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Old Dominion University Is Host Site for Operation Smile’s 2013 International Student Leadership Conference

Operation Smile

More than 450 college and high school students from 26 countries will gather at Old Dominion University for Operation Smile's 2013 International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC), July 29 to Aug. 2.

Ellen Neufeldt, ODU's vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, will provide a welcome to the university at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on opening night at the annual event, which will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Operation Smile, the Norfolk-based international children's medical charity. With a presence in more than 60 countries, Operation Smile's network of more than 5,000 medical volunteers from more than 80 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children.

Events for the conference will take place all over the ODU campus.

The goal of the conference is to educate students about the value of service within their communities and help develop their skills as future philanthropic leaders. ISLC participants hail from 26 countries including the United States, Canada, Jordan, Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sweden and Vietnam. Today, more than 900 Operation Smile student clubs and associations in more than 40 countries create awareness and raise funds to give hope and smiles. During the conference, students will participate in team-building activities, compete in field games and complete a service project for future Operation Smile patients.

More information about ISLC can be found at www.operationsmile.org/ISLC.

The conference will feature international singing sensation Chadleen Alberth Lacdo-o. Born in the Philippines with a cleft palate, impairing her ability to speak properly, she received treatment from Operation Smile volunteer medical personnel when she was 4 years old. Her mother brought her to an Operation Smile medical mission in Cebu in the Philippines, where volunteer surgeons repaired her birth defect. Afterward, she was able to achieve her dream of becoming a singer. As a teen, she became a finalist in the Philippines' largest singing contest, "Little Big Star." Since then, she has sung before the U.S. Senate on behalf of children worldwide who are born with facial deformities and dream of having equal opportunity for a better future.

In 1991, Operation Smile Student Programs had its first student conference in Norfolk. The conference has grown exponentially since that inaugural gathering, when 40 students from the United States attended. At last year's ISLC in Washington, D.C., 500 students from 22 countries came together to "Ignite Change."

This year's ISLC speakers include:

  • Ashley Shuyler, founder and former executive director of AfricAid;
  • Corey A. Ciocchetti, author of the book "Real Rabbits: Chasing An Authentic Life" and assistant professor of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver;
  • Katia Gomez, founder and executive director of Educate2Envision International;
  • Taylor Price, who was involved in a catastrophic diving accident that instantly rendered him a C5-C6 quadriplegic. His is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, working closely with The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and a champion for increased disability employment opportunities. In 2005, he helped introduce the Employer Worker Incentive Act for Individuals with Severe Disabilities, alongside Sens. Bob Dole, Ted Kennedy and Pat Roberts. He also co-founded the annual Conference on Employment of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C.
  • Shane Feldman, activist, humanitarian and actor who is recognized as one of Canada's youngest professional speakers;
  • Tony Humphreys, the author of many bestselling books including "The Power of 'Negative' Thinking," "All About Children," "The Mature Manager" and his recently published "Understanding Teenagers: Sometimes Wild, Always Wise." His books are available in 15 languages and are sold in 28 countries.

Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. Operation Smile's programs work in more than 60 countries to provide free surgeries for children born with facial deformities, including cleft lip and cleft palate. The organization also trains local doctors so they are empowered to treat their own populations. Operation Smile's programs are designed to build sustainability and create a permanent global impact.

Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 3.5 million health care evaluations and conducted more than 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To build long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile trains doctors and local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their own local communities, donates medical equipment and supplies, and provides year-round medical treatment through its worldwide Comprehensive Care Centers.

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