A local event

A local event

Vernon woman raises smiles for Mexico

Seeing the sweet smiles of children once exploited, abused or abandoned is what keeps Barrita Durward of Vernon going back to Mexico.

Seeing the sweet smiles of children who were once exploited, abused or abandoned is what keeps her going back.

Barrita Durward of Vernon has returned to Mexico year after year to aid orphanages that rescue children of the streets.

Through her non-profit organization, appropriately called Sweet Smiles, Durward is once again returning to lend a hand this April, but she needs help.

The Greater Vernon community is invited to help spread love to children at the third annual Valentines for Mexico March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Vernon Lodge.

Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, Durward says it’s never too late to spread love to those who need it most.

“Help children live the lives that children should be living,” said Durward, who is also known for putting sweet smiles on locals faces through her tasty treats at Cotton’s Chocolates. And she promises plenty of sweet samplings at the event.

“All the chocolate desserts you can stomach,” said Durward, who is hoping to sell a minimum 300 tickets in advance since the Lodge has agreed to donate the ballrooms if they do.

The evening includes a roast beef dinner, silent auction, dance featuring Kath and the Tomcats and a wealth of games and prizes.

Burst a balloon, see if your key unlocks the treasure chest or try your luck at one of five prizes worth a minimum $1,000 each in the pick of the litter game.

The fundraiser will also feature power point presentations of the work Sweet Smiles does internationally.

Following the immense success of last year’s event – 363 guests raised more than $14,000 – the local organization ambitiously has four goals.

They will be returning to assist The House of Hope and Love in Bonfil, Mexico, where the majority of funds went last year to provide functioning toilets and sinks and kitchen renovations.

Esther, the house mom who opened the orphanage 25 years ago when an infant was left at her doorstep, has had a relapse in her fight against cancer with the return of the disease.

Sweet Smiles is also assisting an orphanage in Cozumel, called City of Angels, with building a new home on campus.

“This is going to allow seven new children to call City of Angels home,” said Durward, also hoping to purchase a new generator for the home which has no access to city power.

Another goal is to give the gift of education with 40 English scholarships at the La Gloria English school Isla Mujeres.

The school is in the same town as the Little Yellow School House, which aids children with special needs but is in need of air conditioners.

Tickets to the fundraiser are $20 in advance, available at Cotton’s Chocolates, Harris Flowers and International Trendsetters. Doors open at 6:30 and tickets are $25 at the door.