I recently attended the first EVER in-person CleftCon hosted by SmileTrain. It was a weekend full of inspiration, tears, overwhelming emotions, strength, resiliency, compassion, friendship, love, bonding, storytelling and so much more!
I got to meet and spend time with people from Smile Train and the Cleft Community who I’ve worked with over Zoom for the past few years. I reunited with old friends, and made new memories and laughter. One of the people I was most excited to meet was a very dear friend who started the Cleft affected adult group that helped me get on my path to self-acceptance around my cleft, and the advocacy work I do today.
I was in the presence of a 12 year old girl with a cleft who was oozing so much confidence around adults, I couldn’t believe she was a child! My favorite moment was when there were ONLY adults with a cleft lip and palate all in the SAME room at the SAME time. I was overwhelmed with emotions being in the presence of 15 other men and women who shared the same birth difference I did. The strength, resiliency and inspiration of all of us in that room was incredible. The most memorable moments were the laughs we had over our shared experiences of having a cleft.
I listened to stories of other adults with a cleft, how a group of 6 moms from the same town formed a support group and held fundraisers. I learned exciting news about my two friendswho will be publishing a podcast all about cleft lip and palate and got to hear the exciting new plans and ventures Smile Train has on their agenduring the conference I exchanged ideas with a fellow confidence coach, moderators of cleft groups, and most of all Smile Train! I appreciate Smile Train having a session asking for the community’s input. I loved our last night together where members of Cleft Community Advisory Council (CCAC), got a “group selfie”
There was plenty of time for fun as well! A few friends and I did our own walking tour of Chicago the day we arrived. We walked to the Millennium Park, had a fabulous lunch at Remington's, and walked to the Willis Tower to see the Sky Ledge (and I got over my fear of heights!). I got to see parts of the city that I’ve only seen in movies, and checked another location off my bucket list, while spending many laughs over dinner and morning coffee overlooking the river.
Thank you Smile Train for a wonderful CleftCon Chicago 2022 and I can’t wait for the next one!
If you want more information on how you can become involved with SmileTrain, or the next CleftCon, send me a message using the contact form below!