Jane’s Addiction Guitarist Dave Navarro To Change Smiles of 100 Kids

By Karen Bliss 9/22/14 | www.samaritanmag.com

Dave Navarro with a Paul Reed Smith — photo courtesy of O.S.
Dave Navarro has put smiles on thousands of faces all over the world with his music, but now he’s permanently changing smiles.The Jane’s Addiction guitarist and Ink Master judge has just about raised the $24,000 needed to cover the costs of 100 operations by Operation Smile doctors for kids born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both. Then, he just might start all over again. The cause is something that really spoke to him.

He has a personal donation page set up on the Operation Smile web site that is currently at $22,170 (USD). Each operation costs just $240.

“I’m not exactly sure how I first heard about Operation Smile. My best memory is perhaps some of the signage and some of the advertisements they’ve had the opportunity to run just caught my attention more than anything,” Navarro tells Samaritanmag.

A cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly.

“Of course, I’d heard of children — people frankly — that have had some disfiguring ailments over the years, but something just really tugged at my heartstrings when it came to seeing these kids that are, by all accounts, healthy and ready to have a normal life with the exception of a physicality that is going to be challenging for them,” says Navarro.

“And when it comes to children, I have a pretty soft spot. So I actually just contacted them on my own to see if there’s anything I could do to help. It really wasn’t anything more than that. I wasn’t affiliated with them. I didn’t go to any events. It was just simply a matter of seeing some of their messages and reaching out.”

Operation Smile was founded in 1982 by plastic surgeon Dr. William Magee Jr., and his wife, Kathleen Magee, a nurse and clinical social worker, and, according to stats provided by the organization, it has since conducted over 220,000 free surgical procedures to children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. There are currently 5,400 medical volunteers from over 80 countries providing free care to their patients.

Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, and children with these conditions may have difficulty eating, breastfeeding, speaking, hearing or breathing properly.

Operation Smile’s centers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East provide year-round treatment, as well as nutrition education, dental care, speech therapy and mental health care.

The operations help transform these children’s lives, likely preventing a lot of misery later in life.

“Bullying and self-esteem issues,” says Navarro. “It’s a pretty miraculous simple operation that changes their lives forever, and it’s frankly not all that expensive with some help.”

Navarro’s fundraising idea was so easy, a no brainer, just perfectly fitting. A masterful guitarist, he would auction off a guitar to the highest bigger, but not just any guitar — a Paul Reed Smith that he has played and the eventual owner will have witnessed him playing, maybe even have snapped a photo or shot video of him doing so on his or her phone.

He had signed guitars for charity auctions before, but this play-then-sell concept was new for him.

Operation Smile co-founder Dr. Bill Magee with a young patient — photo courtesy of O.S.
“One of my best friends happens to be my guitar tech — his name is Dan Cleary — and he and I just brainstormed this idea where we would take a guitar that I played for the first song of a set and we would auction it off at the merch booth with the proceeds going to Operation Smile,” says Navarro.

They did that three times at three Jane’s Addiction concerts at the new Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas in May. They also marked the final dates of a tour, celebrating the 25th anniversary their classic debut studio album, Nothing’s Shocking. Last October, Jane’s Addiction had been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

For the auction, Navarro says, “Each guitar was signed by each member of the band [singer Perry Farrell, drummer Stephen Perkins, bassist Chris Chaney, and Navarro] and we provided a certificate of authenticity, but the cool thing about it was that whoever bought the guitar gets to own the guitar that was used in the show that they went to, so it’s literally a piece of history of the night that they attended.”

Each guitar went for over $6000 apiece, raising a total of $21,000 for Operation Smile.  “We just auctioned them off as an experiment. We were willing to take whatever was offered because it was going to Operation Smile,” he says.

And while Jane’s Addiction and Navarro fans likely would’ve bid on the guitars without a charity attached, he says that “I met the people who bought the guitars and, yeah, they would’ve bid on them anyway and they were fans and they would’ve tried to get the guitars, but since there was a charity attached they were more than happy and willing to spend whatever it took.

“They all told me they obviously wanted the instruments, but the fact that the money went to Operation Smile allowed them to go well above what they probably would have normally bid. So they were on board, you know? It wasn’t like they just wanted the rock memorabilia. They wanted to help as well, which was really nice because these things they’re expensive guitars but they aren’t worth what they spent. So they were obviously very enthusiastic about trying to help out.

“It was a really successful thing. They went really quickly. We were pretty stunned with the reaction and the amount of support we got,” he adds. “The initial idea was just to raise awareness and to get the word out about Operation Smile being an organization because the good news is that even people who didn’t bid on the guitars, or people who weren’t interested, still saw that that was happening, so I don’t know how many different pairs of eyes saw the Operation Smile signage.”

Navarro — who also supports the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Autism Speaks (which merged with Cure Autism Now) — plans on continuing to find ways to raise funds for Operation Smile and also has an interest in visiting the kids who have had the operations.

“I absolutely do have interest in that and would love to do that. And as far as doing this, I’ll definitely keep working with the organization for sure. That was just an idea to see how it went. And the reason that idea worked out great for us was that we were doing three nights in the same venue. So we were able to do it three nights in a row. And they were our own shows so it really worked out well.

“In certain scenarios it doesn’t work, certainly festivals and things of that nature it’s a little more difficult to get that done,” he says, obviously referring to running a guitar over to a merch booth and having fans find it easily.

“Ultimately, it was just the idea that we had and Operation Smile I don’t even think they knew that we were doing this. I think we just told them, ‘By the way, here’s a donation.’ It was a nice thing to do for these kids. Like I said, when it comes to the children out there, those are the organizations that really have an effect on me. The kids are the ones that I really feel deserve anything we can give.”

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* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.