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Operation Smile Kicks Off 30th Anniversary with Homecoming Medical Missions to the Philippines, Followed by Year-Long Series of Events around the U.S. and World

"change forever" campaign launches globally; Funds raised will help Operation Smile meet the worldwide demand for safe surgical care

NORFOLK, Va., Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This fall, Operation Smile is launching its 30th anniversary celebration with a year-long series of events in the United States and globally. Operation Smile, an international children's medical charity, has set an ambitious goal to raise significant funds worldwide to eradicate the backlog of children suffering from facial deformities, and decrease the global burden of surgical disease. The anniversary is kicking off this month in the Philippines, where Operation Smile hosted its first-ever surgical mission in 1982. Today, the charity is the largest volunteer-based medical charity providing free cleft surgeries.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121115/DC14596)

Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. To increase awareness about the urgency of the problem, Operation Smile is launching a global campaign entitled change forever™. The anniversary is featured on www.operationsmile.org/30. Operation Smile's programs are designed to create a permanent global impact and create self-sufficiency in developing countries. The nonprofit works in more than 60 countries to provide free surgeries for children born with facial deformities, build medical infrastructure in developing countries, and train local doctors so they are empowered to treat their own populations.

In October and November, more than 350 medical professionals from all over the world are volunteering for a series of anniversary surgical missions in the Philippines – the site of the charity's first medical mission. From November 8-18 and November 22-December 2, 2012, Operation Smile will provide approximately 16,000 healthcare evaluations and 1,400 life-changing reconstructive surgeries in 24 days through 8 surgical sites in various parts of the Philippines. Operation Smile's Co-founders Dr. William P. and Kathy Magee, the organization's Chief Executive Officer Bill Kliewer, and Chief Medical Officer and long-standing volunteer Dr. Randy Sherman will periodically join the volunteer teams during the surgical missions. From October 25-30, Operation Smile also conducted an international dental mission, where more than 6,000 patients were treated.

"I still remember that first child I operated on in the Philippines; his life completely changed with a 45-minute surgery," said Dr. Magee, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Operation Smile. "But we turned away hundreds of children on that first medical mission. It was then that Kathy and I knew we had to come back to help these children. Every child deserves to be healthy, to reach their potential – to smile. What troubles me is there are always more and more children born with clefts who need our help."

The change forever™ campaign is designed to make a lasting impact for children born with clefts, who are often unable to speak or eat properly and are shunned from their community. Every child – no matter where they are born – deserves access to safe surgical care. The global campaign will include the following elements:

  • As part of a grant awarded to Operation Smile by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Operation Smile will launch a large-scale awareness campaign about craniofacial malformations to increase information for families in the United States who are affected by orofacial clefts, health care providers and school professionals. The campaign will be designed to improve access to and quality of healthcare services for children born with clefts.
  • An online and social media campaign featuring world-renowned athlete Tony Hawk, which encourages individuals to take a pledge, share their smile, and help create greater awareness of clefting and the impact a smile can make in changing a child's life forever;
  • Transformational stories and 30 years of global insights by the people who have been touched by Operation Smile, including the organization's celebrity Smile Ambassadors such as Roma Downey, Jessica Simpson, Brooke Burke Charvet, Zachary Levi, Giuliana Rancic, Donald Trump, Jr., Billy Bush and so many others;
  • Multimedia events in Dallas, Palm Beach, Park City, Washington, D.C., New York City, Toronto and LA;  
  • In-country field reports from well-known mommy bloggers who are volunteering on surgical missions to share their experiences with their audiences;
  • A thought-leadership gathering in Washington, D.C. where an Operation Smile report on the state of surgical delivery in the global health landscape will be released;
  • Youth initiatives including the 22nd annual International Student Leadership Conference in Virginia, where over 600 students from more than 20 countries will develop their philanthropic leadership skills.

"A smile is truly a platform to change everything," said Bill Kliewer, CEO of Operation Smile. "We've treated children in some of the world's hardest to reach places and given them new lives. Over the last 30 years, we've made incredible progress training doctors to provide safe surgery and quality care in the developing world, and building medical capacity in our partner countries. However, we must redouble our efforts. There are too many preventable deaths for children with clefts, because they have no access to safe surgery."

With the help of medical volunteers from over 80 countries and generous supporters who share a vision to save children's lives, Operation Smile has provided more than 3.5 million healthcare evaluations, and over 200,000 free reconstructive surgeries worldwide. With as little as $240 dollars, a surgery that can take as few as 45 minutes can transform the life of a child forever.

Over 30 years, Operation Smile has strengthened healthcare infrastructures in developing countries while working closely with local communities, ministries of health, and governments. In this way, Operation Smile is a catalyst for tens of thousands more surgeries through its medical training and surgical programs. Operation Smile's programs provide surgery, and related care, such as speech therapy, to help children reach their full potential. Operation Smile also engages in research and maternal, newborn and child health initiatives to help prevent the occurrence of cleft and educate families on how to best care for children born with clefts. Together, we can save and transform children's lives forever.

For information on Operation Smile, visit www.operationsmile.org, follow @operationsmile on Twitter, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/operationsmile.

About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)
Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is an international children's medical charity with a presence in more than 60 countries, whose network of more than 5,000 medical volunteers from over 80 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 3.5 million healthcare evaluations and conducted over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To build long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile trains doctors and local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their own local communities, donates medical equipment and supplies, and provides year-round medical treatment through its worldwide Comprehensive Care Centers.

Contact: Jessica Kraft, Director of Public Relations, 757-321-3207, [email protected]

SOURCE Operation Smile

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