Putting smiles on faces which couldn’t before

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Miss Central Illinois wants your help to put smiles on children’s faces.

Before 1-year old Jaxson Montgomery learned to turn frowns upside down, the rightside up of his lip needed a pick-me-up.

“At first, I think we’d say it was probably pretty scary,” says his mother Jenna, “it was our first child, we’re all excited, and then we get hit with, that he’s going to be born with a condition that could potentially have some issues down the road.”

He’s since had surgery. Now you’d never know Jaxson was ever one of about 700 newborns.

“It’s actually the most common facial anamoly,” says Dr. Ashley Manlove, the medical director of Carle’s Cleft Lip and Craniofacial Team.

She says fixing faces can take years.

“That’s a cleft surgery, plus the palate surgery, plus a bone graft.,” she says.

But leave it to Brianna Legner to fight their fears.

“It’s a frightening situation,” she says, “we’re raising money so that we can provide each child who goes through surgery one of these cute ltitle cleft bears and this colorful book.”

The stuffed bears have cleft lips, and the book is called Jack’s New Smile. It’s “So they have something for comfort and support,” Legner says.

One day Jaxson will know his journey isn’t over yet.

“He’ll have a bone graft repair at 8 or 9, and then a nose surgery around 18,” says Montgomery.

But Legner hopes, along the way, she can give all parents and patients something to smile about.

“I hope it’s something that continues to spread,” she says.

“We are just over the moon about it,” says Montgomery, “it’s amazing that someone in the community is going out and doing something for these patients that are born with this condition.”

The kids with this condition don’t just have to go through surgery. They often have to have years of speech therapy. Carle’s Craniofacial team director says they see between 12 – 15 new cleft patients each year. Besides speech issues, babies with more severe cases can have trouble breathing or feeding.

Legner hopes to be a speech patholgist after she graduates from the UI. Within a week, she’s raised almost a $1,000 for Carle’s Cleft Lip and Craniofacial Team.

For more information, text “cleft” to 71777, or click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.