LIFE Children First Lakeshore Sparkle Event to benefit Smile Train

Editor’s Note: I had a classmate all through elementary and high school in Manistee who had a cleft palate and was often shunned or teased. He did have friends but he was always “different” from the rest of us. Luchi Nelson and her friends remind me as an adult how difficult my classmate’s birth defect must have been and how important this fundraiser is for so many children.

Every year more than 170,000 children, mostly in third world countries, are born with cleft lips or palate. Most can’t afford surgery. Worse, being born with a cleft in a developing country is truly a curse. Every baby born in Uganda with a cleft is given the name Ajok, which literally means “cursed by God.” Some newborns with cleft are killed or abandoned immediately after birth. Currently, over one million children suffer from unrepaired clefts in developing countries. Most cannot eat or speak properly and they aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job.

Luchi Pretta Nelson, formerly from the Philippines and a Grand Haven resident says growing up in the Philippines she saw the children who were born with the birth defect. ”It is very sad to see how they were treated” she says.

“Lack of nutrition and folic acid is one of the leading factors of cleft. Babies are born with clefts everywhere in the world, including the U.S. But you seldom see clefts here and in Europe because they are repaired automatically soon after birth,” explains Luchi. “Clefts are usually not repaired in developing countries because most of the families are too poor to afford surgery and the government does not provide free surgery,” she adds.

According to Luchi, the good news is every single child can be helped with surgery that costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes. And it changes those children’s lives for the better almost instantly.

Smile Train focuses on one solvable problem — children born with a cleft and provides free cleft surgery to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries. And 95% of the donation to Smile Train goes directly to the child.

Luchi first held a fundraiser for Smile Train three years ago when her husband came across the charity online. Every year since, she has added more friends and more dollars for Smile Train.

“We are excited about our silent auction fundraiser. It should be a lot of fun and we have received quality donations from kind sponsors and volunteers,” said Luchi.

For more information about Smile Train, go to or check out The Lakeshore Sparkle Party on Facebook. You can make reservations on the Facebook page or email Luchi at or call her at 616-402-0014.

Friday March 1, 2013
8 P.M.-Midnight
the Darkroom at Kirby’s House
2 Washington St., Grand Haven, Mi 49417

$15 entry fee (includes one drink special)
Dancing, 50-50 raffle and a silent auction that includes wine tasting for six from Lemon Creek Winery, dinner for two from the Gilmore collection and much more.


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