In 1999, to my parents’ surprise, I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. While they did not know what this meant, they tried to prepare themselves for what that would entail. Lying ahead of all of us was a journey of years of surgeries and hospital visits that would not be easy. However, every surgery that I needed or doctor’s appointment that was scheduled, my parents were there for me. They were able to afford the costs of my surgeries, and they never stepped away from my side during the entire process.
Entering my eighth-grade year in high school, my sister, Hannah, and I learned how many people there were just in our local area who could not pay for the surgeries they needed. We decided that we wanted to help raise money for those around us who could not afford their necessary procedures. I shared my idea with the Cleft and Craniofacial Team of New Orleans, who performed all of my surgeries, and they were ecstatic about our idea. So, we created Cleft for a Cause, a non-profit organization helping those in the Gulf Coast area with the surgery costs that they could not cover.
We sell T-shirts and accept donations online, and we advertise via social media. By my sophomore year, we had raised over $5,000. We donated the money to the Cleft Team, and the feeling of making our first donation inspired us to think bigger.
When I heard that the Louisiana Association of Student Councils’ (LASC) convention focused on raising money for one charity each year, I presented my cause to its president for consideration. Cleft for a Cause was going to be the beneficiary of fundraisers of student councils from all over the state.
Additionally, I organized a 5K fun run at my school and raised another $5,000, which has now become an annual event at my high school.
The most surreal moment in this journey, however, was when the grand total from LASC was revealed to me. I, along with thousands of other students across the state, raised over $73,000 for underprivileged children with cleft palates. I was inspired by the number of people in Louisiana willing to help a girl whom they had never met for a condition so few personally experienced, and I would never change the amazing journey that I have been through.
Archbishop Hannan High student Isabella Summersgill is a senior.