Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft palate, and one in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. The children who do survive often are unable to eat, speak, socialize or even smile, and end up shunned. Many parents, particularly in other countries, cannot afford to give their children the surgeries they need to live a productive life. But MLL veteran and Team USA member Chris Schiller has a way to help. The Hounds midfielder and father of three through his Southern Select Lacrosse camp is partnering with an organization called Operation Smile to both raise money to support the cleft surgeries and grow the game of lacrosse internationally. Operation Smile provides safe, effective reconstructive surgery and related medical care for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. “Over the past three years we have been extremely proud of the growth of our camp, Southern Select Lacrosse,” said Schiller. “We have an opportunity to give back and grow this sport in a way that is a little unconventional.”
Schiller’s goal is to raise $5,000 through private fundraising for the Operation Smile organization. Once that goal is achieved, Southern Select Lacrosse will match the donation with another $5,000. In addition, Johnson & Johnson — for whom Schiller works full time outside of lacrosse — will match 2-1 whatever amount is raised. So if the $10,000 goal is reached, Johnson & Johnson will donate an additional $20,000 for a grand total of $30,000. With a cleft palate surgery costing approximately $240, Operation Smile would be able to put 125 children in to operating rooms and change their lives forever. “People don’t even realize that for a cleft palate around here, you just go to the doctor and it’s fixed,” said Schiller. “But in other countries, children die because of mal-nutrition as a result of their deformity. Once you start having children of your own, it really touches you because you feel so lucky to have healthy kids, and then you see other kids and it’s like, ‘What can we do to help them?’ So this cause kind of touched me in that way.”
What makes Schiller’s campaign for Operation Smile different than others is the lacrosse element. Southern Select, which is co-directed by Schiller and Nationals defenseman and Team Canada member Brodie Merrill, has also agreed to donate 125 lacrosse sticks to the cause. If the $30,000 goal is reached, Operation Smile will send Schiller and Merrill to a third-world country to assist the medical staff in cleft surgery preparation and deliver the equipment to the children receiving the operations. “It’s about growing the game too,” said Schiller. “These children obviously don’t know lacrosse, so there’s not a better way to go out and show these kids a new game. Sports bring people together. I feel as though if we have an opportunity to teach them the game of lacrosse and help them with their health, sign us up.”
The Operation Smile fundraising effort will run through the end of the year. Anyone can donate through the link below, and 100% of the donations get put toward saving the lives of these children. Your support for this cause is greatly appreciated.