When Pamela Bolado moved to Washington state a few years ago, she decided to start working with fellow military spouses in her capacity as a master esthetician. She encountered others, who, like herself, had been born with a cleft lip.
Using her skills with medical aesthetics and micro-pigmentation, she helped people to feel confident with scars from their cleft lip or palate procedures as well as the shape of their lips.
This work empowered her to start a wellness summit for members of the military community in 2018 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Last year, the event grew to host more than 400 women: military spouses, active duty members, and veterans. Bolado was excited to expand the summit with the mission of empowering all women come 2020.
She was planning on taking her summit across the country to make it accessible to more women, not just those on base. But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she made the choice to host the summit virtually, which she said was a step outside her comfort zone.
The Wellness and Wisdom Summit was held virtually on July 2. While women weren’t in the same place, interacting together, this format allowed Bolado to reach a global audience, from Bolivia to Australia.
Moving online wasn’t an easy shift for Bolado. “It’s pivoting from doing in-person (events) and having my small business to now being able to create this incredible global virtual platform within almost a 10-week span. So, I’ve really completely shifted the type of work that I do to fit in with the times that we’re living in,” she said.
But the virtual format allows for a larger reach at a time when Bolado said connecting with others is vital.
The summit hosted a total of 65 speakers online, many of whom were from Washington, all of whom Bolado said have paved the way for other women. Some of the 65 included Jennifer Welter, the first female National Football League coach, Major General Jeannie Leavitt, the first female fighter pilot, and Smile Train ambassador, Kristen Taekman.
A portion of proceeds from the summit will go to Smile Train, an organization that supports cleft treatment for children across the world. Bolado said she has always been passionate about working with the cleft community and is excited to be able to provide a platform for this organization which she said provides amazing resources.
July is Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month. You can find resources on the Smile Train website for cleft patients and providers, including nutrition, counseling, speech services, and more. Additionally, Smile Train provided this list of American Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Association approved cleft care teams in Washington.
- Seattle Children’s Craniofacial Center (Seattle, WA); receives treatment grants from Smile Train
- Greater Inland Empire’s Maxillofacial Team (Spokane, WA)
- Southwest Washington Maxillofacial Team (Tacoma, WA)
- Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital /Central Washington Cleft Palate Team (Yakima, WA)
Confidence and Wellness
Bolado said the whole purpose of the summit is “women supporting women.”
Confidence is important in Bolado’s multi-faceted career as a self-described “serial entrepreneur.” Along with her work as CEO of the Wellness and Wisdom Summit and master esthetician, she is also a business owner and soon to be podcast host.
Growing up, Bolado struggled with self-esteem. To her, confidence is more than just looking good, it’s also about feeling good.
“I always say when I think about confidence, I think about wellness, and that’s why I named my summit ‘Wellness and Wisdom.’ I always tell everybody that everybody’s wellness is something different and it means something different to them,” Bolado said.
In her work with those in the military to her support of Smile Train, Bolado wants to make others feel better. “Making other women feel better has always made me feel better,” Bolado said.
Bolado said that right now, while there is a lot of stress in the country, the most important thing women can do to support themselves and their communities is to engage.
“I know it’s hard…we can’t engage in person. So, utilizing these types of virtual events and connecting with other women is extremely important. We have to keep that connection to stay well,” Bolado said.
The virtual summit is a way to connect right now, while COVID-19 has upended daily routines and minimized support groups for people across the world. “And I just feel really proud to be able to put together this type of event to be able to provide something like that for women around the world,” Bolado said.
Bolado feels the most important thing she is doing in her work is bringing women together.
“I just feel like the most important thing right now is to shine light on all of these incredible women out there,” Bolado said.