October 15, 1995
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Operation Smile's goal is to change the world -- one smile at a time. The non-profit organization brings together plastic surgeons and other medical personnel who travel to Third World countries to perform free operations on children and some adults with cleft lips and palates, burn scars, tumors and other deformities.
"Overseas for the past 13 years Operation Smile has operated on over 10,0000 children," says Operation Smile's Brian Mullaney. "Every year we do about 5,000 globally."
But Operation Smile doesn't just help people overseas -- it is now stepping up efforts to help them in the United States, too. For example, in New York City, it has operated on several dozen children referred through the public school system -- kids like Juli Raymondi of Queens, New York.
"She was born with a giant black nevis -- a giant black mole," explains Dr. Peter Cinelli, a plastic surgeon who volunteers for the organization. "What we did was take a skin graft. ...We were able to take large sheets of skin and apply them to the face until the legion was excised."
Though many children in the U.S. are eligible for Medicaid and other free medical services, some slip through the cracks. So Operation Smile has enlisted the help of the public schools to find needy youngsters and inform their parents of the organization's free medical services.
The program started a few years ago in New York City. Soon organizers hope to establish it in other cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.
"We're so quick to jump on a plane and go to Africa and get off (as) the saviors . . . and if we just look around down the street there are people who need help," says Mullaney.(121K AIFF sound or 121K WAV sound)
Now those children will end up not only with a new look but a new outlook as well. Juli Raymondi is thrilled with what Operation Smile accomplished for her.
"I'm happy," she says. "I can look in the mirror. I can go outside and people won't stare at me."
Whether it's here in the United States or around the world -- Operation Smile's success can be seen in the faces of patients like Juli Raymondi.
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