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Operation Smile blesses lives through caring hearts

Lives can be forever changed and blessed when caring hearts are mobilized.

Former BYU Cougar basktball player Travis Hanson receives an award  during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City  Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
Former BYU Cougar basktball player Travis Hanson receives an award during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

That was the message anchoring "Breakfast for Smiles" in Salt Lake City hosted Sept. 20 by the Operation Smile Utah Chapter. The annual event helps raise more than $125,000 to support medical missions worldwide. The breakfast at the Little America Hotel also recognized the Church's 75-year-old welfare program.

Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity that provides free reconstructive surgery to children born with a cleft by enlisting the help of doctors and other medical professionals, along with donations from individuals and organizations such as the Church, alike.

In his keynote remarks, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton spoke of the Church's ongoing partnership with Operation Smile. Countless lives, he said, have been blessed through the combined efforts and generosity of members and many others.

"Caring hearts can do marvelous things...to enhance the lives of our Heavenly Father's children throughout the world."

Bishop Burton also highlighted of the diverse initiatives that define LDS Humanitarian Services:

A musical number is performed during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City  Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
A musical number is performed during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

— Through LDS Humanitarian Services' clean water initiative, some 780,000 people will enjoy new sources of clean water this year. Some 7 million have benefited from the water initiative over the past decade.

— Thousands of medical professionals will receive neonatal resuscitation techniques that will save the lives of sick infants.

— Some 40,000 people will enjoy enhanced eyesight this year through the Church's vision initiative.

— Tens of thousands of disabled people throughout the world will receive donated wheelchairs, resulting in increased mobility and independence.

— And some 20,000 families this year will be eating more nutritious meals thanks to a food production initiative designed to improve diets.

Bishop H. David Burton of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City  Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
Bishop H. David Burton of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Bishop Burton said the Latter-day Saint community stands ready to help and saluted the efforts of the Operation Smile.

"Thank you for your marvelous support of this outstanding organization that blesses the lives of so many," he said.

The Presiding Bishop concluded his remarks by screening a video highlighting the many people across the globe who are served by the diverse initiatives of LDS Humanitarian Services.

The Little Heroes Foundation was the title sponsor for the breakfast. Little Heroes was founded in 2007 by former BYU basketball star and pro player Travis Hansen and his wife, LaRee, to assist children in need in Russia and around the world. The Hansens have witnessed the power of generosity and humanitarian service.

"Any donation, big or small, can go a long way to change a child's life," said Brother Hansen, a returned missionary.

Dr. Bill Magee, the cofounder and executive chairman of Operation Smile, said Utah and the Church have played a pivotal role in the organization's success. He paid tribute to the Church and its members for their generosity and good will.

"No child in this world should live without dignity, and with people like you they will have a chance. God bless you," he said.

Chadleen Alberth-Lacdo-o, from the Philippines and born with a cleft, sings during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City  Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
Chadleen Alberth-Lacdo-o, from the Philippines and born with a cleft, sings during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sixteen-year-old singer Chadleen Alberth-Lacdo-o performed at Tuesday's event. Chadleen knows well the impact of Operation Smile. The native of Cebu, Philippines, was born with a cleft palate. As a little girl she dreamed of being a great singer even as she endured the taunts of others.

"I used to have a horrible life," she said. "I was teased by everybody...I had not confidence in myself."

Her life changed forever when doctors and nurses on an Operation Smile mission to Cebu repaired her cleft. As a teenager, Chadleen has performed on television has been featured in several newspapers. She relishes her opportunities to showcase her talents while enjoying "a normal life."