By Vera Boateng
In many places around the world people with craniofacial abnormalities like clefts of the lip and palate are shunned, rejected or abandoned to die at birth.
Dr. Christina Luna, speech-language pathologist and professor in the School of Communication Disorders and Deafness on East Campus, had first-hand experience working with children with repaired clefts while teaching the graduate elective course on Craniofacial Disorders and Syndromes.
She is now the adviser to Operation Smile, a club at Kean University that was created in the fall of 2009. This club focuses on educating the campus student body by spreading awareness about children with cleft palate, cleft lip and any other craniofacial abnormalities in the developing countries of the world.
“It is important for people to understand that being born with cleft palate means more than just looking different, it affects the ability to speak, eat, socialize and simply smile,” Luna said.
The club also funds the surgeries for children to correct these issues in hopes of making a difference in their lives.
“OpSmile at Kean, is a unique group in that absolutely 100 percent of the monies we collect go directly to the OpSmile organization. Every $240 collected means a surgery will be possible for some child in the world,” explained Luna.
She explained that in 2014 the club has raised more than $950. Other people in the club that play a big part in raising money and other affairs are Stephanie Leitner, former president of the club, Kylie Becker, the new president of the club, other executive board members and the members of OpSmile.
“They are so dedicated, active and so creative, I participate mostly as an advisor,” Luna said.
She provides moral support in club meetings, helps the group resolve administrative issues and participates as needed.
The members are students who are continuously brainstorming, looking for creative money making initiatives and spreading the word on the importance of the work of OpSmile. Some activities that OpSmile participates in are bake sales, Relay For Life walks and scheduling meetings regularly.
The group will continue to be active for two more bake sales. The proceeds of these bake sales will be contributed to Relay for Life.
“Our last bake sale is on April 30, in The University Center (UC) from 1-4 p.m., and we are already beginning to plan for next year’s activities with our new officers,” said Luna.
May 5 is the club’s last meeting of the spring semester which according to Luna will be a wrap up the activities for the semester. This is the first year that Luna has been advisor for OpSmile. She plans to get guest speakers to come to the campus in the coming year to assist the club in raising awareness.