Experts say that children can smile up to 400 times a day. But what if they are unable to smile at all? That was the idea behind the life-changing establishment of Operation Smile, founded by Dr. Bill Magee and his wife Kathy 30 years ago.

Operation Smile is a mobilized source of medical professionals and loving hearts alike who provide safe and effective reconstructive surgery and medical care for children born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.

Lisa Lori is a mother of three boys Zachary, Luke and Griffin, each born with facial paralysis. After her experience with her own children, Lisa decided to do something for the children of the world. And she looked to her childhood friend, Kathy Van Zeeland, to help.

We’re lucky to call Kathy Van Zeeland both a client and a friend, and it is her selfless work with Operation Smile, that inspired our newest post series, “Clients with a Cause.”

Both Kathy and Lisa started “The Three Little Bears” project, which was inspired by Lisa’s children and their courageous spirits. One of these three plush stuffed bears is hand-delivered to the children who have been granted the gift of surgery to repair their smiles.

These commemorative bears were made exclusively for Operation Smile and can only be received with the gift of a surgery, which costs as little as $240! It’s amazing to think that for the cost of a great meal, we can help change the life of a child and let someone who has never been able to smile be on his or her way to 400 a day.

To date, Operation Smile has performed over 225,000 life-changing surgeries all over the world. Separately, between The Three Little Bears project and fundraising, Kathy and Lisa raised $1.5 million – 6,250 smiles!

Brava, Kathy. We salute you!

If you want more information about Operation Smile or would like to donate a smile, visit the charity’s Donation Page.

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