WATCH: Lexington school brings smiles to hundreds around the world
LEXINGTON, S.C. (WOLO) – One Lexington school is celebrating ten years of bringing smiles to hundreds of children around the world.
When Pleasant Hill Elementary school started in 2006, P.E. teacher Thomas Cronin wanted to organize a way for students to give back. He found his mechanism for doing so through a charity he’d supported for much of his life: Smile Train. Cronin was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip.
“44 years ago, the doctor told my mom and dad, ‘don’t worry Mr. and Mrs. Cronin, we’re gonna take care of this.’ My dad said, ‘great.’ Kids in developing countries don’t have that opportunity.”
The international charity performs free surgeries on children with cleft palates and cleft lips, every five minutes.
Cronin said he was unsure about whether the “mini-marathon” fundraiser he came up with would take off, but a decade later, the school has raised around $70,000 dollars, allowing for about 800 surgeries. Pleasant Hill has become one of Smile Train’s biggest school donors.
The kids fund-raise for a couple weeks. Some set up lemonade stands. Others scrounge together a couple dollars. Everyone participates in the big celebration, the mini marathon, held on the school’s track.
“I think the kids really appreciate what we have here in Lexington and also,” Cronin said, “I think they appreciate what other people don’t have, and I think they’re willing to help those people even though they don’t know ’em.”
Cronin got to meet some of the children they’ve helped last June, on a special Smile Train trip to Indonesia, seeing first hand what life is like for kids with clefts in developing countries.
“They’re ostracized and they’re left alone and they don’t get to go to school but once you get them the surgery, you’re not just fixing their mouth,” Cronin said. “You’re changing the course of their life.”
He witnessed that moment after watching a surgery there, when they brought the baby out to an anxious mother. The surgery only takes about 45 minutes, and costs around $250 dollars.
Pleasant Hill is holding its mini marathon on Friday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kids will take turns walking or running the track in 25 minute heats, by grade level. All parents are welcome and community members are too, but they must sign in at the front office of the school.
If you want to donate, it’s not too late. The school always accepts donations on Smile Train’s behalf.