn is collecting stories on the topic of forgiveness from people like you and me. Most of this footage will appear on her website. Some of it is destined to appear in the film itself. I've seen some of the stories collected so far. They're poignant testimonies to the truly resilient capacity of the human heart. Here's an amazing example collected at the shoot where I took these pics. Follow this link and you'll also be able to check out a variety of videos relating to the film.

Got an opinion about forgiveness to share? We're holding a joint Smooch! Shoot & SMOOCH Forgiveness Filming at Midtown Global Market on July 23 & 24. See the Smooch! calendar at the right for details. Come on down and Smooch! or SMOOCH. You can even do BOTH if you'd like. You're invited to participate. Just like Brother Love, below. (Don't ya just love the name?)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Loving the entire world: A Smooch! Project Hero

I think Lori Yang literally loves the world. Every bit of it, large and small. You can certainly see how much she cares for her daughter Harper, so beautifully captured in the archive pic shown here. I will confirm that Lori brought this same enthusiasm to her work as a Smooch! Project Hero when she helped manage a recent busy Smooch! shoot. (You'll find her Heroic profile here). It's this open-hearted generosity of spirit that led Lori to bring The Smooch! Project to serve on behalf of another cause she finds compelling and thereby save lives throughout the world.

Lori is an organizer for Be the Match, a worldwide bone marrow registry that serves people suffering a variety of blood diseases. She's organized a community-based donor drive and helped find a sponsor to bring The Smooch! Project there. Lori doesn't even know anyone who is in need of a donor. This is quite a rarity in the registry world, as most drives are created by people seeking a match for someone they know and love. Like I said, Lori loves the entire world. "I believe with all my heart that the 10,000 people in need of marrow donors can find their matches," she said, "Just as surely as I believe our effort to photograph 10,000 Smooches will succeed."

We'll be there, collecting smooches and doing our best to attract as many people as possible to sign up as potential donors. Registering is (almost) as simple as a kiss: You simply fill out a short health form and swab your cheek with a kit provided at the event. Representatives from Be The Match will be there to send it on for processing. Then you get to feel wonderful that you might some day save the life of a complete stranger on the other side of the world! Frankly, I can't think of a better match for The Smooch! Project (no pun intended). Here's the details:


(Corporate sponsor: Kristen Christianson, Realtor/Keller Williams)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Edina Morningside Community Church, UCC

4201 Morningside Road, Edina



(On Grimes between Morningside & Branson Streets)



(In Edina Morningside Community Church basement)



(Map available at the block party)

Live music, munchies & more! Bouncy house, kids activities, dancing, gift basket raffle, and opportunities to be a hero and save lives by joining the bone marrow registry. Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A special Smooch! shoot for Amazing Gracie

Tomorrow (May 7) is a big day for a little girl named Gracie and her family. Her parents and the community who loves and supports them are coming together to help her win the fight of her life. Amazing Gracie was born last November with Down Syndrome and an unbalanced heart. She's already undergone two corrective surgeries. Later this month, Gracie and her family will be facing her third.

I met Amazing Gracie a few weeks ago at a privately-sponsored Smooch! shoot. Her parents made special arrangements to bring her to be photographed, as 4-month old little Grace must be protected from infectious germs in anticipation of her upcoming surgery. At the shoot, a family member gave me a flyer about the upcoming benefit and asked me to consider bringing The Smooch! Project to the event. While I did so, my smoochy calendar cleared for the weekend. The stars aligned and the way was cleared. Hooray! We scheduled the shoot just a few days ago. Here's a photo of the star of the event:

Because of the need to protect her from germs, Amazing Gracie cannot be present at her own benefit. But this photo will be there! We've made it into a life-sized cutout and will be offering it to all well-wishers to smooch in front of our camera at this benefit shoot. All donations for the privilege to do so will go to Gracie and her family. The Smooch! Project is happy to contribute this shoot as part of the benefit to support this child. Won't you do so too?

This family-friendly benefit starts at 3pm and will run until the place closes. There will be kid's activities, a silent auction (3-11pm), all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner (6-8pm), beer bust (8:30-11pm), and raffle prizes. The Smooch! shoot runs from 3-9pm. Here's a link to an info flyer to distribute to your own network. Here is a link to Gracie's Caring Bridge site. If you have questions, you can send an email to Here's the location info:

Benefit for Gracie Delaney
Saturday, May 7, 2011
8525 Cottonwood St.
Coon Rapids, MN 55433

If you would like to make a donation or cannot attend the benefit and would like to contribute, stop by any Wells Fargo or Wachovia location nationwide and ask to contribute to the "Grace Delaney Trust." Or mail a check (payable to Grace Delaney Trust) to : Wells Fargo Riverdale, c/o Grace Delaney Trust, 3200 Main Street NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55448. Please note: Donations are not tax-deductible.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coming full circle: The 100th Smooch! shoot

April 29, 2006 is a very important date in Smooch! Project history. That day, I held the first ever public Smooch! shoot in the party room of the apartment building I lived in at the time. Well, it was semi-public. The shoot was only open to the tenants of the Cosmopolitan Building, a downtown St. Paul Lowertown former warehouse renovated into 255 lofted apartments. I put up a small sign in the mail room and waited to see what would happen. I had no clue that history was in the making.

Seventeen people showed up that day, along with 6 dogs and 1 cat. Since that shoot, more than 3,300 people have participated in The Smooch! Project. I've collected more than 45,000 photographs. Of these, 1,200 have made it into the final archive. We've got a long way to go to reach our 10,000-image goal for the archive, but the trip so far has been amazing!

I offered that first shoot as an experiment. I wanted to see what effect photographs of strangers showing affection to someone they loved -- also strangers to me -- would have on me. This experiment succeeded well beyond my expectations. That shoot, and all the subsequent ones that followed, taught me a lot. About myself. About the people who chose to participate. About the people who have been following this project online.

The Smooch! Project has reached its 5-year anniversary. We're holding our 100th Smooch! shoot in the exact spot where our first public shoot was held five years ago. We've come full circle! We're growing up. We'd love to have you there. If you haven't yet had an opportunity to participate in The Smooch! Project (or would like to 'refresh' your existing archive image) this is the shoot you won't want to miss. Here's the details:

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Party Room
Noon to 8pm
250 East 6th Street
St. Paul (Lowertown), MN 55101
(Concurrent with the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl)

This is a FREE event. No reservations required. First come, first served. All affectionately-inclined humans welcome. Handicapped-accessible. Sorry, no pets are allowed at this event.

MAJOR BONUS: You could be in pictures!
Award-winning documentary film director Dawn Mikkelson and her team will be on hand at the 100th Smooch! shoot on May 1 to record your stories of reconciliation and forgiveness for use on the film’s YouTube Channel and maybe even in the film SMOOCH!

Inspired by and featuring The Smooch! Project,
SMOOCH is a feature-length documentary film which illuminates stories of reconciliation and healing from some of the most conflict-ridden nations in the world, profiling individuals who have found the humanity in the very persons they thought they could never forgive.

SMOOCH team is now taking to the streets (and 100th Smooch! Shoot) to collect stories of hundreds of individuals. Participants will be asked, “Is there anything you wish you could be forgiven for? Anything you wish you could forgive? and "Have you ever experienced being forgiven or forgiving when you thought it impossible?” These stories will create an online chorus of forgiveness and hopes for forgiveness, eventually joined by user-generated videos from across the globe! Share your story of forgiveness or hopes for forgiveness with the world!!!”