Operation Smile comes to campus

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

Emily Budzynski had her first interaction with Operation Smile in her high school student council. Now a junior communication sciences and disorders major, Budzynski remains passionate about this charity and seeks to spread its message at UW-Eau Claire.

This prompted Budzynski, along with junior CSD major Emily Rodewald to start a chapter on campus.

Operation Smile is an international organization founded in the 1980s that seeks to help children born with cleft palates, cleft lips, and other facial deformities by raising money to send teams of medical professionals to countries around the world to perform free reconstructive surgery to children born with facial deformities.

“I want everyone in the club to actually feel like we’re doing something,” Budzynski said. “I want them to realize the impact we’re making.”

Budzynski will serve as co-president with Rodewald of this CSD major-exclusive club. The pair plans to work with club members to raise money to contribute to the international charity.

“I want to work in the schools someday, and I have observed and seen kids already with cleft palates and that’s basically why I like the club,” Rodewald said. “I really like the idea of helping people with their speech. It’s a small part of their life, but this can be a huge life-changing opportunity to be able to help someone like that.”

The duo is working together to get things underway with this new club. Making flyers, setting up a time for their first meeting and getting word out are at the top of their agenda, but the process started long before this.

When Budzynski learned more about Operation Smile in high school it influenced her to major in CSD and led her to form the first club in the state during her second year at UW-Milwaukee.

“I was only a sophomore there but a bunch of senior girls there were all talking about it and I thought that would be awesome,” Budzynski said. “I really wanted to start it with people who felt the same way.”

Budzynski’s fundraising ideas for the club at Eau Claire include a 5k run, bake sales or a dance of some kind. Since the co-presidents made the decision to limit membership of their new club to students within their major, Budzynski said these events are other students’ opportunities to get involved.

“Other students can attend things that we do,” Budzynski said. “If they want to just buy the brownies we’re selling or just come to the events. Listen and read what we have to say about it and maybe from there donate to our club or to the international organization.”

Budzynski and Rodewald felt there was a lack of clubs pertaining to CSD majors, since the only one already established was National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, which influenced their decision to make this a CSD-only club.

“We wanted to limit it to CSD majors to just keep that focus. It could get so huge that we weren’t really ready to take that on. Maybe someday it will be open to all students but this is our first time ever having it,” Rodewald said.
Budzynski also expressed a need for a different kind of club within their discipline.

“NSSLHA is more orientated towards getting into grad school but this seems a little bit more hands-on and we can learn more about the cleft palates which isn’t something we get to talk about as much,” Budzynski said.
Kay Hagedorn of the CSD department will serve as advisor to this new club.

“I think those involved will gain a lot of knowledge,” Hagedorn said. “To have a cause you feel strongly about is really important and it’s always important to have leadership and volunteer experience.”

Since its founding, Operation Smile has provided over 200,000 free surgeries to children with facial deformities. If Budzynski and Rodewald have anything to do with it, their newly formed club will be responsible for raising the money for even more surgeries.