Operation Smile is an organization on campus dedicated to helping children that are born with cleft palates and lips.
Every other Monday, students meet in the Student Center to plan events and help raise money for children and their families as part of the global Operation Smile Organization.
Gavin Parks, the public relations chair for operation smile and a student in psychology with a minor in social work, helps handle the day to day of the organization. He writes emails to the president to inform the organization or those who are on the email list what’s going on.
“I know personally, on a personal level, I had a cousin born with cleft lip,” Parks said. “Being born with cleft lip/cleft palates, it’s very hard to eat, get your nutrition the right way, it can even affect your breathing.”
Parks said that since it is so difficult for children and families, money is needed and the organization holds benefit nights.
These benefit nights held throughout the semester are at places like Zoes, Newk’s, Chill or Pieology.
In the spring of 2016, Operation Smile also held a Yoga night on the green space. One major promotion is Smile Week every year.
“I think as the groups get bigger and we have access to more funds, we are going to start planning hospital visits,” Parks said.
Not only getting to spend time with the children themselves but finding more ways to raise money is one of the organizations’ goals, Parks said.
“I know one thing we definitely were talking about, having smile week per semester, and not only just having benefit nights per semester. We were even talking about getting a local singer, a local band to perform,” Parks said.
Parks said that coming into the organization, he was a freshman on a big campus. He walked Haley Concourse for the first time during O week and saw Operation Smile.
“Well I’m always smiling, so what is this organization about? … Basically, my future revolves around helping kids,” Parks said. “I’ve always had a soft spot for them, especially when you see a child smile because of something you did.”
Recently, Operation Smile was promoted to an official organization, which Parks said helped to move them forward.
“We live in a world, where we have access to health care, so especially with the developing countries, we definitely are trying to help out in any way possible,” Parks said.
Dr. Mary Joyce Sandage, assistant professor in communication disorders, came to speak to the group in the spring of 2016 about her experiences.
“The most rewarding experience was getting to listen to our guest speaker last year, during my freshman year,” Parks said. “It really opened my eyes to how much stuff goes on behind the scenes. You always see the outcome of different organizations, you see the outcomes of different programs, but you rarely get to see what it takes to make the outcome.”
Parks said it was easy to see how what they were doing was making a difference after hearing her story.
The group as a whole is rather small, but Parks said they try hard to encourage more members.