Q&A with Operation Smile President Karla Kim

Operation Smile helps children affected by cleft lip, cancer and autism

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By Photo by Amber Nguyen

What is Operation Smile?

Operation Smile is a newly approved club at Mill Valley  and our goal is to help children with cleft lip, palate, cancer  and autism. We volunteer under the national organization of Operation Smile but support other causes such as helping children with cancer and autism.

How did the Mill Valley chapter start?

Well, my parents are supporters of the Operation Smile organization, so I was looking at their website and found the high school club section. There, I learned that Operation Smile has high school clubs and there was only one school [in Kansas.] I thought, why not Mill Valley? I asked some family and friends if they would be interested in a club helping cleft lip children  and it came about that our interests also extended to cancer and autism. We sent the application and it got approved.

What does the club do?

Since this is a new club, we are taking it step by step to lay the foundations, so we haven’t started any major events. However, we made plans and called places to volunteer. First we do fundraising. We take the money we receive and donate it to the causes we support. On [Saturday,] Nov. 23, we will participate in a walk supporting St. Jude’s Hospital for children with cancer and raise money for the hospital. Also, smaller groups go out to volunteer at autism and cancer centers to work and play with the children. We plan on preparing craft kits for the children, organizing a walk/run and sending supplies Operation Smile needs such as food, quilts, toys and money. Finally, there’s raising awareness. From our T-shirts to our developing of the website and brochures, we strive to raise awareness of the cause to our communities and the Kansas City region.

Why did you decide to found the club?

Well, there are thousands of children suffering from cleft lip, cancer  and autism. Rather than just me supporting Operation Smile, I thought having a group of people supporting and raising awareness could  have a greater impact on the community and children. I thought it would be great if Mill Valley had an Operation Smile club to contribute to these causes.

Could you describe the process of finding a sponsor for the club?

Well, first we thought of the teachers who don’t already sponsor an activity and explained to them what we wanted to do in our club, then asked them if they wanted to sponsor us. We were lucky to quickly find one who was. [Former french teacher] Tamara Carrell was great, but she left Mill Valley this year. Fortunately, [French teacher] Yvette Turner agreed to be our new sponsor.

How do you feel about the club’s progress so far?

I feel that the club is doing pretty well. We have organized places where we want to volunteer  and we have many ideas flowing to help the children. We have corporate sponsors and our T-shirt design is complete and ready to be ordered. Since our club is rather large, it takes a longer time to keep everyone updated and ready to go through, but we plan on breaking up into smaller groups for faster and more efficient work.

How can someone join?

Just by asking to join and coming to the meetings. The applications are just a record of who our members are; there are no requirements.

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