Breakfast for Smiles honors Mormon Church, raises $125,000

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 20 2011 12:38 p.m. MDT

Michael Nebeker speaks during Operation Smile's 5th annual Breakfast of Smiles in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Lives can be forever changed when caring hearts are mobilized.

That was the message anchoring Tuesday's "Breakfast for Smiles" hosted 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 LDS 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 organizations and individuals, alike.

In his keynote remarks, Bishop H. David Burton, the presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of the church's ongoing partnership with Operation Smile. Lives, he said, have been blessed through the combined efforts and generosity of many.

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

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

— Through LDS Humanitarian Services' clean water initiative, some 780,000 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 Burton said the LDS community stands ready to help and saluted the efforts of Operation Smile.

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

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," Travis Hansen said.

Dr. Bill Magee, the co-founder and executive chairman of Operation Smile, said Utah has played a pivotal role in the organization's success. He also paid tribute to the LDS 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.

Sixteen-year-old singer Chadleen Alberth-Lacdo-o performed at Tuesday's event. Chadleen knows well the impact of Operation Smile. The native of the Philippines, she 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. Today Chadleen has performed on television and has been featured in several newspapers in her homeland. She relishes her opportunities to showcase her talents while enjoying "a normal life."

EMAIL: jswensen@desnews.com

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