As our Inspired Mom of the Month, presented by ViaCord, Brooke Burke-Charvet is one busy mama. And not just because she has four kids. The actress has had an extraordinary run of host roles, most recently hosting the Miss America Pageant and Dancing with the Stars. We caught up with the gorgeous Malibu mom (and her 6-year-old son, Shaya) in New York to talk about her inspiring work for Operation Smile, family, and her passion for travel.
StrollerTraffic: We know that Operation Smile provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities for children around the globe. Tell us how you got involved.
Brooke Burke-Charvet: When I first heard about it, 5 years ago, I needed to know more. It’s a wonderful charity that really transforms lives. Every child deserves the right to a beautiful smile.
ST: What a heart-warming way to think about it. And now you are an ambassador, is that right?
BC: Yes, I leapt right in. I’ve been on board in a big way, rallying teams and people in the (entertainment) industry to help. I actually visited Mexico with Operation Smile last year. It was amazing for my teenager and my 7-year-old (and my husband) to see.
ST: We’d love to hear more about the trip.
BC: We saw thousands of families coming in to be screened. Hopeful parents wanting to have the surgery for their children.
ST: Did you meet any of the families?
BC: Yes, we took two toddlers through the operation, through the whole process. We separated them from their mother, and went with them into the room for the operation and then recovery. Watching that procedure—it takes less than an hour—was amazing. It’s less than $230 for these surgeries. I mean, that is the price of a dinner out and it changes a child’s life.
ST: Wow. That’s compelling. The whole experience must have been so emotional.
BC: It was extremely difficult to watch what parents were going through. To imagine having a child who has that, not having a chance, or the facilities. Sometimes it is not even financial shortcoming—they don’t’ have the doctors. One of the hardest parts for me was seeing the kids who were not selected.
ST: Oh, how horribly heartbreaking.
BC: A lot of it is age and health conditions. Many of the children would be candidates but they couldn’t get a clean bill of health at that time so they would have to come back. It was incredibly sad—but incredibly hopeful, too. It was rewarding in so many ways . . . watching the success of the procedures, it was like a miracle in an hour.
ST: We read that every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, and that a baby born with a cleft has twice the odds of dying before celebrating his first birthday.
CB: Yes, it’s true. We can all help to make a difference here.
ST: How can other moms help?
BC: I think it is really about awareness, and donating. And educating people on the privileges we have and that others don’t.
ST: How do you carve out time as a working mom to do charity work?
BC: I’m blessed to work in the (entertainment) industry. I just feel like if I have an audience and they are listening, I can use that platform to make a difference. It’s really important to me as a woman, as a mom, as a person. I’m teaching my children that and leading by example—I bring them with me to some of those situations so they can see with their own eyes and really understand how powerful they can be.
ST: We know you travel a lot with your family. Is it difficult with kids spanning such a wide age range?
BC: We do love to travel. I’ve been traveling since I had my first child. My daughter’s passport had 40 stamps on it by the time she was 2 years old. It’s all about finding hotels and accommodations that have the right amenities—like Embassy Suites. It’s also about having a family meeting. Finding things you want to do as parents, and kids. Allowing them to have a voice. We are adventurous. We love to travel, but we love to be at home, too.
ST: How do you relax at home?
BC: We love to entertain, family barbecues, we swim, go to the beach. My eldest is a teenager and paddle boarding now, so we do that. We also have a trampoline at home, and stay very active with that. I make dinner for my family every night and try to keep meals fresh and colorful.
ST: Anything else in the pipeline?
BC: My fitness line is launching at Nordstrom. It’s called Calium. I’m really hoping to encourage women to live a healthy, fit life, dress the part and have fun.
ST: We’ll definitely check it out. Thanks, Brooke!