Bears Named After 3 Courageous Brothers Who Were All Born with Facial Paralysis; Mother and Childhood Friend Designed Bears to Comfort Children Worldwide
Two childhood friends partnered with Operation Smile this holiday season to launch the "Zachary, Luke or Griffin" Teddy Bears, found exclusively on Operation Smile's Facebook Giving Catalog at www.operationsmile.org/fbcatalog and through Operation Smile's Web site
at www.operationsmile.org/bears. These special bears are named after Lisa Lori's three sons, all who were born with facial paralysis. After enduring years of surgeries to give her own children their smiles, Lisa Lori, a publicist, partnered with her childhood friend Kathy Van Zeeland, a handbag designer, to design the commemorative bears so they could bring comfort to children worldwide who are suffering from facial deformities. The two friends hope the bears will inspire people to give a smile and to emphasize just how vital these surgeries are to a child's life.
On Facebook or Operation Smile's Web site, those who donate $240 to help provide a life-changing surgery will be giving a bear to a suffering child, AND will receive one of the commemorative bears for their very own.
The bears they give will be sent on Operation Smile medical missions in impoverished countries to be delivered to children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates. Teddy bears, long known to be a symbol of comfort and love to children, were the perfect choice to show the courage of Zachary, Luke and Griffin and enable the two friends to support Operation Smile's work. With the help of dedicated medical volunteers and generous supporters, Operation Smile provides free reconstructive surgery for children worldwide who suffer from facial deformities, healing their smiles and giving them hope.
Smiles mean a lot to the Lori Family. For the past three years, each of the Lori boys have undergone two muscle transplant surgeries or 'smile' surgeries to enable them to smile among many other benefits. The children's surgeon — Dr. Ronald Zuker at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada — performed the life-changing surgeries on each of the boys. Dr. Zuker is an Operation Smile medical volunteer and inspired the Loris and Makowskys to find a way to help and comfort other children in honor of the Lori boys.
"Surgery is a scary prospect for anyone. When any child goes into surgery they are allowed to bring one thing — a blanket or stuffed animal — to comfort them; our children always chose a stuffed animal to hug and we wanted to offer this same comfort to children around the world," said Lisa Lori. "We know firsthand how transforming a smile can be and a teddy bear, like a smile, is a universal sign of love to all children. Collaborating on this with Operation Smile and Kathy has been truly wonderful for our whole family."
To learn more about Zachary, Luke and Griffin and the bears, please visit www.operationsmile.org/bears
to learn more about how having a smile changed their lives. Kathy Van Zeeland and her husband Bruce Makowsky have underwritten 100 percent of the costs for production of the bears.
"To work with my lifetime friend and her boys on this project for Operation Smile has been incredibly inspiring and personally rewarding for me. The Lori family never gave up, and they have come through it all with beautiful smiles on their faces, and love in their hearts," said Kathy Van Zeeland. "They persevered and found the best doctors in the world to treat their boys – the same doctors who donate their time to Operation Smile. It is an honor for Bruce and I to support them and the children they help," Kathy Van Zeeland said.
Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 will die before their first birthday. Those who survive are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. Many times, they are shunned from their own community.
"Lisa, her three sons, and Kathy are incredibly passionate and dedicated to helping children around the world; given all that Lisa's sons have endured and accomplished, they are truly an inspiration for us all," said Kathy Magee, Co-Founder and President of Operation Smile. "To see the smiles of the children on our medical missions who had previously hid their faces in shame is an incredible gift for me, our medical volunteers and our supporters around the world. The work of Operation Smile is only possible because of supporters like Lisa Lori and her family and Kathy Van Zeeland, and we are very grateful."
For more information about Operation Smile's global efforts, please visit www.operationsmile.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/operationsmile and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/operationsmile.
About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)
Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is an international children's medical charity with a presence in more than 60 countries, whose network of more than 5,000 medical volunteers from 76 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and conducted over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To build long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile donates medical equipment, provides year-round medical treatment through Comprehensive Care Centers, and trains local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their own local communities.
About Lisa Lori and Kathy Van Zeeland
Lisa Lori and Kathy Van Zeeland met growing up as children in Northern California. Their friendship led them to New York City after college to live as roommates while they each pursued their respective careers in public relations and fashion. Today, the two women both own their own companies which led them to try and creatively help support the mission of Operation Smile — www.lisalori.com (public relations firm) and www.kathyvanzeeland.com (handbag, accessories and apparel). The two friends hope that this is the beginning of many, more charitable collaborations together.