St. Mary Southside Parish in Elmira recently concluded a fruitful two-year campaign to support Smile Train, an organization that helps provide free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries for impoverished children around the world.
"We were successful. We changed lives," stated David Biviano, a St. Mary parishioner who coordinated the effort.
St. Mary collected $26,272 — enough to sponsor 105 surgeries — from the initiative that began in 2008.
"We were told that St. Mary’s had earned the distinction of providing more support to Smile Train than any other single Catholic parish in the country," Biviano noted.
This is the second successful fundraiser at St. Mary in recent years. The parish also raised $20,000 between 2006 and 2008 for a Catholic Relief Services project in Malawi, Africa.
Biviano said Smile Train is a vital ministry because children born with cleft lips/palates "are unable to smile, have difficulty eating, are shunned at school and become social misfits. In poor countries, thousands of newborns with clefts are abandoned soon after birth each year because there is no hope of becoming ‘normal.’" In addition, he said that people in these countries cannot afford the necessary surgery. Yet since 1999, Smile Train has supported more than 600,000 surgeries in 78 countries.