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Unique fundraiser to kick off at Harlingen Medical Center July 30;
Portraits to benefit children needing surgery for cleft lip

Rio Grande Valley residents and families are invited to have a family portrait taken – and while smiling for their own photo, they will be helping a needy child with a cleft lip deformity to smile for the first time.

The unique “Celebration of Smiles” charity event will kick off at the award-winning and nationally-recognized Harlingen Medical Center on Saturday, July 30, at 10 a.m. The fundraiser is designed to provide free surgeries to underprivileged children in Mexico who were born with a cleft lip, a condition in which the child’s face is deformed between his or her mouth and nose.

These children – some of whom are now five or six years old or older – have lived with the condition all of their lives, since their families do not have the money to pay for surgery to correct the deformity. The condition can lead to difficulty in eating, malnutrition, difficulty speaking, and low self-esteem. Since these children look different from other kids in a very noticeable way, they are often subjected to ridicule and bullying.

“The surgery to correct cleft lip and cleft palate can literally change a child’s whole life, giving them what they need to succeed socially, in school, and elsewhere,” said Marian Bliss Blake, a professional photographer who will be taking the photos at the “Celebration of Smiles” charity event.

Mrs. Blake is donating her time to take portraits of Rio Grande Valley families in order to raise money so children with cleft lip can have the surgery they need. Families who would like to have their photo taken will receive a 20-minute photography session with Mrs. Blake (with two backgrounds available), as well as a CD with three, fully-edited digital photos.

These photography sessions will be available for a donation of $100 for a family of three, $125 for a family of four, $150 for a family of five, and $25 for each additional person in the photo. All proceeds will benefit a child needing the cleft lip surgery.

For an extra donation to the “Celebration of Smiles” event, Valley families or individuals can order high-quality prints of their photos, in various sizes and packages.

Photo shoot appointments for the fundraiser are available on Saturday, July 30, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; on Tuesday, August 2, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; or on Wednesday, Aug. 3, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Harlingen Medical Center’s Medical Office Building Conference Room, located at 5505 S. Expressway 77 in Harlingen (in the building closest to the Expressway, outside the hospital, on the first floor, behind the elevators).

To make an appointment for the charity photo shoot, please call Edith Saldana at 956-543-3993 or e-mail Mrs. Blake at Walk-ins are also welcome at the fundraiser.

The kick-off ceremony is free and open to the community, and will include speakers, educational information on cleft lip / cleft palate, refreshments, and a photo display of children who have been helped by cleft lip / cleft palate surgery. The kick-off will also take place in Harlingen Medical Center’s MOB Conference Room, on Saturday, July 30 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Click here to view Celebration of Smiles Fundraiser flyer.