All smiles and Miss USA for local fundraiser

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Excitement was in the air at Menchie’s while “Party in the USA” from Miley Cyrus played in background.

“So I put my hands up, they’re playin’ my song,” the pop singer proclaimed on the speakers. “And now I’m gonna be OK. Yeah! It’s a party in the USA!”

It sounded like the perfect song for this afternoon at Menchie’s on 3555 Johnson Avenue on 236th Street as young kids accompanied by their parents and teenage girls stood in line in front of the yogurt machines to meet the current Miss USA, Deshauna Barber.

Barber appeared as part of part of a fundraiser for Menchie’s locations around the country as the stores raised money for Smile Train. The charity provides surgery for children with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

“It’s just so cool that she’s here. So cool,” Gabrielle Weingard, 11, said. “I wanted to support Smile Train because I feel really bad for people who need some help and need money to go to hospitals and have something done on them.”

“I was very excited to see her,” Edith Tardibuono, 10, said of Barber, who signed a frozen yogurt cup for her. “I just knew about her and what she did and stuff.”

“We saw the crowd and we were wondering what was happening,” said Tardibuono’s mother, Eva Winkler. “And then we saw the flyer, and a friend of ours also told us someone famous would be here. We decided to stay a little bit longer, and I’m glad that we did.”

The excitement of having Barber in her capacity as Miss USA also was felt among the Menchie’s staff.

“I’m kind of star-struck,” said Tyere Butler, a cashier at Menchie’s “I can’t just stop looking. I can’t believe that she’s here. You just have to keep looking at her.”

Barber earned her title as Miss USA last summer, representing the District of Columbia. She’s a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, and recently returned from Mexico where she had the chance to witness a surgery of a 16-month-old whose cleft lip was repaired.

“We got a chance to meet his family, and I think it just gave us a chance to witness what Smile Train does,” Barber said. “That’s why I’m happy to be here at

Menchie’s and having a chance to work with Smile Train to raise money and really just be able to raise awareness on how a 45-minute surgery changes the life of not only a child but their family.”

Although Barber is now based in Manhattan and frequently travels on behalf of the pageant, this was her first trip to Riverdale.

“The whole vision that we have for Menchie’s is to have everyone smile, and this is like the perfect joint partnership with Smile Train and Miss USA,” said Chi Tang, who owns the Riverdale location at 3555 Johnson Ave.

For a $1 donation, customers can purchase a small sign listing their name that the store displays. Tang has raised $300 of his $1,500 fundraising goal, as of April 17.

The Menchie’s on Johnson Avenue is the California-based chain’s only store in the Bronx and the upper portion of New York State.

The next closest one can be found in the Glendale section of Queens.

Tang added that he enjoyed being a part of the community and getting to know the families that come to his store.

“It’s so much fun and so fulfilling. Watching kids have fun and watching their parents have fun for a couple of dollars. To me, it’s win-win-win situation. Everyone is happy,” he said of his work with Smile Train.

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