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WILKES-BARRE TWP. — He spent three years asking celebrities and friends a simple question: What makes you smile?
Now Chris Bohinski wants to know what makes Northeast Pennsylvania residents smile, and intends to find out on the official Smile Day in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
“What started out as an idea of a Smile Day in Wilkes-Barre Twp., in my mind a very small get-together ... now it’s turning into a full-fledged fall festival of sorts with lots of moving parts,” he said. “My mom is a big part of helping plan and execute this event that’s going to be free for everyone.”
Bohinksi and township officials like the mayor, the police department and fire department will host Smile Day on Oct. 21 at the Wilkes-Barre Twp. Fire Hall at 150 Watson St. from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Bohinski started the event to further his “Smile Mission,” an idea that grew from a blog he started while living in New York City called NYC Smile 4 Me.
Bohinski’s transformation into “Boh the Smile Guy” started when he lived in New York City for three years. Someone suggested he create a blog to promote himself, and he cast about for a universal subject he could use to build an active page.
“The first thing that came to my mind was smiling,” he said.
He thought of the name NYC Smile 4 Me one day at the gym, entered it online and bought the domain name. He started writing posts and asking for contributed posts revolving around things that make people smile, but his format changed when he was working on the set of So You Think You Can Dance and introduced himself as a blogger to singer Jason Derulo.
“When he expressed interest in being a part of it, I asked him would you mind just answering the question ‘What makes you smile?’ if I just hold up my phone and record it,” he said.
When Derulo agreed, Bohinski asked the singer’s hair and makeup artist to hold the camera so he could jump in the shot. He asked Derulo his standard question, got an answer, and posted the video on social media.
“People freaked out,” he said. “It wasn’t an ordinary picture with a celebrity, it was a video capturing a conversation.”
The traffic and response that video generated inspired Bohinski to start making more videos with the celebrities he came across in his work. The following week, he attended the premiere of a television series he’d worked on and approached Morgan Freeman at the event.
“He put his arm around me and said ‘let’s do it,” he said, and Bohinski had yet another video for his blog.
“I just slowly tried to incorporate a video emphasis on the smile mission,” he said.
Since then, he started attending events as press and has interviewed people like Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, actress Bette Midler, Broadway performer Kristin Chenoweth and a host of others.
When Bohinski moved back to Wilkes-Barre Twp. to assist his mom, who his followers know as Mama Bo, in her recovery from a recent health diagnosis, he wondered how to continue his smile mission.
“NYC was the first place that I found my smile and really wanted to share it with others,” he said. “I needed to think of creative mediums to include my smile mission with so I could have my mom be a part of it.”
He pitched the idea of Smile Day at a supervisors meeting, at first as a low-key, weekday type event.
The event will feature bingo, a duck pond game, food, baked goods, arts and crafts and more, Bohinski said.
“It’s been very fun and overwhelming trying to get all of these moving parts together,” he said.
Everything at the event is free, Bohinski said, because smiles themselves are free.
“It’s free to share a smile and it’s free for residents and non-residents,” he said.
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Smile story videos: www.nycsmile4me.com/smilestory