May I introduce you to my youngest son, Ian.

Handsome fellow…if I do say so myself. With a ‘million dollar smile’.  Literally!   But, the year following his birth was one of the hardest of my life.  I was thrust into a situation for which I had no understanding, no information, and no plan.  Quickly, I had to do all of these things to take care of this little boy who was born with a cleft lip and palate.

After his first surgery, this was my first glimpse of my baby’s face…

And, by the time we left the hospital in NC , 3 weeks later…this was his beautiful face…

This was only the first and there have been many, many, many surgeries to close fistulas,  graft bone, implant teeth, move jaw, straighten nose, and on and on and on.  He is now 28 years old, and in the next year, he will again undergo some more corrective surgery.  This will be either 14 or 15…I lost count around # 10.

Can you imagine how much we have spent on this face and mouth?  We begrudge not a penny, and thank God we had good insurance.  As hard as it has been to see him suffer, he is still a mighty lucky and blessed young man.  Even though this was traumatic, and painful…he was blessed to be born into a family who had the means to take care of his needs.   He belonged to a family that could find the best doctors, who could track down information, who could meet the needs as they arose.  And, he was surrounded by family and school mates and church family that loved him as he was and pulled for him all through life.

There are many, many children in this world who are not so fortunate.  They face banishment from their villages and their families.  Some are left to starve to death.  Others are quickly drowned so that no one will see the shame they believe was brought to their family.  It breaks my heart.  It is so sad that there are those who just don’t know that a face is not who the child is….that he there behind the defect…and he needs love and comfort.  But, also, most of these people know that there is nothing they can do to help their child.  There is no help where they are.  Maybe they don’t even know that the defect can be fixed.


” Unlike many charities that do many different things, The Smile Train mission is focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate.
  Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache.
  The good news is every single child with a cleft can be helped with surgery that costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes.
  This is our mission:
    -To provide free cleft surgery for millions of poor children in developing countries.
    -To provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals.
  Until there are no more children who need help and we have completely
eradicated the problem of clefts.”

“Over the past ten years, we have provided free cleft lip and palate surgery for hundreds of thousands of children.

These children were suffering not because they were born with a cleft, but because they were born too poor to ever afford surgery.”

“Being born with a cleft in a developing country is truly a curse. In fact, every baby born in Uganda with a cleft is given the name Ajok which means literally, “cursed by God.” And no one knows how many newborns with clefts are killed or abandoned right after birth.

And the ones who are lucky enough to find a Smile Train free cleft surgery program, not only survive, they thrive. After a 45 minute surgery hands them back their future, and a second chance at life that they never Thought could happen.”

Friends, this is such a worthy charity.  I shudder to think of what my own child’s life would have become if we were not able to have the best medical care possible.  Every little bit helps.  Even though we have spent many, many, many thousands of dollars on Ian…through Smile Train, a child can have the cleft surgery for $250!

Gifts may be given in honor of someone or in memory of a loved one.  They accept any amount and will send a card to the recipitent, if you so desire.  We really don’t need more trinkets and baubles and bangles.  We have enough of everything we own to last a life time.  These sweet children will have nothing if those of us who care do not help.


Please go to for more information.




  1. I am heading over there now. Just look at that smile on Ian, every child should be given the opportunity to have their smile. Thank you for sharing this with me. ((HUGS))

  2. Yes, we are truly blessed! When I look at some of the children who are a part of our bus ministry at church, I think of how grateful I am to have been born into the family I was born into. It's just by the grace of God that I wasn't born into the situations that many of those children live in everyday. I have so much to be thankful for.

  3. Monty Clark, Charlotte Schwartz and Martha J Patterson like this..
    Tonja Townsend Owens He's gonna be so mad at me tht this showed up on Facebook. Sorry, Ian.
    Sunday at 3:13pm · LikeUnlike.Suzi Smith Jones This is great, Tonja. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Sunday at 3:17pm · LikeUnlike.Bonnie Bracewell Calhoun He is so handsome!!! Medical science has come so far. I would have never known he was born with a cleft palate. God did bless him and you as well. Thank you so much for sharing your personal information as well the SMILE info. Merry Christmas T!!

  4. Sunday at 3:32pm · LikeUnlike.Suzanne Ray That is a BEAUTIFUL SMILE and the inside is even more beautiful! I'm so glad I had the chance to watch him grow up. He added so much to those memories from Lakewood. Merry Christmas to all of you!
    Sunday at 3:37pm · LikeUnlike.Sherrie Deupree Peak Most definitely a very handsome and sweet son that you have!!!! He is very lucky to have such a good mama. The thought of children being abandoned and killed over cleft palate make my heart sink into my stomach. As you know there are man…y in China and a very dear friend of our adopted a cleft baby and remember when I thought that is what would be our medical need but God pointed us into another direction with our sweet Sophiie. Special needs in orphaned children is very close to my heart. Do you care if I share this article on my FB page? Love you and miss you at preschool very much!!!!!See More

  5. Sunday at 3:41pm · LikeUnlike.Jean Witmer Stauffer Well, Ian, if you're mad that this showed up on FB, don't be!! Your story is so tremendously inspirational, as is your mom's plea for this organization. God uses the situations that we and our loved ones face to make us sensitive to others with similar needs. Thank you, Tonja!
    Sunday at 3:56pm · LikeUnlike.Linda Bush Mills Such a good picture…just another example of God's miracles!
    18 hours ago · LikeUnlike.Debbie Williams Moore Ian has grown into a very handsome young man since I last saw him. Thanks for sharing his story, yours, and the stories of thousands of children who need our help.

  6. Wow, looking at Ian's picture you would never know he had been born with a cleft palate/lip. I am a supporter of Smile Train because they give children in poorer countries free surgery to give them a new chance at life! It seems so simple that a 45min surgery can chance someone's life forever. Smile Train Is All About Outcomes because thousands of children around the world need help. Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. Not only in Uganda even all over world we found child with cleft palate/lip we deep request to their government helps by provided free surgery facility in reputed clinic and hospital.A Smile can change someone life.Affordable Dental Care

  8. Another thing, dental insurance should be accessible to most people and a broader range age group.

  9. Such a inspirational article.Its really very interesting.Thanks for sharing.

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