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Easter egg hunt and dinner offers fun, helps heal children’s smiles

Updated: 
April 14, 2014 - 6:13am

Just for grins Elin Morris is leading an effort to raise money for a nonprofit that provides surgeries for children suffering from facial deformities such as a cleft lip, cleft palate or burn.

Morris is a full-time mother of two who volunteers with Youth With A Mission and serves with Chosen and Dearly Loved — a University of the Nations ministry that strives “to love and communicate on behalf of orphans with special needs globally, and to celebrate and inspire special needs adoptions.” Her family is going on a mission this summer to Thailand. Her husband, Jon, will be helping provide access to clean water and sanitation there while she helps orphans.

Possessing “a huge heart for the hurting in our world,” Morris said she believes “compassion is about love in action” and thought more about how else she could further help Thai people in need.

The result is a free dinner and Easter egg hunt, happening from 4 to 6 p.m. April 18 at University of the Nations Preschool in Kailua-Kona. It’s “a big smiley event with an everlasting impact” because the goal is to raise at least $4,500 for Operation Smile, a volunteer-based medical charity, with its efforts in Thailand.

The event also features a silent auction, featuring items, restaurants and family-friendly activities that will surely make participants happy. Key partners are University of the Nations, Chosen and Dearly Loved, and More Than Sport, Morris said.

Donations will be accepted and event T-shirts sold for $25, all of which will go toward this cause that strives to “plant smiles, inspire dreams and grow opportunities,” Morris said. To date, $590 has been raised through the event’s website, morethansport.org/team/the-big-smiley-event.

Founded in 1982 in Norfolk, Va., Operation Smile works in more than 60 countries, providing free surgical and post-operative care to indigent children and young adults who were suffering from facial deformities. Through the help of its dedicated medical volunteers, the nonprofit has performed more than 3.5 million health care evaluations and more than 20,000 surgeries.

Since 1997, Operation Smile has helped more than 8,000 Thai youngsters. Not only does the nonprofit heal their smiles, it also transforms their lives.

“Thailand is called ‘the land of smiles,’ yet it is considered to have one of the highest incidence of cleft lip and palate in the world,” Morris said. “If a child is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, they are often hidden away, shunned by their family and isolated from their community because of they look abnormal. Those children often struggle in life because they are less supported by their community, don’t usually attend school and also have to deal with emotional pain, such as shame and fear. But with some education about this simple surgery and support, they can have a better chance at life, beginning with a smile.”

Operation Smile Thailand states the life-changing reconstructive surgery can be performed in as little as 45 minutes and costs approximately 25,000 baht per child. Five Thai children will be helped if $4,500 is raised, Morris said.

While in Thailand, Morris will have an opportunity to see first-hand how the funds are used. She will visit the Operation Smile volunteers who are donating their time and skills to repair the faces of Thai children. She plans to film and take photos of the effort, as well as report back to the Big Island community.

The support for this effort has been “really touching.” Several residents and local businesses have taken hold of that “red thread,” the one that an ancient Chinese legend speaks of that connects one person to another. All are “helping make a connection to those less fortunate than themselves, helping bring hope to children.” Also because of University of the Nations’ global network, the event has gotten some international donors, Morris said.

“This event is really fitting, especially considering Easter is about unconditional love,” she added.

Registration is required for the Easter egg hunt. Register by emailing bigsmileevent@gmail.com or by showing up to the event at 3:30 p.m. The name and age of each child participating is required.