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 and through the Operation Smile website. The 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, Lori, a publicist, partnered with her childhood friend Kathy Van Zeeland, a handbag designer, to design three 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 to impoverished countries and given to children suffering from clefts.
In the past three years, each of the Lori boys has undergone two muscle-transplant surgeries to enable them to smile, among other benefits. The children’s surgeon — Dr. Ronald Zuker at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto —is also 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.”
To find out more about Zachary, Luke, and Griffin and the bears, visit www.operationsmile.org/bears. Van Zeeland and her husband, Bruce Makowsky, have underwritten 100 percent of the production costs for 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,” Van Zeeland said.