Monica’s Motivation

Monica-before-and-after

Monica was born with a cleft lip and palate in Snohomish, Washington. As an infant she had to stay in the hospital for months because of her many medical complications. Since then she has had five surgeries pertaining to her cleft, but with strength and determination, Monica made it through it all and is now a healthy student at Glacier Peak High School.

Monica joined her school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) with the idea to start a fundraiser for less fortunate children with clefts and Smile Train. In the fundraiser’s first year Monica was able to raise enough for money one surgery.

This year, now as Vice President of Community Service for FBLA, Monica had the opportunity to give a presentation in her school’s auditorium about Smile Train and her own personal story. In her speech Monica says, “…a smile is a symbol of peace, happiness, and love.”

“Over my lifetime I have changed from a person who stood on the sidelines and watched life move around me…to a person who took control of my own destiny.  I can say that I am a lot better for it. I was blessed with the opportunity when I received my lifesaving surgery and have had family, friends, and mentors who have supported me throughout my entire life. It is an honor to be able to come to this phenomenal school and stand up on this stage in front of you all today. Unfortunately, those blessings aren’t universal. There are children who get turned away from ever going to school and whose families abandon them.”

Watch Monica’s full presentation here.

This year her school raised enough money for more than six children to get new smiles. Monica says, “Over these past two years, it has been an honor to be able to share Smile Train’s mission and to be able to support an amazing organization that not only gives the gift of a smile, but a gift of hope.”

9th Annual Mini Marathon for Smile Train at Pleasant Hill Elementary

Celebration Post Race_PHE

On April 24, 2015 Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Columbia South Carolina held its 9th Mini-Marathon for Smile Train. Physical Education teacher and real-world Smile Train super hero Thomas Cronin, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, hosts the event every year. He says that he feels so fortunate that he was able to receive surgery when he was a child, and his hope is that every child born with a cleft is able to have the same opportunities for a healthy and productive life that he was given.

Cronin Father and  Sons_PHE

Miles for Smiles_2_PHE

Presenting Check_PHE

On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. This year, the event raised a total of $13,090 for Smile Train. This is enough to provide surgery for 52 children with cleft lips and palates.

Smile Train’s Mini Marathon has become a tradition at Pleasant Hill Elementary School. This year, Smile Train’s own Director, Program Development, Shannon Lambert, got to attend the event, walk around the track with some students, and answer student questions. She said some of the most common questions were “How many surgeries did Smile Train help provide last year?” and “How long does it take to complete a surgery?” One student, a young boy, shared a story with Shannon about his cousin that lives in Guadalajara, Mexico who was born with a cleft. His cousin didn’t have transportation to get to a treatment facility, so the little boy’s family in South Carolina drove to Mexico to bring the boy to the hospital for surgery.

Overall, Pleasant Hill Elementary School’s Smile Train Mini Marathon gives the students a chance to learn more about a meaningful cause, and how something as simple as a smile can change a life, all while getting fit at the same time.

Argos High School Students Bake for Smile Train

The Argos High School MoCD class pose for a photo. Back row:  Angela Walker (Aide), Ty Thompson, Angela Resendez (Aide), Logan Lynd, Ian Swafford and Avram Beers. Front Row:  Jackey Ritenour (Aide), Brittay Morris, Jakob Cybulski, Marissa Perkins and Mary Wojdyla (Head Teacher).

The Argos High School MoCD class pose for a photo. Back row: Angela Walker (Aide), Ty Thompson, Angela Resendez (Aide), Logan Lynd, Ian Swafford and Avram Beers.
Front Row: Jackey Ritenour (Aide), Brittay Morris, Jakob Cybulski, Marissa Perkins and Mary Wojdyla (Head Teacher).

Argos, IndianaAngela Resendez, a special education aide at Argos High School, writes about her students’ fundraising efforts for Smile Train.

Argos High School student, Jakob Cybulski, makes the muffins to support Smile Train.

Argos High School student, Jakob Cybulski, makes the muffins to support Smile Train.


Argos High School is located in Northern Indiana and is the epitome of a small town. Our special education class makes muffins every Wednesday in order to allow our class to go on field trips. For six weeks out of the year we sell our muffins to our elementary, junior high, and high school students, faculty, staff, and surrounding residents. All the proceeds raised during this time go to Smile Train!
This is our second year of fundraising and we raised enough money for two operations, with our class matching the amount of one operation, for a total of three operations! The Argos Dragon MoCD class will have sponsored six operations for Smile Train so far, with hopes of sponsoring more in the future! We are so proud of our students and their continued support of this truly worthy cause.

Parker School Fourth Graders Trade Books for Smiles

A group of fourth graders from Tanya Everts class in Kamuela, Hawaii show off some of the donated books they sold to raise money for Smile Train.

A group of fourth graders from Tanya Everts class show off some of the donated books they sold to raise money for Smile Train.

Kamuela, HawaiiTanya Everts, fourth grade teach at Parker School, describes a fundraiser her class recently completed for Smile Train. The group worked so hard they were able to raise more than double their goal!

Our 4th grade class read the book “Wonder” by RJ Palacio, which is about a boy who was born with severe facial deformities including a cleft palate and cleft lip. Following the story, we decided to carry out a service learning project and one of the students in the class came across an advertisement for Smile Train in a National Geographic magazine. It was instantly decided, we would raise money to help children with cleft palates. We agreed to have a used book sale at our school and donate the money we made to Smile Train. We collected books from our homes, books from other students and faculty members, and books from people in the community to sell. Students sold books for $1-$2 and made book marks that we sold for 50 cents each, but if people bought three books they received a free bookmark. People were happy with all of the books they bought and many even donated extra money for the cause. Our goal was to raise $250 to cover the surgery for one child. We ended up raising $600 which covered the cost of two surgeries and two overnight stays. After reading “Wonder” our class signed a kindness pledge where we agreed to be kind during the year 2013. We also offered people the opportunity to take the kindness pledge for 2013 during our book sale.

Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon for Smile Train

Smile Train supporter Tom Cronin was born with a cleft now, together with his students he raises money for children to receive free cleft lip and palate surgery

Columbia, SCThomas Cronin, Physical Education Teacher, Pleasant Hill Elementary and Mini Marathon Event Director shares how his students are creating smiles around the world. Our deepest thanks to Tom and all of the students, staff, and faculty of Pleasant Hill Elementary and everyone involved!

I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Fortunately, I was born in the United States and had surgeries to repair my cleft. There are more than one million children in developing countries who do not have this opportunity. They grow up with an unrepaired cleft and live a life of shame. They are abandoned, do not go to school or get married. Smile Train is a charity that provides free cleft surgery for these children.

Over the last 9 years, my wife and I have made personal donations to Smile Train, but I wanted to do more. I immediately thought of my role as a physical education teacher. In 2007, The Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon was created to help Smile Train and increase the physical fitness level of my students.

Pleasant Hill Elementary raises funds to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery

The mini marathon starts several weeks before the actual run and walk. The students view videos and pictures about Smile Train during physical education class prior to the run/walk. The knowledge about Smile Train and clefts helps the students understand why they are running and walking and who they are raising money to help. All students receive a Smile Train bracelet, and many students earn a Pleasant Hill Elementary mini marathon t-shirt. Our 5th grade art students contribute by making event posters.

On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. By the end of the day over 900 students run and walk in support of Smile Train. The students are able to complete the mini marathon by using the lessons of running pace, running stride and proper breathing technique taught during physical education class. Some older and advanced students run the whole 30 minutes and complete almost 3 miles, while some of the younger students alternate between running and walking. This pattern enables them to complete 1.5 miles.

Students of Pleasant Hill Elementary School ran to provide free cleft surgery

The Mini Marathon is directly related to Lexington School District One’s LexLives strategic goal. This is related to improving the health and wellness of its students by increasing fitness and decreasing obesity. Families and the community are also involved.Families walk and run with their children. Local business partners sponsor the event and also participate in the run and walk.

In the 7 years this event has been held, the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary have been able to fund 376 cleft lip and palate operations for Smile Train.

The Mini Marathon does several things. It gets kids more physically fit through the running and walking and teaches students about helping others and community service. It gives kids the opportunity that I had 41 years ago — to have their cleft lip and palate repaired and live a productive life.

If you would like to get your school involved with Smile Train, please contact us at students@smiletrain.org .

A Very Special Thank You

Students of St. Mark Catholic School video conferenced Smile Train patients who are in one of our speech therapy cleft choirs

Seattle, WA — On April 18th, the 3rd and 5th grade students at St. Mark Catholic School gathered together for a very special event — they had a live Skype conference with former Smile Train patients in Mexico City!

The students at St. Mark Catholic School are no strangers to giving back. In 2011, led by teacher Mrs. Kimm Conroy, they held a community wide fundraiser that raised enough money to fund nine cleft surgeries. One of the events was a school-wide contest called Spare Your Change for Smile Train where each grade level was challenged to raise the most money.

This year’s 3rd grade class is also collecting funds for Smile Train. Their donations will be restricted to the speech therapy program in Mexico City that they Skyped with, Hablarte y Integrarte.

The video connection gave the students the opportunity to see the impact of their donation firsthand. After students in Seattle and Mexico introduced themselves to one another, the cleft choir at Hablarte y Integrarte performed a song for the group! As Monica Dominguez, Smile Train Country Manager in Mexico said, “The cleft choir in Hablarte e Integrate in Mexico City, sang with passion and gratitude in a fun Skype call.”

Would you like to see the impact of your donations first hand via video chat? Let us know! We would be happy to arrange a connection with one of our partners.

Thank you to the students, faculty and staff of St. Mark’s for their support and an extra thanks to Don Trujillo for setting up the AV equipment!

Smile Train Cleft Choir Pilot Speech Program Underway

New York, NYSmile Train Vice President of Programs in charge of Latin America, Pamela Wren, gives an update on a unique and promising pilot speech therapy program, Cleft Choirs.

Help Us Win a Grant to Expand Our Cleft Choir Program! Vote for Smile Train Cleft Choirs

The Need For Expanded Speech Therapy

Access to cleft palate surgery is life-changing for any child in need, but for some children, this is only the first step in receiving cleft care. Following cleft surgery, many are still at risk of suffering from serious speech problems. Within a few months of palate surgery, children should demonstrate speech development progress, but some children require additional support, such as speech therapy. There are a number of reasons that a child might have speech issues, including:

  • Speech patterns that developed prior to cleft surgery (aka, the child learned how to speak with an open palate – in developed countries, children receive surgery before they learn how to speak, so as to avoid speech problems)
  • Incomplete closure in the palate that allows air to escape into the nose
  • Dental and teeth issues that limit the ability to produce certain sounds
  • Ear problems that affect hearing and, therefore, speech development

Traditional speech therapy, which entails one-on-one sessions between a child and a specialized therapist, requires a long-term commitment among children, their parents, and trained speech professionals. Such resources are often not available at hospitals in developing countries — many patients never return to the hospital following their initial surgery, let alone return for ongoing speech therapy sessions. In a recent survey, Smile Train hospitals identified a lack of financial support, equipment, trained professionals, training, and patient compliance as the most critical barriers to providing speech therapy.

Help Us Win a Grant to Expand Our Cleft Choir Program! Vote for Smile Train Cleft Choirs

Addressing Speech Therapy Needs

One very innovative partner in South America recently approached Smile Train with a unique, cost-effective technique to offer speech therapy to children in need — the development of Speech Therapy Choirs! This idea is based on the fact that choir practice will bring together children in a social way to practice new sounds and tap their inner musical selves. This experience helps children to gain confidence, develop new friendships, and also tap into a communication skill that they never before were able or willing to explore! In addition to correcting their speech, this experience encourages children with cleft lips and palates to overcome any social barriers they have experienced due to problems with proper speech, and help them develop into happy and productive people!

Smile Train loved this idea from the start, and took the opportunity of the Holiday Season to offer small pilot grants to six of Smile Train’s most enthusiastic partners across the region. The grants have enabled our partners to work with musicians and therapists to oversee the practices and development of the children, reimburse parents children for their transportation costs to and from practice, and cover nominal music supplies and equipment. After only a few months of these grants being active, not only have we seen that the choirs improve speech patterns for our Smile Train kids, they have also helped the kids make new friends, sing proudly in front of their peers and communities for the very first time, and heal their inner scars to feel whole, happy and complete!

Choirs Happening Now

Brazil

Smile Train patients sing with Santa Claus

UNSELVA at Hospital Universitario Julio Muller — located in the interior of Brazil and offers care to about 100 Smile Train children a year. The team is led by head surgeon/cleft director Dr. Adalberto Novaes and speech therapist Adriana Lima Valente. They started practicing in October 2012 and just had a concert on December 7, 2012 to community members. The video shows them rocking out at the hospital entrance, with Santa Claus walking around bringing holiday cheer. You can see parents supporting their children as they learn to be proud and stand up in front of friends and community members as they sing in happiness about their new smiles.

Associação Beija-Flor-Funface at Hospital Infantil Albert Sabin — based in the north of Brazil, the poorest and most needy region of the entire country, this partner serves more 250 children with cleft lips and palates each year. They currently have a very long waiting list of patients in need of primary care. Smile Train is helping them with education grants so they can empower and train more professionals to join their team, and in turn be able to help more children. The lead surgeon is Dr José Ferreira and the speech program is run by Ms. Evelin Gondim. Their choir concert took place on December 11 🙂

Vote for Smile Train Cleft Choirs to Win a Grant From Uniqlo!

REPENSAR at Hospital Municipal Nossa Senhora Do Loreto — located on the outskirts of Rio de Janiero in a very poor neighborhood, the cleft program offers comprehensive treatment to all patients for free,
including speech therapy and orthodontics. This group loved the choir idea because it motivated the Smile Train children to return to the center to maintain their care and truly develop better speech and social habits. The director of the program is Dra Fatima Regina Almeida Brandao; the cleft program coordinator is Dra Ana Claudia Cruz; the cleft surgeons are Dr Giancarlo Cervo Rechia and Dr Luis Sergio Zanini, and the speech therapist coordinating the choir is Ms. Marinele Danieli Simões Dutra. The choir started practicing in October and put on a fantastic performance on December 17th when all of the kids in the cleft program dressed up as Christmas ornaments and trees as they happily sang in front of a large crowd!

Ecuador

Smile Train patients perform for friends and family as part of our Cleft Choir Speech Therapy program

Hospital del Día Niños de la Mano de Maria — This small partner hospital is 100% dedicated to serving poor patients with cleft lip and palate, and serves about 50 very poor families affected by cleft lip and palate each year. The families travel from across the country to the capital city to see them at their partner hospital. Smile Train is working with them to bring more awareness to people across the country about their program so they can then offer more services to more families in need. The surgical program is led by Dr Pablo Davalos and the coordinator of the team and the choir is Ms. Paty Penaherrera. The choir began practicing in October and even had an activity of practice at the local zoo! On December 17th, they hosted a choir concert where they all dressed up with Santa hats and performed for family members and friends at the hospital. The team and families are so happy about this that they are asking for additional support so they can continue to choir into the new year.

Mexico

Help Us Win a Grant for Our Cleft Choir Program! Vote Here

Hospital General Dr. Gea Gonzalez — This is one of Smile Train’s original partners globally, and over the 11 years of our partnership they have developed many innovative speech therapy projects to serve their poor population of Smile Train patients. They provide life changing surgery to about 300 poor patients each year under the brilliant surgical guidance of Dr. Fernando Molina and shining speech therapist Ms. Maria Carmen Pamplona. The speech program is very large at the hospital and even though they do provide traditional one-on-one therapies for their patients, the lead therapist, Ms. Maria Carmen, strongly believes that their new choir is helping the children make tremendous strides in their speech development and self esteem. She is so happy with the new program and really looks forward to continuing it for all patients for years to come!

Peru

Smile Train patients at choir practice as part of a unique Speech Therapy program

kusiROSTROS — This is an NGO that works with a number of Smile Train’s partner hospitals based in the capital city of Peru, Lima. Smile Train provides more than 700 surgeries across the country in one year. Smile Train’s largest and oldest partner in Lima is called CIRPLAST and is run by partner surgeon Dr. Carlos Navarro. KusiROSTROS applied for the pilot speech therapy choir grant because they have speech professionals who were very excited about the opportunity. As soon as they heard about the project, they started calling all of the Smile Train patients from Lima who are between 4 – 13 years old to see if they would be interested in joining the choir to develop their speech skills and also meet other children who perhaps are going through similar experiences of dealing with their scars and poor speech. About 40 children started participating in weekly choir practices. You can see the photographs of the kusiROSTROS team building decorating a special space for the children to meet, so they would feel welcome and at home at the site to practice and develop their new skills.

Please Help Us Win a Grant from Uniqlo to Expand Our Cleft Choir Program! Vote for Smile Train Cleft Choirs