Celebration of Smiles: Helping Fund Operation Smile

RENO, NV - Before she was born, Courtney Hines' parents knew she would be born with a cleft lip.

"The ultrasound tech saw it," her mom, Tiffany Hines said. "We did have one other child and we were able to show her pictures online of what her baby was going to look like and I think that actually helped us all be better prepared for what was going to come."

But thousands of parents across the globe won't know their child has a cleft lip or palate until he or she is born.

Within the first two months of her life, Courtney's cleft lip has been repaired and today, she is your typical 7th grader living life.

Unfortunately, 1 in 7 children born around the world are born with the same defect, and it often does not get repaired.

"I can't really imagine what they go through in everyday life not being able to eat correctly or breath correctly," Courtney said.

It can also kill them.

:Around the world, it's very common for children not to survive that first year of life because of these ailments," Dr. Mark Handelin, an orthodontist at Pitts Orthodontics in Reno said.

The cleft lip and palate makes eating and breathing more difficult. But many children die because the birth defect is not fully understood in developing countries.

"In a lot of these countries, they believe if the babies aren't born perfect or with an abnormality like this that they are possessed," Tiffany said. "The death rate does go up a lot because a lot of these babies are left or they're just neglected by their mothers."

But it doesn't have to be that way.

"It's a very relatively straight forward procedure to do," Dr. Handelin said. "It just takes man power and it takes funds,"

That is how your smile can help. With the simple click of a camera Pete Rezac, along with doctors at Pitts Orthodontics are looking to raise money for Operation Smile.

"It's a way for me to use photography to help give back and have a definite impact on someone's life," Rezac said.

Operation Smile provides free repair surgery to children in developing countries to fix their cleft lips, and you can help. For $24 you can have your portrait taken and your smile will help give someone a second chance.

"These kids, some even in their teenage and adults who benefit from this surgery, it's something that's truly life changing for them," Rezac siad.

The $24 is the minimum donation, but it's just a fraction of the cost of the surgery. It costs Operation Smile about $240 per patient. During last year's fundraiser, Pitts Orthodontics and Rezac raised enough money to provide eight kids with surgeries.

"I have a personal goal of 10 people this year," Rezac said.