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Club pays for kids’ new smiles

Laura Lisowski | Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A smile can go a long way. With that in mind, a student club has taken on the task of raising money to pay for the reconstructive surgery of thousands of children around the world who suffer from facial deformities.

The Notre Dame chapter of Operation Smile – the international medical charity that aims to change lives one smile at a time – donated about $4,000 to its parent organization last year, funding the operations for as many as 17 children, club president Susie Dee said.

Dee said Operation Smile – which helps children in more than 26 countries, including Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines, Israel and Vietnam – can cover all of the expenses of a single surgical procedure with as little as $240.

“It will pay for the full amount of the operation: doctor’s fees, any supplies needed and any recovery the patient might need … as well as any other expenses that come up,” Dee said.

Since its inception in 1982, Operation Smile has treated more than 115,000 children suffering from facial deformities, such as cleft lip and cleft palate, the organization’s Web site said. There is currently a network of about 500 Operation Smile Student Associations – including the Notre Dame chapter – across the U.S. and around the world that contribute to these efforts with funds and volunteers.

During November and December last year, Dee and the 14 other members of Operation Smile held a cookie sale, the biggest fundraiser in the club’s history, and raised about $2,000.

“We sold cookies in LaFortune and by going door to door,” Dee said. “Students sold to friends, family, and dormmates … we had really dedicated sellers. And it didn’t hurt that it was Christmas time.”

The club hopes to repeat that success when it holds a second cookie sale before St. Patricks’ Day, Dee said. Operation Smile is also planning a “Best Smile on Campus” fundraiser.

The club plans to find 5-10 people on campus with a “fantastic” smile, take their picture and it above a collection bin in LaFortune, Dee said. Students will donate money to the person they want to win. She said anybody interested in being one of the best smiles on campus should e-mail her.

She also encouraged students to join the club to help make “a tangible difference in the lives of children around the world.

“It is so rewarding to see all of the money we raise go directly to those who need it,” Dee said.

Dee became involved in Operation Smile because she believes in “the power of a smile,” she said.

The Notre Dame chapter of Operation Smile began in 2003 with then-student Dan Musick.