NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Two childhood friends partnered with Operation Smile this holiday season to launch the "Zachary, Luke or Griffin" Teddy Bears, found exclusively on Operation Smile's Facebook Giving Catalog at www.operationsmile.org/fbcatalog and through the Operation Smile Web site at www.operationsmile.org/bears. These special bears are named after Lisa Lori's three sons, all born with facial paralysis. After enduring years of surgeries to give her own children their smiles, Lisa Lori, a publicist, partnered with her childhood friend Kathy Van Zeeland, a handbag designer, to design the commemorative bears to bring comfort to children worldwide suffering from facial deformities. The two friends hope the bears will inspire people to give a smile and emphasize how vital these surgeries are for a child's life.
Those who donate $240 to help provide a life-changing surgery will be giving a bear to a suffering child, AND will receive one of the commemorative bears for their very own. The bears they give will be sent on Operation Smile medical missions in impoverished countries and given to children suffering from clefts.
In the past three years, each of the Lori boys have undergone two muscle transplant surgeries to enable them to smile among many other benefits. The children's surgeon – Dr. Ronald Zuker at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto – performed the life-changing surgeries for each of the boys. Dr. Zuker is an Operation Smile medical volunteer and inspired the Loris and Makowskys to find a way to comfort other children in honor of the boys.
"Surgery is scary. When a child goes into surgery they can bring one thing – a blanket or stuffed animal – to comfort them; our children always chose a stuffed animal and we wanted to offer this same comfort to children worldwide," said Lisa Lori. "We know how transforming a smile can be – a teddy bear, like a smile, is a universal sign of love to all children."
For more about Zachary, Luke and Griffin and the bears, visit www.operationsmile.org/bears. Kathy Van Zeeland and her husband Bruce Makowsky have underwritten 100 percent of the costs for production of the bears.
"To work with my friend and her boys on this project for Operation Smile has been incredibly inspiring and personally rewarding. The Lori family never gave up, and they came through it all with beautiful smiles on their faces, and love in their hearts," said Kathy Van Zeeland.
Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 die before their first birthday. Those who survive are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. With a network of dedicated medical volunteers, Operation Smile provides free reconstructive surgery for children worldwide who were born with clefts to heal their smiles.
"Lisa, her three sons, and Kathy are incredibly passionate and dedicated to helping children worldwide; given all that Lisa's sons have endured and accomplished, they are truly an inspiration for us all," said Kathy Magee, Co-Founder and President of Operation Smile.
NOTE: Photos of bears on medical missions and NYC launch event available.
SOURCE Operation Smile