Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Andi's Smile Of The Day

I just want to say a special thanks to friends, family and blog readers for learning more about Hill and his cleft; it has raised awareness of his condition, even in our small community I feel as though people are a bit more educated about how clefts affect so many.  In turn it has brought out the spot light to help many other children that are less fortunate than Hill.  

It's so heart warming that for his birthdays, baptism and Christmas in lieu of gifts some of you have taken raising awareness to a new level and found the true meaning of gift giving by donating to awesome organizations like Smile Train or Operation Smile in honor of my sweet boy.  Brings happy tears to my eyes knowing that because of my little boy the selflessness of others shines to help those that can't afford to receive the medical attention to repair their cleft.  You and I can't imagine, but in third world countries cleft children are outcasts, known as the cursed children and are shunned.  Some never recieve the medical attention needed as infants because they are seen as a deformity, a lost cause.  I cannot comprehend what life would be like if I knew Hill had to endure those battles.

With that said, there is a special little girl that continues to make a difference in the world each day.  Today she has picked Hill to spread cleft awareness and be her poster child as the Smile Of The Day via her Facebook page.  Check it out by going to Facebook and searching for 'Andi's Smile Page.'  Make sure you "Like" her page so you can have some sweet kiddo that we may not know their story, but they surely have one, put a smile on your face, daily. 

Her gift of putting Hill as the Smile Of The Day couldn't have come at a better time.  I think I needed it more than anyone.  Thanks, Andi!  If you are not familiar with Smile Train or Opeartion yourself a favor and check out their websites.

Meet Andi Kezh.  She is 10 years old and from Decatur, GA.  Andi was born with a cleft and has taken her struggles and made such a positive impact to raise cleft awareness.  This little girl is absolutely amazing.  I'm so glad to share her story, enthusiasm and strong will with you all.

Here is her interview last year for Kids Who Give,
sponsored by Farm Rich.
Please describe how you have helped others. Hi. My name is Andi. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and I have had nine surgeries. The other day I saw an ad for The Smile Train, which gives free surgeries to kids like me around the world who can't afford surgery. I told my mom I wanted to raise money to buy surgeries. We started a Facebook page called Andi's Smile Page and I raised enough money for four surgeries in one week and I almost have enough for five surgeries now. You can go to Facebook and look up my page. I also have a page on The Smile Train website so that people can read my story and help out kids like me. I want kids to feel okay with how they look. I know what it's like to be laughed at because you look different. Now these kids will not be laughed at anymore. Here is my Smile Train page: I would LOVE it if I could win $1000. That would buy four more surgeries for these kids! Awesome!

How long have you been involved in this effort? Please include a start date and end date if applicable. When and how often do you volunteer? I just started this two weeks ago, but I have been helping others all my life. With my church, I serve breakfast to the homeless on Saturdays. This is the biggest thing I've ever done, though. I feel like this is what I am supposed to do because I know how it feels to be different. I play soccer and I'm on the swim team. You can't do those things with a cleft that hasn't been fixed because it is hard to breathe right. I want all kids to have the chances I've had.

What was the outcome? For example, funds raised, the number of coats collected for needy kids during winter, the number of community members who supported your cause, etc.
So far I have raised over $1100 in two weeks! Can you believe that? Each surgery from The Smile Train costs $250 because the doctors give their time for free. Only the stitches and surgery materials cost money. That is why The Smile Train can do it for $250. My first surgery was when I was three months old. There are kids in poor countries who are my age who haven't even had their first surgery yet! I couldn't believe it. That is why I had to help. I cut a picture of one of these kids out of the magazine and pasted it on my wall in my bedroom. I look at it every night before I go to bed and hope we get more donations for surgeries. So far people I don't even know have given money to help.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time?
When I saw that picture in the magazine of the girl who is my age and still hasn't had one surgery I almost cried. She is crying in the picture. I think she is crying because people make fun of her and think something is wrong with her because she looks different. I know how that feels. I don't want anybody else to feel like that. I had to do something. I even volunteered to bake cookies for everyone who donated but they all said they loved what I am doing and I could eat all the cookies myself!

What have you learned from this experience?
What I have learned is that people want to help but sometimes they just don't know who needs it. I mean, there are always ways to help others. I guess you just have to help them learn how. I knew that I did not have enough money to buy the surgeries by myself and I knew I needed help to do it. I thought we might get enough for one surgery but people just keep on giving and giving. They just needed someone to show them how. So I guess what I have learned is that people are good inside and they will help if you tell them how they can do it. That's what I have learned from this.

If you win the $1,000 charitable contribution, how do you plan to spend it helping the community?If I win the $1000 I will give every penny to The Smile Train to buy four more surgeries for these kids!!!! So far I have almost paid for five surgeries, and that would make nine! I would be helping nine children in the world have a better life. When you have a cleft that isn't fixed, food and water and milk come out your nose. You can't get food to go down the right way. Also, your teeth grow into the roof of your mouth and it hurts. Another thing is, other kids don't understand why you look different and since they don't know why they laugh at you. I learned that the hard way. Now I understand it because I am nine, but I didn't understand it then. If you give a surgery to a cleft kid, you are giving them a whole new life that is totally different from the life they used to have.

What advice do you have to share with other kids who are interested in spreading happiness through community service?
My advice is that when you find something you feel strongly about and want to do something about, just go do it! You will be totally shocked at how many people will help you! I know I am. I thought my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles would help, but I have people from all over the United States coming to my Facebook page and reading my story and then donating. They can donate straight to The Smile Train on my page on the website so they can see their name and how much they have helped. I gave all my allowance to get it started. That way people knew I was serious about wanting to help. If you want other people to help you have to show them you are going to help first. Then, all of a sudden, they just start helping you! I have learned a lot of good lessons about how to help people and I know people want to help.

Note: In the hope of capturing the spirit of youth and integrity of the entrant's personal story, submission content has not been edited for spelling or grammar.