October 17, 2017; Today
It seems that the days where people will agree to demeaning fundraising efforts on behalf of themselves or their children are waning.
“What if every day felt like Halloween?” is the heading of a mailer from Smile Train with pictures of children with the cleft lips the organization fixes. “You have the power to put an end to their nightmare.”
“I am not going to waste my time explaining that every single parent of a cleft-affected child falls head over heels in love with their child’s original ‘wide smile,’” says Kristen Carr, mother of a child born with a cleft. “Instead, I’ll just share this post with a group of over 9,000 moms of cleft-affected kids, and they can tell you their stories for themselves.”
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Her post struck a nerve.
“The mailer was heartbreaking for me to see,” says Jess O’Connell, another parent. “When I found out Olivia had a cleft lip, I was 21 weeks pregnant and I was terrified because of the stigma society has on these children because of images and rhetoric like this.”
“We are socialized to believe cleft lips and cleft palates are scary because we are met with images of mangled mouths and faces,” O’Connell continued. “But in reality, cleft lip smiles are so beautiful and I truly miss her first smile. I think all cleft parents would say the same, and I shared (the post) because we can’t break the stigma if we keep quiet.”
Smile Train has apologized, but one must wonder how an organization with this as its one and only mission could go so very wrong.—Ruth McCambridge