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Giving smiles brings smiles to local students

<p>St. Joseph’s Academy students recently raised enough funds to provide six surgeries to children with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Shown are John-Kay Martin, Xavier McArthur, Ada Martin, Noah Fitt, Ella Fitt, Sydnie Elms, Ana McArthur, Martin McArthur, Nicholas MacKenzie, and Dominic MacKenzie. CAROL DUNN/THE NEWS</p>
<p>St. Joseph’s Academy students recently raised enough funds to provide six surgeries to children with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Shown are John-Kay Martin, Xavier McArthur, Ada Martin, Noah Fitt, Ella Fitt, Sydnie Elms, Ana McArthur, Martin McArthur, Nicholas MacKenzie, and Dominic MacKenzie. CAROL DUNN/THE NEWS</p>

STELLARTON – As they viewed photos of children who were born with facial deformities, students at St. Joseph’s Academy were overcome with sorrow. 

“The students from age four to 10 were very moved by the screen showing before and after pictures of children born with cleft lips. There was a flood of emotions – sadness first – and the joy that followed after the surgery when the children smiled,” said Margaret Martin, a teacher at St. Joseph’s.

The students were looking at pictures from Operation Smile Canada, which provides free surgeries for children who have cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.

This spring, the 17 students at the private school in Stellarton raised $1,400, which is enough money to provide six surgeries that will bring smiles to the faces of children in countries where access to medical care isn’t readily available.

The funds were raised through a bake sale, a bottle drive and pledge sheets.

Student Sydnie Elms was so moved to help that she raised enough money for one surgery all on her own.

“I asked a lot of people from my family, I asked all of my neighbours – everyone in my neighbourhood,” she said.

“It feels very happy to help these children because I feel really sad that they were born with cleft lips,” said the Grade 2 student.

She said many people don’t have enough money to pay for these surgeries, and the students were especially motivated when they read stories of children who were bullied because of their condition, and how their lives changed after having the surgeries.

“I learned that it’s really hard for the babies to eat and it’s hard for them to talk,” said Elms.

Martin said the idea came from a story they read in the newspaper about a boy who collected and saved spare change, which he donated to the cause.

“We thought, what a nice thing to do. It was so inspiring to think that he raised enough for two surgeries.”

The fundraising was a Lenten project and was chosen because students wanted to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate children. They first planned to raise enough money for one surgery, but Martin said their enthusiasm grew and they continued raising funds until they had enough for the six surgeries.

The funds were donated to Operation Smile, which allows donors to designate the surgeries in honour of someone special.

Three will recognize St. Joseph’s teacher Kathryn Skoke-Fortin, grandmother Betty Gram Skoke, and 95-year-old grandmother Evelyn Pettipas, while the remaining three are in memory of Cpl. Kevin Megeney, Const. Catherine Campbell and teacher Joan Porter.

Megeney and Campbell were both former Stellarton residents. Megeney, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2007, while Campbell, a police officer and volunteer firefighter, was murdered in Halifax last year.

Two students from G.R. Saunders who heard about the St. Joseph’s project also donated funds to Operation Smile. Gabrielle Young and Lucia Mason, a cousin to some of the St. Joseph’s students, held a sale that raised $60.

Fast facts

Every three minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

A baby born with a cleft has twice the odds of dying before their first birthday.

A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.

Children with cleft lip or cleft palate frequently experience ear disease and dental problems as well as difficulties with proper speech development.

Children who suffer from a cleft lip and/or cleft palate may have difficulty eating.

Operation Smile Canada works in 80 countries to reach children who are typically isolated and hidden away because of their deformities. Many of these children and their families have never seen a doctor or healthcare worker.

As little as $240 helps provide surgery to a child with a cleft condition.

Source: Operation Smile Canada

“The students from age four to 10 were very moved by the screen showing before and after pictures of children born with cleft lips. There was a flood of emotions – sadness first – and the joy that followed after the surgery when the children smiled,” said Margaret Martin, a teacher at St. Joseph’s.

The students were looking at pictures from Operation Smile Canada, which provides free surgeries for children who have cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.

This spring, the 17 students at the private school in Stellarton raised $1,400, which is enough money to provide six surgeries that will bring smiles to the faces of children in countries where access to medical care isn’t readily available.

The funds were raised through a bake sale, a bottle drive and pledge sheets.

Student Sydnie Elms was so moved to help that she raised enough money for one surgery all on her own.

“I asked a lot of people from my family, I asked all of my neighbours – everyone in my neighbourhood,” she said.

“It feels very happy to help these children because I feel really sad that they were born with cleft lips,” said the Grade 2 student.

She said many people don’t have enough money to pay for these surgeries, and the students were especially motivated when they read stories of children who were bullied because of their condition, and how their lives changed after having the surgeries.

“I learned that it’s really hard for the babies to eat and it’s hard for them to talk,” said Elms.

Martin said the idea came from a story they read in the newspaper about a boy who collected and saved spare change, which he donated to the cause.

“We thought, what a nice thing to do. It was so inspiring to think that he raised enough for two surgeries.”

The fundraising was a Lenten project and was chosen because students wanted to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate children. They first planned to raise enough money for one surgery, but Martin said their enthusiasm grew and they continued raising funds until they had enough for the six surgeries.

The funds were donated to Operation Smile, which allows donors to designate the surgeries in honour of someone special.

Three will recognize St. Joseph’s teacher Kathryn Skoke-Fortin, grandmother Betty Gram Skoke, and 95-year-old grandmother Evelyn Pettipas, while the remaining three are in memory of Cpl. Kevin Megeney, Const. Catherine Campbell and teacher Joan Porter.

Megeney and Campbell were both former Stellarton residents. Megeney, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2007, while Campbell, a police officer and volunteer firefighter, was murdered in Halifax last year.

Two students from G.R. Saunders who heard about the St. Joseph’s project also donated funds to Operation Smile. Gabrielle Young and Lucia Mason, a cousin to some of the St. Joseph’s students, held a sale that raised $60.

Fast facts

Every three minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

A baby born with a cleft has twice the odds of dying before their first birthday.

A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.

Children with cleft lip or cleft palate frequently experience ear disease and dental problems as well as difficulties with proper speech development.

Children who suffer from a cleft lip and/or cleft palate may have difficulty eating.

Operation Smile Canada works in 80 countries to reach children who are typically isolated and hidden away because of their deformities. Many of these children and their families have never seen a doctor or healthcare worker.

As little as $240 helps provide surgery to a child with a cleft condition.

Source: Operation Smile Canada

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