Operation Smile at Georgia State to start joint fundraiser

Nonprofit organization Operation Smile’s Georgia State chapter has joined with the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology’s chapters to hold a fundraising event to provide free surgeries for children afflicted with cleft lip and palate.

Fundraisers have proved invaluable to the organization. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has performed over 200,000 surgeries, each one free of charge to its patients. The organization was honored with the HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) Humanitarian Award for 2012 and Health Impact Award Project.

In addition to cosmetic issues, these deformities–found in roughly one of every 500 to 700 births–can create feeding problems at a young age, and, if left untreated, can lead to long-term self-esteem issues.

Douglas Lynch, marketing manager for Operation Smile at Georgia State, said he wants to spread the word and give a better future to children afflicted with cleft lip and cleft palate.

“I want these children to have a bright future,” Lynch said. “I want to get the word out.”

No official announcement has been made as to the date of the first GeorgiaState fundraiser, but President Shalin Jyotishi of Operation Smile’s UGA chapter said they are working with other Universities for a more collaborative effort.

“We want to bring everyone together for one big collaborative effort,” President Shalin Jyotishi said. “[We] see a lot of potential in the student body.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cleft lip is one of the most common birth defects in the U.S and about 70 percent of all orofacial clefts are clefts that occur with no signs of birth defects.

Each year, the CDC estimates 2,651 babies in the U.S. are born with a cleft palate and 4,437 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.

Although the exact cause is still unknown, cleft lips and palates are hereditary defects that form during the embryonic development of a baby and may be caused by genetic and environmental issues like maternal illness, drugs and malnutrition.

As children develop and grow, becoming more self-conscious and aware, a cleft lip or palate can cause unwanted stares and remarks, and may even lead to bullying.

Yet, because a preventable solution to cleft lips and palates is still being researched, people born with the defect have a limited number of choices to choose from.

In an article titled “Stop Staring!” by the Cleft Lip and Palate Association for kids, researchers agree that one of the best ways to avoid bullying is by simply ignoring it. ­­­­

“You could see it as the person staring thinks you’re weird (which is NOT true) or you could see it as the person staring thinks you’re attractive which is quite a nice thing to think,” the article said. “You don’t have to see it as a bad thing… the best thing to do is ignore it.”

Still, with no preventative measures discovered, Operation Smile will be there to give children the bright futures they deserve.