By Anita Dyman

My name is Anita Dyman. I am 9 years old. Before summer began this past year I was thinking about what I could do as a special project for the summer.

One day, my dad gave me a copy of Time magazine. I like to read Time because I always find many interesting stories. On one of the pages I saw pictures of very sad kids with cleft lips. I learned it is possible

 
 
 
 
cleft palate
What is a Cleft Palate?
Sometimes a baby is born with their upper lip separated like in the picture the upper left. This is called a cleft lip. Other times a baby can be born with an opening in the lip and inside roof of the mouth (like in the picture on the right) where the two sides of the bone did not join together as they should. These can be fixed with surgery and often no one can tell that there was ever a problem.
to help these kids and return a smile to their faces for $250. My 7-year-old brother Mark and I thought of making cards and selling them to raise the $250. People in the Greenwich Village neighborhood where we live liked the cards very much! Many came back again and again to buy them.

 

In September 2007 we sent our first check for $250 to The Smile Train organization that provides surgery for kids with cleft lips and palates. By fall we had collected close to $1,000.

I met many interesting people as a result of this project. I have so many stories to tell, but here are just two: One day a man came to the table where Mark and I were standing. He was very loud and in his mouth was a cigarette. He was puffing smoke like crazy. We almost could not breathe. At that moment, Mark made a terrible face showing he was suffocating. When the man saw Mark’s face, he took his cigarette out and crushed it with his shoes. “I know! I know! I am supposed to quit smoking, but I can’t. I need help with that.” My dad overheard him from his office, and he came out and talked to the man about quitting. I hope he will stop smoking one day.

Another night it was already starting to get dark when a man came to the table. He chose the card he liked, gave a donation, and then turned to me and said “I want you to write on this card: “Life is good. You have choices. God loves you.” He then asked me to give the card to any really sad homeless man.

—Used with permission, Atlantic Union Gleaner, February 2008.