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Local nonprofit Fresh Start Surgical Gifts is gearing up for one of its six to seven annual Surgery Weekends, to be held July 14th and 15th at the group’s Fresh Start Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital.

During the events about a dozen children receive major surgeries to correct physical deformities (most commonly including cleft lip and cleft palate corrections), while others receive minor treatments and participate in speech therapy sessions. Procedures and treatments are made available to the children at no cost to their families.

Eligible participants in the program include low-income families without access to health insurance or whose insurers consider corrective surgery cosmetic and thus unnecessary, as well as those who would suffer significant hardship if forced to attempt to pay for the procedures themselves. Last year the group says it provided 1,473 treatments to nearly 400 patients.

“Our medical professionals donate their time and expertise to help those with physical deformities because they take pride and enjoy seeing a child’s face light up with happiness and confidence,” said Michelle Pius, Fresh Start’s director of major gifts, in a release. “To see a child’s journey from start to finish and have their deformity corrected is truly a life-changing experience for the medical professionals, families and patients alike.”

One success story being touted by the group is that of 20 year-old Lucio Santos, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, and who has undergone more than 20 surgeries and attended over 40 dental clinics to correct his condition, all funded by Fresh Start. This weekend, Santos will receive his final scheduled operation.


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