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4th-Grader Raises Money For Cleft Palate Operations By Collecting Plastic Bottles

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Abigail Moen, a fourth-grader in New York, was shocked to discover there were children in the world with cleft palates that found it hard to eat, talk or even smile. The elementary school student decided to take a stand and do something on her end to help these kids where she could. 

A Heartbreaking Discovery

Nine-year-old Abigail had no idea what a cleft lip or cleft palate was until she watched a commercial with children struggling with the issue. Cleft lips and palates are not just a cosmetic issue. Children with cleft palates struggle with eating, drinking, speaking and smiling. Abigail immediately became emotional when she saw these kids on screen. However, she couldn’t just stand by and not do anything. “I watched it and I got so sad because I wanted to help all those kids. So we did some research,” Abigail said to CBS New York.

Abigail’s mother, Alexandra Moen, wasn’t surprised that her daughter immediately wanted to assist these kids. “We are from Ecuador. She has seen Third World countries and I show her videos of other kids who are not as fortunate,” Alexandra said in an interview with CNN. “She always says that she wants to help the poor. She has a very good heart.” Her father, Erik, agreed with his wife. “When she sets her mind to something, nothing is going to stop her,” he said of his daughter. So the family began researching options and organizations that Abigail could work with and came up with the perfect one. 

Operation Smile

The Moen family discovered a nonprofit organization by the name of Operation Smile. Through fundraising efforts, the organization provides free surgeries to children around the world that were born with a tear in their lip or a gap in the roof of their mouths. “[Abigail] started looking at the cost of surgery. The cost of medicine, blankets, and learned a lot more about Operation Smile,” Erik shared with CBS New York. One surgery costs about $240. 

Abigail decided to contribute to the cause. To raise money, the young student would collect bottles to raise money. “I decided to start collecting bottles because I also want to help the ocean because there are a lot of animals in the ocean and they’re dying from plastic,” Abigail said. The process was a long one because collecting bottles for money doesn’t earn a lot. In fact, one bottle only gets about five cents. 

Starting A Movement

Nevertheless, Abigail and her family began collecting bottles from home, work, school, and neighbors. The fourth-grader even got her friends and teachers at school involved. “She talked to some of her friends, and they did a presentation in front of the student council at school, and that’s kind of how the movement started,” Erik revealed. With all of the support from those around her, Abigail was able to cash in almost 7,000 bottles, which earned enough money to cover at least one surgery. 

Abigail wants to continue to collect bottles to help raise money for more surgeries. She also has other ideas to raise money for Operation Smile including a big bake sale in the near future. She has also created a “Smile Fund” page on Operation Smile’s official website to receive more monetary donations. She has surpassed her goal of $1,000, which will give four children new smiles after their surgeries. Being a part of this amazing cause has made the fourth-grader realize what she wants to be when she gets older. Abigail wants to work as a surgeon to help more kids with this birth defect. “If they have a smile on their face, I’ll have a smile on my face,” Abigail said.

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