As part of The Hill School’s year-long emphasis on “Citizenship,” Dr. Bill Magee, the Co-founder and CEO of Operation Smile, spoke about the organization’s mission to a rapt audience of Hill students and faculty on Tuesday, February 24. Operation Smile is a worldwide children’s medical charity which sends teams of medical and non-medical volunteers to impoverished countries to perform life altering-surgeries on children and young adults with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. To read more about Operation Smile, click here.
Dr. Magee began his presentation by showing a moving video about Operation Smile – now in its 27th year – and about the impact of this philanthropic organization. One of the volunteer spokespersons featured in the video was Donald Trump, Jr., a member of Hill’s class of 1996.
The video noted that Operation Smile has helped more than 120,000 children through its global network of volunteers in 51 countries. More than 500 high schools – including Hill – now have active Operation Smile clubs that raise funds and awareness about their shared cause.
Dr. Magee noted that it costs as little as $240 to help one child receive cleft lip surgery. “Try to imagine if every person in this room raised $240,” he said.
Seth Eilberg, a mathematics instructor and college adviser at Hill, introduced Dr. Magee, whom he has known since his childhood. “I had the good fortune to grow up in Dr. Magee’s neighborhood in Virginia,” Seth said, noting that he still is good friends with one of Magee’s sons and that he views Magee as a hero.
Dr. Magee’s inspirational talk focused largely on how individuals can join forces to “dream big” and make positive, tangible differences in world. As he spoke, he shared “before and after” photos of children selected for surgery. “The faces of these children are a metaphor,” he said, adding, “the faces symbolize what it means to take a child from a life of hopelessness to a life of possibility.”
“Can you imagine what it would be like to go through your life without ever knowing the gentleness of a kiss?” Magee asked.
In emphasizing the importance of contacts and networking in trying to effect positive change, Dr. Magee described one 16-year-old boy with an especially dramatic facial deformity that required special care in the U.S. Through the efforts of a businessman, who in turn contacted a politician who smoothed the way for the boy to make the trip to the U.S., the boy finally was able to receive the surgery. Years later, Magee found the boy – now a young man – at his home in the Philippines, where the handsome man proudly introduced his wife and child.
He urged The Hill students to instill the values of helping others in their own children – and to teach them that “love, by definition, is self-sacrificing. It is a decision.”
Dr. Magee also emphasized that Operation Smile volunteers seek neither recognition nor reward.
Nonetheless, as his talk ended, the students rose to give him a standing ovation. Caitlin Klein ‘09 see below) then presented Dr. Magee with a check for $12,272.52 raised through Hill’s student Operation Smile chapter and recent events including a Bowlathon and Valentine’s Day flower sale.
Operation Smile posted photos and inforamtion about Dr. Magee's visit to Hill. Please click here to view.
Hill students leave their mark on Operation Smile
Gretchen Baker, Hill class of 2008 and former president of Hill's Operation Smile club, traveled to Vietnam as an Operation Smile student volunteer last summer.
Hill sixth form student Caitlin Klein of Reading, Pa. will participate on an Operation Smile mission to Kenya, which will occur this spring. Notes Caitlin: " I will be in Nakuru, Kenya, April 15 to 25, along with an entire medical mission team and one other student from Canada. As students, our responsibilities on the mission are to educate others about Operation Smile and related issues. We are the only people on the mission team who leave the hospital and get to go into local orphanages and schools.
“We will be doing presentations on oral hygiene and burn care/prevention at the schools and orphanages, in addition to the children and parents at the patient facility. Burn care especially is extremely important because the children there are constantly around open flames and are not taught to ‘stop, drop, and roll.’ They also are culturally taught to put grease on burns, which as you can imagine does much more harm than good!
"After returning from my mission I am required by Operation Smile to do at least five presentations to schools, churches, and other groups. I already have three schools booked, including Hill! I will present a Powerpoint of pictures and my trip’s story on May 11 in the CFTA.
"Also, I am in the process of collecting as many toothbrushes, toys, hair accessories, deflated soccer and beach balls, and small games as I possibly can to take to the children there. I already have had two big boxes of toothbrushes donated by local dentists. This really will be the trip of a lifetime, and I can't wait!"