Miss Universe Organization Announces a Global Partnership with Operation Smile to Create a World of Smiles for Children Born with Clefts

The Reigning Miss Universe and Contestants From Brasil, China, Philippines and Venezuela Join Operation Smile on Recent Medical Mission in Brasil to Launch the Partnership

Sep 06, 2011, 11:13 ET from Operation Smile

NORFOLK, Va., Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Miss Universe Organization and Operation Smile, an international children's medical charity, announced a philanthropic partnership to help raise awareness for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates. The collaboration is a long-term global initiative providing opportunities for reigning titleholders in developing countries where Operation Smile has a presence to become involved in Operation Smile programs. The Miss Universe Organization is committed to empowering women by forging relationships with nonprofit organizations and utilizing its international grassroots infrastructure to garner attention for philanthropic causes. For more information please visit www.operationsmile.org/missuniverse.

"We are passionate about partnering with an organization dedicated to providing smiles to children all across the Universe," said Paula Shugart, President of the Miss Universe Organization. "With 30 shared countries between Miss Universe and Operation Smile, we hope to use our global reach to raise awareness for this cause and ensure that more children receive the care they need."

Every 3 minutes, a child is born with a cleft condition. One in 10 children born with a cleft dies before their first birthday. Children born with clefts are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. These children are often shunned in their own communities. With the help of medical volunteers and generous supporters, Operation Smile provides free reconstructive surgery for children around the world to heal their smiles and transform their lives.

"Miss Universe and the international reigning titleholders are caring, compassionate women who are leveraging their incredible influence to give a voice to these children around the world suffering from clefts, who are often not heard," said Dr. Bill Magee, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Operation Smile. "It is only through the generosity of our supporters like the Miss Universe Organization that we are able to give these children their smiles and a world of hope."

The reigning Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete, along with Miss Universe Brasil Priscila Machado; Miss China Universe Lou Zilin; Miss Universe Venezuela Vanessa Goncalves; and Miss Universe Philippines Shamcey Supsup, recently volunteered on an Operation Smile medical mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil to meet with the children and families affected by severe cleft conditions. Operation Smile has a presence in over 60 countries, including the countries that these titleholders represent.

"What a rewarding and humbling experience it has been to work with Operation Smile," exclaimed Navarrete. "Seeing the impact these surgeries make on the lives of the children and their families is amazing, and the medical missions in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have been the perfect way to wrap up my year as Miss Universe."

The 60th Annual MISS UNIVERSE® Competition will air live from Credicard Hall in Sao Paulo, Brasil on September 12, 2011 at 9pm ET on NBC. Contestants from 89 countries around the world will travel to Brasil for a month of activities leading up to the live telecast. The reigning Miss Universe, Ximena Navarrete, will crown her successor at the conclusion of the telecast. The next Miss Universe will continue her philanthropic endeavors and volunteer on Operation Smile medical missions.

Individuals can donate to Operation Smile through a Mobile Donation service by texting SMILE to 50555 ($10) or SMILE to 90999 ($5).

For more information about Operation Smile's global efforts, please visit www.operationsmile.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/operationsmile and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/operationsmile.

About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)

Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is an international children's medical charity with a presence in more than 60 countries, whose network of more than 5,000 medical volunteers from 76 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and conducted over 200,000 free surgical procedures for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile donates medical equipment, provides year-round medical treatment through Comprehensive Care Centers, and trains local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their own local communities.

About Miss Universe Organization (http://www.missuniverse.com)

The Miss Universe Organization, a Donald J. Trump and NBCUniversal joint venture, is a global community empowering role models of beauty, health and leadership for young women of today. The organization is dedicated to partnering with charities around the world, and to increasing HIV/AIDS awareness by focusing on women's health and reproductive issues.

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Twitter: TheRealMissU

SOURCE Operation Smile