Did you know cleft conditions are fairly common? Operation Smile says it’s estimated that, worldwide, every three minutes a child is born with a cleft condition. These conditions tend to present as a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy. For a cleft lip, it’s an opening in the lip; for cleft palate, it’s an opening in the roof of the mouth.
Sadly, the majority of people with cleft conditions don’t have access to basic or surgical care to repair their cleft condition.
A young Frisco resident wants to change that. Meet 12-year-old Connor Dawson. Connor was born with a cleft condition himself and uses his birthday to raise money for cleft repair surgeries. Instead of receiving gifts, he encourages donations to Operation Smile.
Oh, and this is his third year doing it.
Connor’s mom Meaghan Dawson says it all started as an exercise in giving back. “We had each of our children pick a charity they felt they connected to and donate to them instead of [receiving] birthday presents,” Dawson says. “For Connor, the natural choice was Operation Smile. We’ve always been very open with him about his cleft, the journey he has been on and how not every child has the opportunity and resources he has to receive such great care. The fact that it stuck, and he’s continued to do it, that’s completely on his big heart. Not on any great parenting choice of ours!”
In 2019, Connor raised $520 for Operation Smile—enough to help two kids with cleft conditions. In 2020, Connor and his family set a goal of raising $480. But by the end of January, the family had already raised $1,700 (enough to help seven children).
This year, Connor and his family set a goal of $2,400. That amount can help 10 people receive new smiles.
And it’s only going to go up from there. “We are constantly in awe of his empathetic heart and how invested he becomes in these campaigns,” Dawson adds. “We’re so proud of him for his graciousness. The funniest part of his birthday fundraising is how competitive Connor gets with himself. He consistently wants to go bigger and earn more so he can sponsor more children.”
Connor hopes his efforts will inspire others to raise money for organizations and causes they care about. “He loves to educate his friends and others about his cleft and what his journey has been like so far, and he loves to see his friends get inspired to choose their own causes,” Dawson notes. “He has a philanthropic heart to the core, and he would love to see all kids find a way to give back to the world!”
Photo courtesy of Jana Zerpoli Photography.