Approximately 300 people attended an Easter egg hunt Good Friday at the University of the Nations - Preschool in Kailua-Kona. Not only was the event fun for all ages, it also helped bring smiles to children in need.
Thanks to the public’s generosity and support, this special event raised $6,750 for Operation Smile, a volunteer-based medical charity that provides surgeries for children suffering from facial deformities such as a cleft lip, cleft palate or burn.
The success of the fundraiser astounded organizer Elin Morris, a full-time mother of two who volunteers with Youth With A Mission and serves with University of the Nations’ Chosen and Dearly Loved ministry, by generating $2,250 more than she’d hoped to give Operation Smile for its efforts in Thailand.
Along with an egg hunt, a silent auction and dinner were held and T-shirts were sold. Key partners were University of the Nations, Chosen and Dearly Loved, and More Than Sport. Morris expressed gratitude for all who gave, especially the business that donated food, drinks, dinnerware, decorations and prizes.
“I think all the guests who attended were so blessed and inspired by the local businesses’ generosity that they responded with the same spirit, and gave with very generous hearts toward these life-changing surgeries,” she said.
Founded in 1982 in Norfolk, Va., Operation Smile works in more than 60 countries, providing free surgical and post-operative care to indigent children and young adults who were suffering from facial deformities. Through the help of its dedicated medical volunteers, the nonprofit has performed more than 3.5 million health care evaluations and more than 20,000 surgeries.
Since 1997, Operation Smile has helped more than 8,000 Thai youngsters and transformed their lives. Typically, those born with facial deformities are hidden away, shunned by their family and isolated from their community, Morris said.
According to the nonprofit, the reconstructive surgery can be performed in as little as 45 minutes and costs approximately 25,000 baht, or $775, per child.
The funds raised will pay for nine surgeries. In addition, a donor from Norway has pledged to donate the money needed to cover a 10th surgery, Morris said. Originally, she had hoped to generate enough funds for five surgeries.
“The ripple effect of these generous donations are endless: Life-changing surgeries for 10 children,” she said. “Children and family lives are impacted. The children get a chance to get an education and later on a job. Then they get to give back to society and be a blessing to the community. It doesn’t only make a big difference it makes all the difference for that one.”
Morris will have an opportunity to see first-hand how the funds are used this summer, when her family goes on a mission to Thailand. She will visit the Operation Smile volunteers who are donating their time and skills to repair the faces of Thai children. She plans to film and take photos of the effort, as well as report back to the Big Island community.
Donations are still being accepted toward the cause and can be made online at morethansport.org/team/the-big-smiley-event. Those interested can also make a check out to More Than Sport and mail it to Elin Morris, 75-5851 Kuakini Highway, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.