This past weekend, proud parents Brandon and Kerry Case had much more to be thankful for than their son Max’s first birthday, on June 17. A birthday party/fund raiser, all rolled into one, last Saturday recognized Max but also touched lives of hundreds of people around the world.
Born a year ago with a cleft lip, Max Case has already endured three separate operations. Brandon and Kerry, and their daughter Sadie, have been beside Max every step of the way.
“Sadie’s been a real big help,” said Brandon of his daughter, who will turn 3 at the start of the next year. “We weren’t sure how’d she react to Max getting all of this special attention, but she’s done a great job helping us through this.”
Managing their business, Antique Prints, in Ocean View, and tending to two children may seem overwhelming to some, but Brandon and Kerry have managed incredible feats, all while tending to their son’s needs.
The couple was initially concerned with getting Max to eat correctly and gain weight despite complications from his lip. Correcting his cleft lip would, if done at an early age, also help ensure proper speech development.
A charity event in Max’s honor was held at the family’s West Fenwick Island home on Saturday, June 16, to benefit Smile Train — an organization dedicated to improving the lives of those not financially able to give care to their children suffering from cleft lip or cleft palate, through free surgery.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common genetic disorders in the world, affecting one child in nearly every 700 born.
“In some countries,” said Brandon Case, “families can’t afford the surgeries for these kids, and they live in hiding and are shunned.”
Since its start in 1999, Smile Train has trained 19,000 doctors in proper cleft lip and palate repair procedures, to help children in 60 countries around the globe. It’s estimated by the organization that 40,000 children will benefit from offerings of Smile Train this year alone.
Fortunately, the Case family has received many provisions since they began finding help for Max a year ago.
“Ever since Max was born,” said Brandon Case, “people have been very generous and supportive. We’re always finding more people who want to help.”
Food from local restaurants and establishments — including Beach Liquors, Cactus Café and Eastern Shore Poultry — catered the June 16 event, while donations for the silent auction came from well-known businesses such as The Beach Cottage Gift Shop in Ocean View, DiFebo’s Restaurant in Bethany, Nantucket’s Restaurant in Fenwick Island, and Rehoboth Beach’s Neva’s Coffee House and Café, and Bayberry Flowers.
Pieces from local artists, including Chip and Barbara Deitrick, were among some of the top-priced features in the event. Nearly $5,000 was raised from the auction and donations, which will pay for roughly 20 children to benefit from cleft lip and palate repair surgery. Additional online donations were also made towards the organization’s cause.
“All it takes is a 45-minute procedure to change the life of one child in a Third World country,” said Brandon Case, “and the practice can be taught from doctor to doctor. After hearing stories from some of these families across the world, Kerry and I realized how well we had it. A lot of these children would lead devastating lives if this organization wasn’t here.”
The procedure to help improve a single child’s condition costs $250.
“I think once people understand what we’ve experienced, they realize that it doesn’t take much to make a difference,” said Kerry Case. “We had people signing entire checks for the full $250. It’s really amazing to see the generosity that people can give.”
Coming up with an idea for the fundraiser was not a difficult one for the couple.
“We learned a lot really quick,” said Brandon Case. “It’s been an incredible journey so far, and we wanted a way to give back. It will be something neat to look back on.”
“After we saw conditions of some of the families around the world,” added Kerry Case, “there was no way we couldn’t do anything. Learning all that we have has really touched us. We’re trying to pull the positive out of tough situations.”
They plan on repeating the event each year, and may consider an art auction, as artwork brought in most of the revenue from the event. The couple also foresees a trip to Mexico and Central America in the upcoming years to inform themselves more on the subject and spread their assistance around the globe.
Max has been treated at A.I. DuPont’s Children Hospital, under the care of Dr. Joe Napoli, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, through Dr. Patricia Glick.
“We have been very blessed to have worked with some of the best doctors in the area,” Brandon said. “We can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for us.”
Max’s third surgery last week will be his last for a while. Once he reaches 8, Max will return to the hospital for a bone-grafting procedure in his gums, to help ensure proper growth of his adult teeth.
“It’s been incredible to see the changes he’s gone through already,” said his father. “He looks like a completely different kid.”
“Once you have children,” said Brandon Case, “you realize how important they are, and that nothing else matters in life.”
Brandon and Kerry Case said they would like to thank everyone who made last Saturday’s event possible and contributed their time and money to Max’s and Smile Train’s cause.
For more information about Smile Train, or to find information about donating, call 1-877-KID-SMILE or visit their Web site at www.smiletrain.org.