Woman treasures smiles on trip to help children


April 10, 2000|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SMILES TRANSCEND the borders of language, particularly those of kindness and gratitude.

Early last month, Westminster resident Babs Condon was able to give and receive both those types of expressions as she participated in Operation Smile, a nonprofit program that helps underprivileged children with cleft palates in the United States and abroad.

This year, the General Federation of Women's Clubs -- a worldwide service club for women which has financially supported Operation Smile for 12 years -- sponsored a mission to the Philippines to surgically correct the palates of more than 900 children.

The condition, which is twice as likely to occur in Filipino children as in Americans, is not only unsightly but makes it difficult for a child to suck, swallow and speak properly, said Condon, who is GFWC's director of junior clubs.

Researchers are studying the Philippine diet to determine if it could be a factor in the disorder, she said.

"It was an incredible experience for me to participate on this Operation Smile mission," said Condon, who was in the Philippines from Feb. 20 to March 5. She said the days were filled with "beautiful children, wonderful volunteers and very thankful parents."

Condon -- who was one of more than 200 volunteers on this mission -- worked as a recordkeeper with a team of plastic surgeons, nurses, dentists, anesthetists and child life specialists who traveled to Davao to perform the surgeries. Teams were also sent to Cebu, Cavite, Kalibo and Legospi.

"The recordkeeping is a very important part of any mission," Condon said, adding that she and four others were responsible for making sure that all the medical personnel completed the numerous forms and signed them.

"Not only is a set of records left there at the [foreign] hospital, but a set are brought back here to the Operation Smile headquarters in Norfolk, Va.," she said.

Since 1982, Operation Smile has helped more than 53,000 children around the world. In addition, the organization provides training and education to physicians and other health care professionals to help them become self-sufficient.

Each mission, which is supported by chapters across the United States, costs more than $200,000. Donations of time, medical supplies and airfare help make each mission a reality.

For this mission to the Philippines, donations from Carroll County included more than 12 dozen toothbrushes and containers of toothpaste from Dr. James R. Myers Jr. of Westminster; crayons, coloring books, toys, toothbrushes and toothpaste from the STARS Juniorette Club; and more than 500 coloring books and packages of crayons, and 25 child-sized hospital gowns, from the GFWC Junior Woman's Club.

Information about Operation Smile: Web site at www.operationsmile. org, or phone 757-321-SMILE.

It's a bug's life

Combining a celebration of spring with scientific study, Friendship Valley Elementary's second-grade classes will perform the musical "Bugz" at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the school auditorium.

The play -- which presents issues of good character, self-esteem and manners -- ties in with the second-graders' study of insects in their science units, said Becky Isaacs, Friendship Valley's music teacher and director of the program.

Information: 410-751-3650.

A run down Main Street

Join Westminster Road Runners for its annual run through town in the Main Street Mile at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Runners are expected to begin at Route 27 (Railroad Avenue) and race down Main Street to Fair Avenue.

Registration is available in advance or at the race site Wednesday. Those interested in registering at the race should arrive before 7 p.m.

Information: 410-876-6201 or 410-876-7127.

Amy L. Miller's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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